14 August 2021

Returning to a church in
Limerick to see two sets
of colourful windows

The windows by Johnny Murphy and Reiltín Murphy in Saint Saviour’s Church, Limerick, depict the martyrdom of Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien and the history of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021; click on images for full-screen views)

Patrick Comerford

I have visited Saint Saviour’s Church in Glentworth Street, Limerick, a few times in recent years.

This Dominican church is on the corner of Glentworth Street and Baker Place, facing the Tait Memorial Clock. It is a Gothic Revival church that has been altered and added to over the past two centuries, and brings together in one building the work of many important church architects in Ireland, including James Pain, James Joseph McCarthy, William Wallace, George Goldie, and Ashlin and Coleman.

However, in my admiration of the architecture of this church, I had missed out on some of the interior artistic treasures of this church, including some stained-glass windows that I had not seen, and the fresco on the chancel arch.

Some guests were staying in the Rectory last week, and their presents included a book on Irish stained glass edited by Nicola Gordon Bowe, David Caron and Michael Wynne: Gazetteer of Irish Stained Glass (Newbridge: Irish Academic Press, revised edition, 2021).

Poring over the sumptuous photographs and text of this book, I was prompted in two recent visits to Dublin to see the stained-glass windows in Saint Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, and the chapel in Terenure College, two Carmelite churches that feature in my morning prayer diaries on my blog next week.

The martyrdom of Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien in the windows by Johnny Murphy and Reiltín Murphy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021; click on images for full-screen views)

And then, when I was in Limerick earlier this week, walking between buses from Dublin and to Askeaton, I returned to Saint Saviour’s Church to see the stained-glass windows in the oratory in the church that commemorates Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien of Emly.

Bishop O’Brien was a Dominican who was hanged in the Dominican abbey ruins in Limerick in 1651 for his resistance to the Cromwellian siege of Limerick. He had received the 17th century oak statue of ‘Our Lady of Limerick’, brought to Limerick from Flanders by Patrick Sarsfield in 1640, and the Sarsfield chalice from Patrick Sarsfield, and he was buried with them in the churchyard of Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

The two large, full-length windows on adjoining walls in the Bishop O’Brien Memorial Chapel in Saint Saviour’s were created by Johnny Murphy and Reiltín Murphy in 1982.

The window at the back of the chapel depicts: the martyrdom of Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien of Emly, watched by Sorrowing Women and Children.

The testimony of Bishop O’Brien and the subsequent history of Limerick in the windows by Johnny Murphy and Reiltín Murphy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021; click on images for full-screen views)

The second window continues with the symbol of the Limerick Dominicans and Bishop O’Brien’s final testimony in the first set of panels: ‘Preserve the Faith, keep the commandments, be resigned to the will of God. For this you will possess your souls. Do not weep for me, but pray that being firm and unbroken amidst the torment of death, I may happily finish my course.’

The second and third set of panels depict the Sarsfield chalice, Bishop O’Brien’s pectoral cross, and Sarsfield’s Ride.

The history and life of Limerick continue in the following sets of panels. They show the Pikes of 1798 and burning homes; an emigrant ship and rosary beads; the Rising Sun of Easter; tractors and abundant harvests; the Shannon electrification scheme; planes over Foynes and Shannon; Ireland’s accession to the European Union, symbolised in the discreet initials EEC; and concluding with Pope John Paul II’s visit to Limerick on 1 October 1979.

Saint Saviour’s Church brings together in one building the work of many important church architects in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Johnny Murphy (1921-2006) was born in Cork and studied at the Crawford College of Art, Cork, and the National College of Art, Dublin, before spending time travelling and studying in Paris and Rome. He joined the Harry Clarke Studios around 1952, and in 1953 he married the painted Rosín Dowd from Belfast.

Johnny Murphy became a part-time lecturer in stained glass at the National College of Art in 1954, a position previously held by AE Child. Murphy and Des Devitt set up the Murphy-Devitt studios, and Johnny and Roisín Murphy were soon joined by their daughter, Reiltín Murphy.

The Murphy-Devitt studios closed in 1980, and the Murphy family moved to an old mill near New Ross, Co Wexford. Johnny Murphy, Roisín Dowd Murphy and Des Devitt all died in 2006.

