As the pandemic and oppressive government edicts challenge ecclesiastical services across Ireland, a new push is underway to revive the time-honoured tradition of the Irish Mass Rock. Spearheaded by the pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need Ireland, priests from the 26 Irish dioceses are being invited to utilise various locations historically known to have hosted religious services.

Already priests have commenced using the previously neglected sites prominent in the three centuries of persecution Irish Catholics experienced from the 16th century onward. Among those hosting Eucharistic celebrations at Mass Rocks is Monsignor Tommy Johnston, Parish Priest of Charlestown, County Mayo, who celebrated in the scenic parish of Tubbercurry near the Ox Mountains in Sligo. Speaking on the occasion which saw the Monsignor celebrate Mass at a spot frequented by Irish Catholics during the Penal era, Monsignor Johnston reflected on its significance.

“It was a unique privilege to stand at a place made sacred by our ancestors who had stood there all those years ago giving voice to their faith in presence and prayer conscious of the ever-present danger to life and livelihood.”

In the weeks and months to come there will be a furthering of efforts to make use of the various sites dotted around the country, with details of future Masses available on the Aid to the Church in Need website.

Active across 140 countries, Aid to the Church in Need assists Christians under the yoke of persecution, conducting 5,000 projects annually from emergency aid to the provision of study materials.

While religious functions of up to 50 people have been permitted in the Republic since May, worshippers have undergone a particular level of vindictive harassment from the increasingly secular Dublin state. From the breaking up of Catholic protests and public praying of the Rosary, to the outright storming of Churches, which most notoriously occurred last month in Athlone. Catholics are evidently without the legal leniency gifted to protected causes such as Black Lives Matter.

As the bicentenary of Catholic Emancipation approaches, and the faithful fully apprehend the hostile state they live in, the rerooting of Eucharistic services in locations sanctified by our ancestors is perhaps fitting. The move to revivify the Irish Mass Rock is underway and is already taking its first tentative strides. Against the foot-soldiers of Cromwell to the technocrats of NPHET, Irish Catholics will never be prevented from celebrating the wonders of Christ’s sacrifice. 

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

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