“This cathedral is an icon of hope: that the flame of hope ignited by Patrick on a nearby hill still burns; yes, reduced at times, even by self-inflicted wounds, but never extinguished” – Cardinal Dolan
The guest of honour and preacher today at the jubilee Mass in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, was Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York. This celebration marked the 75th anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral of the Diocese of Meath.
Before the Mass Cardinal Dolan was joined on the cathedral grounds by his primary school teacher, Irish-born Sister Mary Bosco Daly, and some married couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, to plant a birch tree to mark the special occasion.
Bishop Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath was the chief celebrant at the Mass, and along with Cardinal Dolan they were joined by His Excellency Archbishop Charles J Brown, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland; Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, who as a priest previously served in Mullingar parish for ten years; Father Paul Crosbie, who was Master of Ceremonies; by priests of the Diocese of Meath, and by religious. The music for the Mass was a unique collaboration of the Cathedral Choir, under the direction of Mr Gerard Lillis, and the Mullingar Choral Society, directed by Mr Fergus O’Carroll. The repertoire included Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, and pieces from Haydn’s Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo.
During his homily Cardinal Dolan attributed his vocation in large part to the religious formation he received from the Irish Mercy Sisters, saying:
“Not only was my own home archdiocese of Saint Louis blessed with your own Cardinal Glennon, but with a steady stream of priests whose names are still cheered back home, and, in a gift very, very providential and personal for me, when, in 1957 four Sisters of Mercy left the Convent of Saint Mary in Drogheda to take over Holy Infant Parish School in Ballwin, Missouri, where one of them, Sister Mary Bosco Daly, would teach a Timmy Dolan in second, fourth, and fifth grade. Sister, I’m glad you’re here today!”
Cardinal Dolan also referred to hope as the outstanding characteristic of the Church in Ireland:
“No surprise, this hope. Historians of Ireland as diverse as Woodhaus-Smith, Cahill, Foster, and O’Brien conclude that Ireland’s “harsh and dreadful” history . . . and, even its weather! . . . result in either a cynical despair, or a buoyant hope, and, even if grudgingly at times, they credit the faith of Ireland, fostered by the Church, with guaranteeing that a buoyant hope usually trumps a cynical despair.
“This cathedral, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is an icon to that hope: that the flame of hope ignited by Patrick on a nearby hill you call yours still burns; yes, reduced at times – maybe even today – to a flicker by “dungeon, fire, and sword,” or even self-inflicted wounds, but never extinguished, because it is a light of Christ, that not even the gates of hell can put out – although they sure keep trying!”
Following the Mass, an estimated 1,500 people took part in a street party organised by parish volunteers. The festivities included music from the Mullingar Town Band, performances by the local Arts Centre, children’s games and guided tours of the cathedral.
Notes for Editors
- Photographs for use by media for publication, from today’s Mass and other jubilee celebrations, are available by contacting John McElroy on 00 353 (0) 87 2416985. A video recording of today’s events is available for viewing on iCatholic.
- Cardinal Dolan was invited to Mullingar in remembrance of the contribution of Cardinal John Glennon, a native of Kinnegad, who preached at the consecration of the Cathedral of Christ the King in 1939 and who played a significant role in its construction. Born in Saint Louis, USA in 1950, Cardinal Dolan has served as Archbishop of New York since 2009 and Bishop Smith attended his installation ceremony in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. Cardinal Dolan was nominated cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI and he enjoys a close friendship with Pope Francis.
- Please see below the welcoming remarks of Bishop Smith, homily of Cardinal Dolan, and Innovation of Thanksgiving by His Excellency Archbishop Charles J Brown:
- Welcome remarks of Bishop Michael Smith
Welcome to all who have come here this morning as we give thanks in prayer for all who, led by Bishop Thomas Mulvany, built and paid for this Cathedral. In the Gospels we are told several times that Mary pondered and wondered at the words and events she experienced. I am not alone among his successors who have also often pondered and wondered how Bishop Mulvany managed to build our beautiful cathedral at a time of great distress and economic hardship. When he announced his decision on the day he was ordained bishop I am sure there were many sceptics to be found. Ireland was still suffering from a very difficult and divisive period, one of many that blighted the lives of its peoples over the previous centuries.
Yet this was a decision that expressed great hope and confidence. In spite of all that the faith has experienced in the previous centuries, it very clearly stating that the human spirit, animated by faith, was still unbowed.
Very many accompanied him on the journey. One who gave him great encouragement and support was Archbishop (later Cardinal) Glennon, Archbishop of Saint Louis and native of Kinnegad in our diocese. He had built his own magnificent new cathedral in Saint Louis and I am sure had much wisdom to impart to Bishop Mulvany. Three times he crossed the Atlantic by sea: to preach at the laying of the foundation stone; at the Dedication in 1936; at the Consecration in 1939. On his appointment as Cardinal in 1946 he again came to the cathedral on his way to Rome. He came again on his return journey. Before travelling to Ireland and Rome he picked up an illness which sadly led to his death at a reception in Áras an Uachtaráin. From this cathedral which he had honoured so often with his presence he began his final journey back for burial in the Cathedral he had built in Saint Louis.
