Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mass at St. Brendan's Church, Coolock

I recently had the idea of attending Mass in as many Dublin churches as I can-- maybe even of attending Mass in all of them all by some point. I like visiting different churches, but many of them-- especially the ordinary suburban churches I find most interesting-- are closed outside Mass times.

Well, in Ireland, most churches hold a Mass at 10.00 a.m. on Saturday morning, so I thought that would be a good time to check them out, and to participate in Mass at them.

I like attending Mass in as many places as I can. (I have been to Mass in Ireland, England, America and Austria; in Irish, English, German and Latin.) I have no idea if there is any spiritual benefit to this. It's just my own version of trainspotting. But I don't think there's any harm to it, either. And I think that an account of the Masses I attend, which I intend to keep both here and in my diary, might have some anthropological or sociological interest, especially in years to come. It's fieldwork, baby!

Aside from anything else, seeing new places is always good. Every now and again I am struck with a sense of wonder at the size and multiplicity of the world, and that is demonstrated as much by the avenue we never walked down, though it is ten minutes away from our place of work, than it is by a coral reef or a mountain peak in a distant land.

Indeed, even an out-of-use store room seems a place of wonder to me. It is a place unto its own, a place you never knew. One of the things I like about working in University College Dublin is the amount of places there are inside the same place (so to speak). Even within the library itself, there are some rooms I'd never been inside after a decade and a half working there (including the rarely-used Medieval Studies Room, which I eventually learned has pictures of priests on the wall-- priests who curated the collection in former days). I feel like I'm working in Hogwarts or Gormenghast.

I had this idea yesterday and this morning I decided to act on it. I went to the A-Z of Dublin Mass Times on the Catholic Ireland website. The first church listed there was St. John Vianney church in Ardlea. So I set out towards it, getting 17A bus past the Northside Shopping Centre and trying to find it from there.

As anyone who is personally acquainted with me knows, I have a disastrous sense of direction-- spectacularly bad-- and I have a history of getting lost in Coolock in particular. So I was neither surprised nor bothered when I found myself in St. Brendan's Church, Coolock rather than St. John Vianney's, Coolock. It began to rain heavily so further exploration seemed undesirable anyway.

Only picture I can find!
As it happens, St. Brendan's church is precisely the kind of small, humdrum church that appeals to me the most.

The Rosary was being recited when I entered, and I was surprised at how many people were already there, though it was twenty minutes before Mass. There must have been about thirty people (at least), and there was about a hundred people at Mass itself. There is usually only about twenty or thirty people at my usual Saturday morning Mass in Ballymun. They were mostly old people in their sixties and upwards-- a mother with young children here and there, but not many. There were three nuns in blue habits in front of me, one of them young and African, two of them older and (I presume) Irish.

I was surprised, not only by the amount of people saying the Rosary, but by the enthusiasm of their participation. It's usually mumbled by a few people, in my experience.

I very much like the church architecture of St. Brendan's. The ceiling is high in the centre, but low around the sides. Large windows admit sunlight into the central section of the roof, so the centre of the church is sunny but the wings are dark. The pews are around three sides of the altar, so the congregation are not all facing in the same direction. There were very few empty pews.

Although the church is rather plain, it has quite a lot of decoration. There is a plaster statue of Jesus, along with statues of other saints, and a rather modenistic wooden etching of St. Brendan in one corner. I particularly liked the Stations of the Cross, which were paintings somewhat after the style of Chagall, with regard to their vibrant colours. I feel there should be more vibrant colour in churches. The cross over the altar was traditional and there was a handsome and somewhat Mediterranean hanging of the Blessed Virgin in front of the ambo (or podium).

After the Rosary, there was some extending playing on the organ, and the priest emerged-- a white haired old priest, who (I hope it's not ungenerous to say) seemed a bit shaky on his feet. There was an opening hymn I didn't recognize, and I found it hard to make out the words-- "Emmanuel, Emmanuel" was the closing line.

The priest referred to the readings in his opening words, which I always like.

