|Irish Times photo Alan Betson Sr Gwen of the Discalced Carmelites|
The last trip I made to the RDS in 2010 was a pilgrimage of sorts to see an icon of the pop music world, Paul McCartney, celebrating his 70 th birthday this week . I was propelled to make the expedition as it seemed likely to be the last chance to see the veteran Beatle (although given the proliferation of aging rock stars leaping around on a stage near you, I wouldn't be so sure about that.) At the time I vowed it would be the last outdoor stadium event I would attend but much in the same spirit and given that thousands of overseas visitors had thought the event worth a trip to our rainy and windswept isle end, I travelled to the last day of the International Eucharistic Congress at the RDS in Dublin. The event held every four years was last held in Ireland in 1932, still in living memory for some.
A pricey €35 admitted one to the days programme of talks, religious services and exhibitions. First, the stations of the display stands - nearly all with some sort of ecclesiastical bent. You could thumb through a rack of brightly coloured vestments, plan a pilgrimage holiday, try out a church organ and gen up on family planning (the Billings method, naturally!). Dana and Liam Lawton were pedalling their records and potential postulants could check out the sandal shod Discalced Carmelites among the many stands extolling religious life.
|Abbot Mark Hederman|
|Ennis Gospel Choir|
Back in the exhibition hall, I spoke Sr Magdalena Fitzgibbon and Joe McKenna about plans to develope a cultural retreat centre at the magnificent Kylemore Abbey after a long tradition of post primary education. Finally, I viewed an interesting exhibition of memorabilia on the 1932 congress in the RDS Library where I met Joseph Patrick Prunty born in the year of 1932 .The Archbishop's archivist, (what a poetic title) Noelle Dowling was busy greeting and signing a special commemorative programme of the 1932 event.
|St Agnes Community Orchestra|
Generally my impression was that Irish parish groups had not arrived by the bus load but in small parties. Call me a cheapskate but in principle, I was somewhat reluctant to pay an entrance fee when the main event is a religious service and I wonder to what extent this aspect influenced the many empty seats plain for all to see at the opening and evident too on the last day. I had sympathy with the sentiments expressed by Theo Hobson in a Guardian article on the subject of visiting St Paul's . '..: paying an entrance fee changes the nature of the visit. To pay is to make a tacit statement: that this is primarily a tourist-attraction, that its sacred function is secondary to this' (In a related precedent, Kilkenny Arts Week in 2010 programmed a Mozart Mass performed in context and resolved this thorny matter by suggesting a suitable donation)
My specific interest was in the music chosen for the liturgies and I was impressed with the range and quality of the music chosen over the week. Pat ODonoghue and Tomás Kenny made trojan efforts to marshall a congregational element and it would be good to see this policy carried on in to the parishes
While I can't say it was the most spiritually uplifting experience I've ever had, it was an interesting afternoon and while the men were sporting all the best frocks, there was a spirit of bonhomie in the cross section of national and international visitors to the capital.
|Mr and Mrs Prunty in the Library|