The fresco of ‘The Triumph of the Cross’ over the chancel arch was painted in 1951 by Father Aengus Buckley (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021; click on images for full-screen views)

On my latest visit to Saint Saviour’s Church earlier this week, I also paid fresh attention to the fresco of ‘The Triumph of the Cross’ over the chancel arch, painted in 1951 by the Cork-born Dominican friar and artist, Father Aengus Buckley (1913-1978) of Limerick.

Father Aengus Buckley also painted the Stations of the Cross that form one continuous fresco along the south (liturgical north) wall of the Church of Our Lady and Saint Michael in Ennistymon, Co Clare, which I visited in mid-July. He completed these Stations of the Cross in 1955.

His other works include the fresco of Saint Joseph in the north aisle chapel of Saint Joseph in Saint Saviour’s Church, Waterford. The fresco shows Saint Joseph surrounded by four angels; four local Waterford girls sat as models for the angels.

The East Window depicting the Transfiguration is by William Wailes of Newcastle, and dates from 1866 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021; click on images for full-screen views)

How a wedding becomes
a sign of God’s love and
of the Kingdom of God

The Wedding at Cana … one of 20 white porcelain ceramic panels by Helena Brennan at the Oblate Church in Inchicore, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford,

Saint Mary’s Church,

Askeaton, Co Limerick

1.30 p.m., 14 August 2021,

The wedding of Sarah-Anne Drew and Brian Anthony Dennehy

I Corinthians 13; Psalm 121; Matthew 5: 1-10.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

A wedding not only makes but also shapes a family. And Jesus knew that only too well – not only in his own experience of family life, but in the way too that he taught his disciples.

Even before his public life and ministry began, Jesus spends a full weekend at a family weekend in Cana (John 2: 1-12).

It is a story everyone loves. After all, we enjoy the idea that the wine flows freely; we enjoy the idea that he blesses a young couple at the start of their new life together with abundant generosity. His generosity shows that he knows how to celebrate with his family and his friends; with the bride and groom, the man in charge of the banquet, the people serving at the tables, the guests.

But so often when we recall this story, we never quite get to the end. After the story of the wedding at Cana, Saint John’s Gospel tells us:

‘After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there for a few days.’

It was a long walk back from Cana to Capernaum: almost 30 km, and in the conditions of the time it would have taken a good day’s walk or more.

What did they talk about on the long day’s walk?

Was that your cousin? Is she your new sister-in-law? Who did he dance with? Will they fall in love? Are they really in love?

Who are we related to now? Even: what is the meaning of love?

Everyone goes home after a wedding with a fresh understanding of who they are: Sarah and Brian each has a new father-in-law and mother-in-law, Ann and Ralph, Michael and Patricia, have a new son-in-law and a new daughter-in-law. Adam has a new stepfather, Joe and Caitlyn have a new stepmother.

But it quickly moves beyond that: new brothers-in-law, aunts, uncles and cousins by marriage, and so on.

Why, in a few generations time, people will have forgotten how we are related to one another. In a few generations from now, cousins will just know they are cousins, people will just know they are part of an extended family. You shall just know that you are family, and that you are blessed for being part of that family.

Probably because he knows how weddings and the way they create and shape new families, the new links, the new cousins, the new relationships they shape and create, Jesus constantly uses weddings as an illustration to tell us about the love God has for us, and the way the future can be, the way the Kingdom of God can be.

When we publicly show our love for one another, when we form new families, when we allow the ripples of love to spread out in ways that we cannot control, in ways in which we lose control, then we are truly partners in creating the Kingdom of God.

From antiquity, the rabbis taught that the home and family unit is the nucleus of the Jewish community. It is an idea that continued in the early Church. Saint John Chrysostom describes the family house as ‘a little Church.’ A key document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (‘Light of the Nations’), describes the family as the ‘domestic Church.’

Sarah and Brian, today you are becoming partners, not just of one another, but in shaping and creating the Kingdom of God.

What a blessing … a blessing for you, and a blessing for us.

In your search for love and happiness, you are creating love and happiness. But you are also building on the love and happiness of others who have struggled before.

You have not earned love and happiness … you have been given them as gifts by those who shaped and created families, shaped them in love, created them perhaps not knowing they were signs of the Kingdom of God.