Today we are honoured to have with us Cardinal Dolan, a priest of Saint Louis and now Archbishop of New York. Cardinal Dolan has close links with our diocese since his days as a pupil in Holy Infant Primary School, Ballwin, Saint Louis as he will explain to you. I am sure he too ponders and wonders at the courage and skill of those who built that iconic and magnificent Cathedral, Saint Patrick’s, in the heart of Manhattan, New York. It is at present undergoing very extensive restoration and renovation – I am sure he is also wondering how he will pay for it all. Cardinal you honour all of us with your greatly appreciated presence and support.
I welcome too Archbishop Charles Brown, the Apostolic Nuncio, himself a New Yorker and Bishop Denis Nulty, no stranger to Mullingar. Bishop Denis spent the first ten years of his priestly ministry here in Mullingar. During those years he was deeply involved in the major restoration work carried out on the cathedral in early 1990s, proving especially adept at fund raising. No less than the building that too evoked great generosity and support, being paid for without having to trouble the banks.
I welcome all who have joined us this day. We come together as a community of faith. We are conscious of the debt we owe to Bishop Gaffney, Bishop Mulvany and all who were involved in the Cathedral project. We remember them in thanksgiving and in prayer. We are conscious too that in living our faith we constantly need the forgiving love and mercy of the Lord. We begin our Mass asking forgiveness.
- Homily of Cardinal Timothy Dolan
“Que Viva Cristo Rey!”
Even given my clumsy Spanish, that chant – – “Que viva Cristo Rey!” “Long Live Christ our King!” – never fails to bring our wonderful Mexican immigrants in New York to their feet.
It was, as you know, the defiant shout, the prayer, the prelude, often, to martyrdom for those loyal Mexicans, dubbed the “Cristeros,” who kept their faith and never gave up in dark days of oppression and persecution south of the Rio Grande in the early decades of last century.
What do you say that today we make it our shout as well, our prayer, our act of faith this glorious 75th anniversary of the solemn consecration of this splendid Cathedral of Christ the King, as this parish of Mullingar gathers to praise God for the graces and mercy that have flowed from the sparkling walls of this majestic temple.
“Long live Christ our King!”
Que viva Christo Rey!
Bishop Smith, Bishop Nulty, clergy, consecrated women and men religious, and God’s people of this diocese: congratulations! Happy anniversary! Thank you for keeping the dream of Bishop Gaffney and Bishop Mulvany so radiant and real! And thank you for the high honor of asking this boy from America to preach God’s Holy Word at this festive Mass.
Archbishop Charles Brown – another New Yorker lucky to be back here in Ireland – brother, priests and religious from all parts of Ireland, – friends one and all . . .
We take to heart the assurance Jesus gives us in our gospel today that, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I in their midst.” And thus He is here, as He has been with His Church from the start, from His Ascension, depicted so brightly in the mosaic in the apse, as He will be “until the end of time.”
In a way we especially savor today, Jesus has been with us in these acres of His vineyard since Patrick arrived on the Hill of Slane nearby, and your patron, Saint Finian, the “teacher of the saints of Ireland,” founded the legendary monastic schools.
That presence of Jesus has been so effective here that faith in Him had grown to such an extent that, in 1900, Bishop Matthew Gaffney announced a new cathedral to replace the one he called, according to your able historian, Father Paul Connell, a “funeral pile, without an atom of art in it!”
It was his successor, Bishop Thomas Mulvany, who brought it to completion, accepting the advice of Pope Pius XI that it be dedicated to Christ the King, the first cathedral ever to bear so regal a title.
And it was a hometown boy, John Joseph Glennon, the venerable archbishop of St. Louis, my home diocese, himself born and raised in Ballinabrackey, who preached the formal opening, beginning his sermon with these words: “Royal Meath was never as royal as she is today, for with solemn rite of holy church she enthrones in His Basilica the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Your hometown boy, John Glennon of Kinnegad, later to become a cardinal, to die here in Ireland on his way back to St. Louis after the consistory of 1946, was only one of the abundant gifts this historic diocese has given the Church universal, as thousands of priests, religious women and men, and “salt-of-the-earth” people left this diocese to bring the faith all over the world.
Not only was my own home archdiocese of St. Louis blessed with your own Cardinal Glennon, but with a steady stream of priests whose names are still cheered back home, and, in a gift very, very providential and personal for me, when, in 1957 four Sisters of Mercy left the Convent of St. Mary in Drogheda to take over Holy Infant Parish School in Ballwin, Missouri, where one of them, Sister Mary Bosco Daly, would teach a Timmy Dolan in second, fourth, and fifth grade. Sister, I’m glad you’re here today!
