11 December 2010

Ordinariate pilgrimages (1)

It suddenly occurred to me ... the obvious place for an Ordinariate pilgrimage is the Co Kerry village of Sneem. The Rector there a generation ago was Charlie Gray-Stack, who was also Dean of Ardfert ... the old episcopal See of Co Kerry (the ruined Cathedral at Ardfert was copied by Pugin junior when he built the new RC Cathedral at Killarney). Incidentally, I wonder when the RCs stopped calling the Kerry diocese Ardfert and Aghadoe (as we still do in the C of I). Nineteenth century monuments indicate that the older naming survived until a century and a half ago.

Charlie was no Paisleyite Prod. He astonished both the papists and his fellow Irish Anglicans by his enthusiasm for the Holy Rosary and his defence of the televised Angelus - which, even in those days, was already being targetted by the secularists of Dublin 4. He transfigured his church; announced that it was dedicated to the Transfiguration (C of I churches originally lacked dedications, as did most English churches until the Victorian 'ecclesiologists' came along and invented them); and filled it with ikons. It had been a typical, rather mean little Irish church in poor and ungrammatical Gothic, built to serve the Big Houses which abounded in the subtropical climate of the South Iveragh; Charlie plastered and whitewashed the outside and planted palm trees, so that now it looks positively Mediterranean. I have offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in it.

The RC church in Sneem was built by Lord Dunraven, one of that little gaggle of Ascendancy aristocrats and gentry, not often remembered, who followed Blessed John Henry into Full Communion. He had it dedicated to the Holy Cross. It was he who began the academic study of the extensive early monastic remains in coastal Kerry, sailing round the islands in his yacht and making notes and drawings. He is a man who deserves to be less forgotten both among Brits - and among the Irish who, despite their intermittent cultural make-overs, still suffer from a degree of a hermeneutic of discontinuity, their communal memories ruptured by the events of 1921/2. By the church is a sculpture park; I recall one very surreal day when we gathered for the unveiling of a statue of Isis, given by the Egyptian ambassador who holidayed in Sneem. There stood I; by me, Archdeacon Murphy, brother of the RC Bishop (the Irish RCs retain the title of Archdeacon as an honorific); I wondered how an image of that Hellenistic Goddess who was such a potent rival of Christianity could be so honoured by two Christian priests, not to mention a sternly monotheistic Moslem. When I last saw it, the Irish damp had done quite a bit of no good to the said idol.

Down by some lush inlets of the sea is the Parknasilla Hotel; G B Shaw used to go there, being driven, sitting bolt upright, in the back of his Rolls Royce, fearless through the domains of the Third West Cork Brigade who so memorably dealt with both the Black and Tans and poor Mr Collins. He wrote a lot at Parknasilla, including S Joan ... Shaw did, I mean, not General Collins. Tea on the terrace there, overlooking the lush coastline and Kenmare Water, is quite a Grand Hotel experience, if you can ignore the hunched figure of Bertie Ahern ... remember him? ... biting his fingernails in the corner. Another military man, M le General de Gaulle, also holidayed there, but that was before my time.

Attached to the Hotel is the most beautiful, scenic, twelve-hole Hotel golf course I have ever seen. Pam used to play a round or two there with her son/sons-in-law while I sat on a ruined and secluded jetty, drank Beamish, translated the Irish Times leader into Latin, and watched the kingfishers and sea-otters. The golf club treasurer did a very ecumenical Family Membership Rate for the clergy, or at least, he did for this one.

O utinam ... Ordinariate pilgrims could say the Rosary as they went out on the boats, past the great gannetry of the Little Skellig to the monastic island of Skellig S Michael (Shaw was rowed there but I doubt if he said the Rosary). It was one of the great pilgrimage centres in Ireland before, in the nineteenth century, Cardinal Cullen, that monumental spoil-sport, dragged the Irish Church kicking and screaming into the Tridentine reforms.


The Flying Dutchman said...

"I wonder when the RCs stopped calling the Kerry diocese Ardfert and Aghadoe"

It was 20 December 1952 (AAS 45 [1953], 187).

Peregrinus said...

What a lovely lyrical ode to Hibernia, Father.

It took me back to my visit to my paternal homeland many years ago, to the days of unlocked doors in a Dublin B & B. "Just come home when you like, breakfast is at 8" said the proprietress. And the friendly folk who took a youthful student out of their way to Limerick to see a penny in the museum named for my family, minted by one of the many Irish banks in the century before last.

I can see now the round face of a distant lawyer relative in Nenagh, Tipp. who took the afternoon off from his practice to show a young pilgrim from Canada the local churches and the cemeteries where our common ancestors had worshipped and were laid to rest with the rites of the Irish Church, sadly out of communion with Rome for the time being.

"My family have been both Republican and C of I for a couple of generations", he told me in the 70's. "All my clients are Catholics and we never have a word of trouble". The problems "in the North", he claimed, were distant and in another country. "No one here wants to mention it." I remember feeling that Tipp was the most pastoral, peaceful place I had experienced in my European wanderings.

Another relative, married to the estimable Mr. Telford, estate agent for Lord Ross, showed me the big house and ancestral estates of the Lords Ross, complete with telescope and scientific artefacts from the gentrified investigations of the nineteenth century lord.

How the Irish are suffering today but I suspect things are not much changed in the countryside. In those pre-Celtic tiger days, the simple life seemed something to be valued and faith was respected by all.

GOR said...

”M le General de Gaulle, also holidayed there…”

When M. le General retired from public life he made his home at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises and was buried there.

Once it became known that he vacationed at Sneem betimes, some wag, with typical Kingdom humor, renamed it Sneem-les-Deux-Églises.

Nebuly said...

Ah yes the great Charles Gray-Stack.
I wonder what he thought when his widow, Martha, was advanced to the priesthood?