5 July 2019

Meadowsweet and the Irish Ritual Canons

We went strolling the other day in our adjacent meadow to enjoy the orchids, now at their best, and in the (successful) hope of finding Marbled White butterflies. But also, one of my favourite flowers is just coming on stream: Meadowsweet.

During the happy decades when I did annual summer duty in the Dromod Union of the Church of Ireland in County Kerry, the then Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Killaloe, Kilfenora, Clonfert, Kilmacduagh, and  Emly, with his wife Patricia (eight Sees but only one Wife), used to motor across for one of the Sundays I was there. On (I think) our second Kerry summer, I greeted Bishop Ned with the news that I was breaching the Ritual Canons of the Church of Ireland. I must explain to you that one of these forbids that incense or "any substitution therefor, or imitation thereof, shall at any time be used in any church or chapel, or other place in which the public services of the Church are celebrated". The Pontiff looked a trifle anxious, until we entered the Church and he realised that I had in mind the vases full of Meadowsweet on the windowsills. Who needs arcane and incendiary Oriental spices when there is Meadowsweet?

He had initially, I rather think, regarded me with possibly just a tadge of reserve. But not hereafter.

He taught me some pieces of priestcraft which, unaccountably, my Staggers training had omitted. For example: the way of compressing and cutting leavened bread so that it can be administered sacramentally without risk of crumbs. And how to give the Blessing in the Irish language. He shared with me the information, which had clearly struck him, that in the Devon Anglican parish where one of his children lived, the full Roman Rite was in use. He mentioned this as something interesting, perhaps even surprising, but not outrageous.

I hope he and Patricia are enjoying his retirement. I found him a kindly, highly intelligent, and quietly sociable Bishop, who knew his people and was liked by them. A Corkman by descent, perhaps he had picked up the gracious ethos of traditional Anglican ministry from his many clerical ancestors!

1 comment:

Dan Hayes said...

My late father served in the Kerry IRA. I never heard him speak against local Irish protestants (those would be C of I). As a matter of fact he often stated that they had a well-earned reputation for honesty. About his thoughts on Northern Irish Presbyterians, it would best be left unsaid!