So pardon me for making my own that chant of faith and praise,
Que viva Cristo Rey!
“Long live Christ our King!”
That acclamation was, yes, an act of faith, but, when it came from the Cristeros in Mexico, was also an act of hope, an act of hope that no calamity, no setback, no oppressor, no crisis, no trauma, no government would destroy us as long as Jesus was our Lord, Christ our King.
Historians tell us that this is what moved Pope Pius XI to institute the Feast of Christ the King. As that brave Pontiff gazed out upon the world, he saw threats to the Faith, crises in the Church; yes, the oppressors in Mexico, but also ominous ideologies called Fascism, Nazism, Communism, unrestrained capitalism, all claiming to make raw power, racial superiority, blood thirsty nationalism, economic clashes, or the almighty dollar the new deities, leading Pope Pius XI to thunder, Basta! Enough! Christ is our King! Jesus is Lord! We have endurable hope that nobody/nowhere/nothing/no how can destroy His Kingdom!
How appropriate that a cathedral in the heartland of Ireland would be the first to bear that hopeful title, Christ our King. This is an island, this is a people, this is a Church that has had a litany of earthly reasons to let hope flag.
All we have to do is look at the relics venerated in this temple:
– the chasuble of Saint Oliver Plunkett, the martyr;
– the primitive pewter oil stocks, monstrance, and chalice once hidden by brave and hunted
priests during the dark penal days;
– the 1717 Penal Cross which gave hope to persecuted believers;
– the marble sculpture of John Cantwell, bishop of Meath through gruesome famine
and political crisis, ever the champion of the dignity of God’s people, a sign of hope
in a time it was doubted.
Just look at the hope implicit in the invitation Bishop Gaffney gave the children who had survived the famine, then adults in 1900, to undertake the construction of this cathedral;
Just look at the hope evident in the gutsy confidence of those who gathered here three-quarters of a century ago to consecrate this church, only three days after Hitler had invaded Poland, the very day England declared war on Germany, with “blood, sweat, and tears” evident on the earthly horizon.
No surprise, this hope. Historians of Ireland as diverse as Woodhaus-Smith, Cahill, Foster, and O’Brien conclude that Ireland’s “harsh and dreadful” history . . . and, even its weather! . . . result in either a cynical despair, or a buoyant hope, and, even if grudgingly at times, they credit the faith of Ireland, fostered by the Church, with guaranteeing that a buoyant hope usually trumps a cynical despair.
This cathedral, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is an icon to that hope: that the flame of hope ignited by Patrick on a nearby hill you call yours still burns; yes, reduced at times – maybe even today – to a flicker by “dungeon, fire, and sword,” or even self-inflicted wounds, but never extinguished, because it is a light of Christ, that not even the gates of hell can put out – although they sure keep trying!
For these stones of marble we marvel at today are but a reminder of the living stones – you and me – who are the Church, the Body of Christ; the cornerstone we recall today but a symbol of Jesus Christ, the real cornerstone of His Church; the foundation still solid of this temple but the reminder of the faith of the apostles upon which His one, Holy, Catholic and apostolic Church rests.
Is it any wonder we pray today,
Que viva Cristo Rey!
Long live Christ our King! . . .
A King whose palace is a cave in Bethlehem,
Whose throne is a cross,
Whose crown is of thorns,
Whose followers often flee or deny Him,
Whose face is mocked,
Whose teachings and laws are reviled,
Whose grace often denied and mercy felt not needed,
Whose invitation ignored by a world whose hope seems exhausted.
But a King who alone can satisfy the deepest aspirations of the searching heart, whose kingdom is deep in the rich soil of the Irish heartland, whose most precious gift is a hope that is at times all we have left, which saw our ancestors through oppression, penal days, famine, wars, and violence, and which will see us through the challenges of today.
For our king is the same, “yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” the only king we’ll ever need, the only one worthy of ultimate trust, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
Que viva Cristo Rey!
Long live Christ our King!
- Innovation of Thanksgiving by His Excellency Archbishop Charles J Brown
you were sent by the Father
to gather together those who are scattered.
You came among us, doing good and bringing healing, announcing the Word of salvation
and giving the Bread which lasts forever.
We thank you, Lord Jesus, for the gift of faith,
symbolized so beautifully in this Cathedral
and witnessed so powerfully in the table fellowship of these parish festivities.
We praise you for the generous hands and enthusiastic hearts that have made these celebrations possible, just as we have glorified your holy name in the solemn liturgy of Eucharistic communion.
May your Holy Spirit enliven our hope and open our minds,
so that together with our brothers and sisters in faith we may recognise you in the Scriptures
and in the breaking of bread.
May your Holy Spirit transform us into one body and lead us to walk humbly on the earth,
in justice and love, as witnesses of your resurrection.
In communion with Mary,
whom you gave to us as our Mother
at the foot of the cross,
may all praise, honour and blessing be to the Father in the Holy Spirit and in the Church,
now and forever,
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678