But being signs of the Kingdom of God in your marriage takes some working at; it does not just fall into place or happen by accident.

As Christ tells us in the Sermon on the Mount – the Gospel reading Sarah and Brian have chosen for this afternoon – there is a number of ways we are blessed when we respond to the love of God and the love of one another.

Love is the most important, the most precious, the greatest gift you can give and receive.

And because that has come to you as a blessed but free gift from the past and the present, you, we, all of us, have a duty and a responsibility to pass it on to the future.

How do we pass it on?

How do we allow that love to create more love?

How do we invest so that it yields dividends in the future?

It is quite simple, Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes: blessed or happy are … an amazing list of people we never expect to be happy or blessed: the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, the hungry and the thirsty, those who seek justice and show mercy, those with big hearts; those who not only want peace but who make peace, demand peace; those who are persecuted and abused and maligned.

The Kingdom of God is not about taking the easy options, it is sometimes about taking the risky and costly options – all for the sake of love.

But Sarah and Brian, Ann and Ralph, Michael and Patricia, everyone here who is married, everyone here who has found a little more love in life because of the marriage of others, all know that happiness and love are not rights, they come as gifts.

And the best way of saying thanks for these gifts is not to leave them to one side, wrapped up in colourful paper, ribbons and bows. The best way to say thank you for a gift is to use it.

Use the love and happiness that you have received as gifts. Pass it on, particularly to those who need it most. Let your love become signs of the Kingdom of God.

For, as Saint Paul tells us today: Love does not come to an end. It truly is the never-ending gift, the one true, everlasting, eternal gift that lets us know what the Kingdom of God is like. For, indeed, there are only two commandments: to love God, and to love one another.

Love one another, love God, love those in the beatitudes who are signs of the kingdom, love the walk and the journey together in love and to love, pass on to future generations the love you have received from the present and past generations.

And so may all we think, say and do, be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Matthew 5: 1-10:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’


525: Let there be love shared among us
581: Here I am, Lord

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
77, Trinity College, Cambridge

Trinity College, Cambridge was founded by Henry VIII in 1546 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week is seven college chapels in Cambridge, and my photographs this morning (14 August 2021) are from Trinity College.

Inside the chapel of Trinity College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546 and is one of the oldest and largest colleges in Cambridge. Trinity College Chapel, which dates from the mid-16th century, was begun in 1554-1555 by Queen Mary and was completed in 1567 by Elizabeth I.

The architectural style is Tudor-Gothic, with Perpendicular tracery and pinnacles. The roof is of an earlier style than the rest of the building, and may have been re-used from the chapel of King’s Hall, the college that preceded Trinity on this site. Only the walls and roof date from the Tudor era.

The chapel has a fine organ, originally built by ‘Father’ Smith in 1694. Many alterations were made over the years until, in 1913, an almost totally new organ was built. Some of the pipes were so large that they would not fit in the organ loft and instead had to stand in a corner of the ante-chapel. In 1976 the present mechanical-action instrument, based on the surviving pipework and within the original cases, was completed by the Swiss firm Metzler Söhne. There are regular recitals on Sundays during term time.

The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge is composed of around 30 male and female Choral Scholars and two Organ Scholars, all undergraduates of the college. Besides singing the liturgy in the chapel, the choir has an extensive programme of performances and recordings.

The Dean of Chapel is the Revd Dr Michael Banner, and the current Director of Music is Stephen Layton.

The chapel has memorials to the Cambridge Triumvirate – Brooke Foss Westcott, Joseph Barber Lightfoot and Fenton Hort – and to Isaac Newton, Bishop John Robinson, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Charles Villiers Stanford, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Babington Macaulay and AE Housman.

The Cambridge Triumvirate commemorated in Trinity College Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 19: 13-15 (NRSVA):

13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

10 His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ 11 But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

The entrance to Trinity Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (14 August 2021, Pakistan Independence Day) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the people of Pakistan, as they celebrate their independence.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Tennyson’s statue in the Ante-Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Key figures in the story of the Anglican Reformation depicted in a window in Trinity College, Cambridge, from left (top row): Hugh Latimer, Edward VI, Nicholas Ridley, Elizabeth I; (second row): John Wycliffe, Erasmus, William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)