Mass of the Nations and Reception of the Eucharistic Congress Bell in Carrick on Suir
Ringing of bells, speaking in tongues, swirling of incense, church bedecked with flags, women in ornate headgear, as we celebrated our friends from afar and welcomed into our community the harbinger of next June’s Eucharistic congress.
Annually, the Mass of the Nations is celebrated in the Churchof St. Nicholas, Carrick on Suir, on the Vigil of the Feast of the Epiphany, 5th January, when we remember the visit of the Three Wise Men from afar to the manger inBethlehem. This year there was an extra dimension as we welcomed the International Eucharistic Congress Bell to our parish.
The evening’s liturgy was organized by the youth section of the Parish Liturgy Committee and their young friends. The concelebrants, shimmering in cloth of gold vestments, were Fr. Edmund Cullinan, our parish priest, Fr. Paul Waldron, the diocesan Eucharistic Congress co-ordinator, and Fr. Emil Adler, the diocesan Polish chaplain.
The bell and the four accompanying icons were received at the door of the church and carried
in procession to the sanctuary, to the sound of a solo version of the Congress Anthem, sung by Helen Hahessy, and accompanied by the concelebrants, the town’s mayor, Mr. Patsy Fitzgerald, and the national flag. The icons were presented and their significance explained at the four appropriate stages of the Mass, the Gathering, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Dismissal. The First and Second Readings were in Polish and English; the Gospel reading was accompanied by a procession of ‘three wise men’, bearing gifts of gold (not really !), frankincense and myrrh (can’t be bought in the local supermarket) to the crib. The Prayers of the Faithful were in English (American), Swahili, Igbo, Shona and Dutch, some readers wearing national dress; after the translation of each we were called to prayer by representatives of various sections of the community ringing the Congress Bell. The Eucharistic Prayer was in English, Irish and Polish. The young people spread through the congregation offering the handshake of peace to all before communion. Communion, distributed by the concelebrants and four young Eucharistic Ministers, was under both kinds, as befits a celebration of and call to prayer for the Eucharistic Congress.
And then we gathered for tea, coffee and chat.
Memorable, uplifting and prayerful. To use a modern, not particularly liturgical term: the bell caused quite a ‘buzz’, to the surprise of a least one doubting Thomas. At the end of Mass it was eagerly rung – and photographed, at least the ringers were – and the icons were closely scrutinized. Next day at work one of the young participants in the liturgy could casually retort to the boast of a member of the river rescue team who had sailed theBelldownriver to Portlaw that morning: “What are you talking about? Sure I helped to carry it up to the altar in St. Nicholas’s last night.” And he was proud to be able to say so. Two days before he hadn’t heard of bell or Eucharistic Congress.
Thanks to all those – and it is a very big ‘all’ – who made the evening such a success: the concelebrants, the young people, the choir, the non-national readers, the bell ringers, everyone.