The annual Celtic Roots Mass, held during the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, took place in St. Aloysius Garnethill on Sunday 30th January 2011. This year, in addition to regular participant choirs the St. Mungo Singers and St. Mungo’s Alloa, there were a number of other Glasgow choirs: St. Paul’s Shettleston, St. Maria Goretti, St. Joseph’s Tollcross and St. Andrew’s Cathedral, plus singers from Dunkeld and Motherwell Dioceses.
Further musical support came from Jane McKenna (organist), John Allan (whistle), Clare O’Neill (violin) and Carissa Bovill (violin and clarsach), Mark Carr and Marie Claire Kelly (Flutes), Monica Dyson (clarinet), Pauline McNichol (horn) and Ann Marie Berrie (guitar). Jacqueline Riley on pipes welcomed the congregation at the entry to the church.
The principal celebrant was Fr. John Gannon, and he was joined by priests from the Jesuit Community (Fr. Peter Griffiths and Fr. Peter Granger-Banyard) Glasgow Archdiocese (Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick , Mgr. Chris McElroy, Fr Hugh O’Donnell and Fr. Raymond Armstrong) and Dunkeld Diocese (Fr. Michael Milton). The City Council was represented by Bailie Cathy McMaster, and additional colour was brought to the celebration by a number of members of the Knights of St. Columba.
Before the service, Clare, John and Carissa set the ambience for the Mass by playing beautiful and reflective Celtic airs, and the choirs sang Catherine Walker’s “Great God, be near me” , a modern hymn with its roots in Celtic poetry and music. This was followed by Bruckner’s “Locus Iste”, a quite contrasting classical motet, with a further modern Celtic piece, a setting of the St. Patrick’s Breastplate by Stephen Smyth and David Harris, to end.
As the concelebrating priests processed to the altar, the capacity congregation and choirs sang the much loved “Be Thou my Vision”. Fr. Gannon then welcomed everyone, with an especial welcome for Bailie McMaster and thanks to the Jesuit community for hosting the Mass. This was an event, he said, which provided the opportunity to link our faith and our Celtic Roots – things which should not be separated.
The liturgy itself began with a plainchant Kyrie, which might seem strange at a Mass to celebrate Celtic liturgical culture but which reflects one aspect of our liturgical musical history. It was followed by the rousing Dunkeld Gloria, a setting with a distinctly Scottish feel.
The First Reading was proclaimed in Irish, and the psalm sung in response by congregation and choirs was the Iona Community setting of Psalm 62 to a well-known old Scottish tune.
Fr. Milton from Alloa gave the homily. As he informed the congregation at
the end of it, he had been given a strict time limit of 3 minutes, and he proved quite superbly how to deliver a focussed, effective and challenging homily in such a short space of time. Recalling a scene from the Godfather in which a Cardinal takes a stone from a fountain and breaks it open to show the centre still dry, which the Cardinal used as a metaphor for Western Europe in its relationship to Christianity, Fr. Milton linked this idea to the Gospel reading of the Beatitudes. His challenge was that until the Beatitudes are no longer strange to us or seen as out of our reach, we are like the stone, untouched in the centre.
However, on reflection, this was not wholly true for Scotland, because we had been touched by the countless Celtic saints who had brought the message of the Gospel to us, the same message that we listen to today. This is our heritage to celebrate, not just as something from our past, but something to be handed on to the future. His second challenge for the congregation was to recognise that these are the same truths today which we should put into action in our lives. We should not allow the standards of our society to bear no imprint of our Christian standards.
The appropriate response to such a thought- provoking homily was to join in the singing of the Creed in the plainchant Credo 3 setting. (After the Mass, someone remarked that Credo 1 was a much finer setting than Credo 3, and while this is undoubtedly true it should perhaps be acknowledged that someone in the 17th century was presumably moved to write the Credo 3 setting with a view to encouraging participation and it has been the more popular setting ever since! We sing this setting nowadays on special occasions because it is still familiar to older members of the community.) The intercessions followed in Irish, Gaelic and English, praying for our city and its people, and all communities in which the Celts had taken root.
One of the results of the Celtic diaspora was remembered in the hymn sung during the Preparation of the Gifts, “Lord, I give my life to You”, written by Peter Rose and Anne Conlon in honour of St. Mary MacKillop, the Australian saint of Scottish descent.
The Eucharistic Prayer was sung, with Fr. Gannon showing yet another talent in leading the concelebrants. The Sanctus and Memorial Acclamation were from the St. Bride Mass, an appropriate choice as St. Brigid’s Day was so close.
As the Communion Procession began, Frances Dunlop sang Noel Donnelly’s new communion responsory, which was a new version of the beautiful Gaelic hymn “Do lamh a Chriosda”, followed by the Gaelic. Congregation and choirs then joined in singing “One Body, One Faith” and the Celtic Invocation.
Before the final blessing, Bailie McMaster spoke on behalf of the Lord Provost and City Council. Taking her cue from Fr. Milton, she reassured the congregation that she was under a time limit of 2 minutes! She welcomed all who had come to the Celtic Roots Mass and the Celtic Connections Festival which were now markers in the Civic calendar. The Gaels among us remind us of the roots from which our city has grown. Others present will be descendants of those who went into exile in Canada, America and other countries. Those of Celtic roots have been incised into the bedrock of Glasgow, particularly its industries: ships and shipbuilding, steel, engineering – and Glasgow flourishes because of them.
In the Celtic Connections festival, the voices connect us with the early past of our city and country, and Bailie McMaster expressed the hope that this would continue to be the case as we work towards 2014 and the Commonwealth Games, to keep the reminder of our traditions of hospitality, generosity, openness and welcome to the stranger. She wished all our visitors “haste ye back!”
The opportunity was taken to present a bouquet of flowers to Bailie McMaster in recognition of her support and contribution to fostering the links between the churches and the City Council. In adding his thanks, Fr. Gannon expressed gratitude to the Council for its support in the preparations for the Papal Visit.
He also thanked Netta Ewing and her “SacredThreads” group of liturgical embroiderers for the beautiful vestments provided for the Mass which added such lustre to it. Finally he added a special word of appreciation for Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick who organises the Mass each year and who has made such an immeasurable difference to the liturgical life of the Archdiocese over the last 40 (or should that be 80!) years.
The choirs then sang the lovely Chilcott “Irish Blessing” before the final blessing and the Recessional hymn “I Cannot Tell”, sung to the “Londonderry Air” (another modern example of the very effective practice of setting hymns to well known folk tunes to encourage and assist participation).
After the Mass, the Jesuit community again provided hospitality in the Ogilvie Centre, which was much appreciated by everyone.