There was quite a beautiful and encouraging All Saints' Day Mass in University College Dublin today.
The church, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, might not appeal to everybody's tastes in Church architecture, but I really like it. It is quite modern, with wooden panels running along the walls. There is very little decoration besides an unpainted wooden statue of Our Lady, and a Taizé cross on the wall behind the altar. (The Taizé cross is painted rather than sculpted, with a dark-skinned Christ against a red background, the style of painting rather modern and the colours very bold.) There is a skylight in the centre of the low ceiling, and windows high up on the walls. The whole atmosphere is plain, warm and peaceful-- at least, I find it so.
And there was a surprisingly good turn-out for All Saints Day Mass. For the normal lunch-time Mass in that church, there is usually about twenty worshippers. But today more than ninety people made Communion. In fact, the priest had to take some of the reserved Eucharist from the tabernacle to meet the need.
The priest gave a very fine homily, in which he described the return to faith of John Waters (an Irish journalist, not the American director of scatalogical movies), as described in his books Lapsed Agnostic and Beyond Consolation. It was this very priest to whom I made my first adult confession, when my own agnosto-atheism lapsed. He was a gentle confessor and he always makes an impressive figure at the altar, with his tall figure, scholarly manner, careful elocution, and learned homilies that draw on Church history and the lives of the saints.
We sung hymns in honour of the day, one of them being the traditional Irish "Céad Míle Fáilte Romhat a Íosa" (a hundred thousand welcomes to you, Jesus). I think most modern hymns are awful, but this one-- I have no idea how old it is, but we learnt it at school-- is charmingly naive and direct. The singing was unaccompanied, which always sounds much more joyous to me than the rather mournful skirling of an organ.
Members of the student Catholic society handed out hymnbooks as worshippers entered. I have only been attending the UCD Church for about three years but this year there seems to be a small corps of dedicated Catholic undergraduates, something I hadn't noticed before. They wear red Society hoodies around campus, sit together at Mass, act as ministers of the Word, and participate with noticeable devotion. This is a very encouraging sign.
During the Mass, I noticed something very interesting. Worked into the Church's high windows, there are some frosted-glass decorations in the form of crosses. The day, the first day of Winter by traditional Irish reckoning, was chilly but bright. A blue sky gleamed through the windows, and-- as the priest was delivering his homily, reflecting on the holiness of the saints-- I noticed that one of the frosted glass crosses had caught the sunlight directly, and was giving off a brilliant glow. It went on glowing all through the Mass, a cross of dazzling light, like a symbol of all the saints in heaven.