The first reading was read by a lady Minister of the Word-- it was the "I am a man of unclean lips" section from Isaiah. The gospel was read by the priest, of course, and was Matthew 10:24-33: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul",

There were hymns and songs throughout the Mass. 'God in Heaven, we praise thy name' was the only one I could sing along with. The closing hymn was something about Mary, Queen of the Universe, in which the word 'triumph' occurred a few times-- I liked it but didn't recognise it. "Céad Míle Fáilte romhat, a Íosa" was played on the organ after Communion. The Lord's Prayer was sung, folk Mass style. The Hail Mary was said in Irish, I forget when precisely. The entire congregation aside from me seemed to know all the songs. The psalm was spoken but the 'mystery of faith' was sung.

I was pleased and surprised that there was no Sign of Peace, the spinach of the liturgy.

The priest did not give a homily, which always disappoints me, but he said a few words during the Prayers of the Faithful. He mentioned the frequency with which the phrase 'do not be afraid' occurs in the Bible (I forget how many times it appears, but it's a lot) and said: "We pray for people who see God as something to be a afraid of, that he's watching over them and spying on them. He's not watching over them". I winced a little at that, but I knew what he meant. He also rather adroitly worked the readings into a prayer for vocations, asking us to pray for young people who were being called in a special way but might be afraid to answer the call.

Sadly, the entire congregation joined in with the Eucharistic doxology, i.e., "through him and with him and in him", etc. (I know one priest who says this in Irish to avoid this abuse.) The priest actually encouraged the conregation to join in with: "I leave you peace, my peace I give you."

There were three or four extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.

At the end of the Mass, the priest thanked us all for having the 'courage' to come to Mass through the rain!

On the whole, I very much liked this church, the priest and the congregation. I wish I knew more of the traditional Catholic songs. Indeed, I intend to learn them-- but I have intended that for some time. I like the fact that the Catholic Church has preserved an everyday oral folk culture amongst ordinary people, at a time when there is so little oral folk culture in the classic sense.

It might take me a while to 'get Mass' in all the churches of Dublin, but I'm in no great rush.

I've always had an inclination to visit all the pubs in Dublin, too!

P.S. I am an inveterate chronicler. I have kept a (private) diary of the last year of my life on the excellent website, and I wish I had kept diaries all my life. I have a spreadsheet of all the films I've ever seen, the marks I gave them, the place I saw them, the company I saw them in, and whether I sat through the whole thing.

So here is a list of the other Dublin churches in which I have attended Mass, as far as I can remember. I put a star beside ones that particularly appeal to me:

Holy Spirit Church, Ballymun (sister’s wedding, mother’s funeral, innumerable other times) *
Virgin Mary Church, Ballymun (First Holy Communion, uncle’s funeral, innumerable times) *
Our Lady of Victories Church, Glasnevin (Confirmation, many times)
Our Lady of Dolours Church, Glasnevin (many times)
St. Joseph’s Church, Poppintree (once or maybe twice)
Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Dublin Airport (several times) *
Our Lady Queen of Peace, Merrion Road (many times)
St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin City Centre (several times)
St. Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street, Dublin City Centre (twice-- Latin Mass, low and high)
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, University College Dublin (innumerable times) *
Holy Redeemer Church, Bray (funeral Mass)
Blessed Margaret Ball Chapel, Santry (once) *
Church of the Holy Family, Santry (many times)
Church of the Immaculate Conception, Clondalkin (funeral)
Church of the Presentation of our Lord, Clondalkin Dutch Village (many times)
Holy Child Church, Whitehall (many times)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar Street (my Wedding Mass, many times) *
St. Theresa’s Church, Clarendon Street (many times)
Our Lady of Consolation, Donnycarney (once)
Church of the Immaculate Conception (Adam and Eve’s), Merchant’s Quay (once)
Our Mother of Divine Grace, Ballygall (once or twice)
St. Michael’s Church, Inchicore (once)
Terenure College Chapel, Terenure (funeral)
Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook (once)
St. John the Baptist church, Clontarf (funeral)

Outside of Dublin, in Ireland, I think I have only attended Mass in Westport city centre, Clarina in County Limerick, and Portlaoise. St. Joseph's Church in Clarina, Limerick, had a big effect on me as a teenager and led me to a religious conversion which lasted all of several weeks.

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