The final event of January in Glasgow was the annual Mass celebrating our Celtic roots which takes place during the Celtic Connections Festival. The Mass was celebrated in St. Aloysius Church, Garnethill and was a joyful, colourful, moving and deeply spiritual liturgy.
The music was led by the St. Mungo Singers who were joined by singers from St. Andrew’s Cathedral Choir, St. Joseph’s Tollcross, St. Maria Goretti, St Paul’s Shettleston, St. Stephen’s Dalmuir and St. Mungo’s Alloa, supported by instrumentalists John Allan, Clare O’Neill, Carissa Bovill, Monica Dyer, Annette McKirdy, Pauline McNichol, Marie Clare Rankin, Tony Byat and Ann Marie Berry, with Jane Mckenna on the organ. Thanks to the efforts of Hugh Kelly and David Rankin, full advantage was taken of the beautiful acoustics of St. Aloysius for the instrumentalists by sensitive amplification. Those attending the Mass were welcomed outside by piper Jacqueline Riley.
The principal celebrant was Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick who was joined by a number of priests, including Fr. Michael Hutson from Argyll & Isles Diocese, Fr. Hugh O’Donnell, Frs.Peter Griffiths and Gerry Hassay of the Jesuit community at St. Aloysius, and Deacon Kevin Kelly. The City Council was represented by Bailie Cathy McMaster, and the Irish and Gaelic communities were also represented.
A reflective atmosphere was set for the Mass by the instrumentalists then the choirs sang the beautiful “My Dearest Lord”, a setting by Catherine Walker of a prayer attributed to St. Columba. Then the St. Mungo Singers sang a quite contrasting piece by Polish composer Henryk Botor “Misericordias Domini” before the Mass began with the singing of David Harris and Stephen Smyth’s setting of the St. Patrick Breastplate, as the clergy processed through the church. Mgr. Fitzpatrick welcomed everyone to the liturgy, especially Bailie McMaster who, he noted, had an escort of Knights of St. Columba.
The Pentitential Rite and Gloria from the new St. Andrew Mass setting followed. The readings of the Mass were proclaimed in English (by Br. Stephen Smyth) and Irish (by Margaret Gallagher) and the psalm was sung by Dorothy Gunnee. The Gospel Acclamation would have been familiar to many as it was used at the Papal Mass at Bellahouston and it was sung both in Gaelic (by Frances Dunlop) and English. Deacon Kevin Kelly then sang the Gospel clearly and with a restraint of presentation that put the message first.
Fr. Michael Hutson gave the homily. Reflecting on the readings of the Mass, he commented that the thing that had struck him about the Gospel was the challenge of the devils to Jesus “What do you want with us?” – the presence of evil rejecting the presence of God. He pointed out that the original preaching of the Good News by Jesus was rejected by everyone who rejected Jesus himself or felt threatened by him. Jesus was rejected by so many – then and now. The early Celtic church faced the same rejection. It weighed heavy on the hearts of the early Celtic Christians to be ridiculed and rejected by the wealthy and influential, and by their own families. There was a clear link between them and the early church in Palestine. And yet they spread the word throughout Scotland.
The Church’s role is to spread the word and promote God’s reign in every country. It still faces rejection today but its mission remains the same. Fr. Michael suggested that this rejection is a false one in the sense that man needs God’s/Jesus’ love. Rejection often means real suffering for the followers of Jesus but as the Eucharistic Prayer reminds us, we share in the suffering of Christ. Fr. Michael finished with the lovely poem of John O’Donohue “For Suffering” which finishes:-May you know that though the storm might rage Not a hair of your head will be harmed
The Intercessions were read in English, Gaelic and Irish, and the chorus from the Hymn of Columba was sung after each one. As a collection was taken for the expenses of the Mass, the instrumentalists played before the choirs sang “To Christ the Seed”.
Mgr. Fitzpatrick then led the priests in singing the new setting of the Eucharistic Prayer, with choirs and people responding with the St. Andrew Sanctus and Memorial Acclamation. The Agnus Dei was Noel Donnelly’s new Dalreoch setting. For the Communion procession, there was a lovely mix of music, including the Taizé “Eat this Bread”, instrumental music and Noel Donnelly’s “One Body, One Faith”.
Bailie McMaster spoke at the end of the Mass on behalf of the Lord Provost. She welcomed this special moment, this act of faith and celebration of what the Celtic Connections Festival means to Glasgow – a festival of the roots of our society and city. She welcomed all visitors to the Festival which enriched the life of the city and celebrated its inherited cultures which made it a thriving city, and hoped that they would return home refreshed and enriched. She finished with a Celtic blessing. Mgr. Fitzpatrick thanked her for her support for the Celtic Roots Mass, and she was presented with flowers and a small gift.
The choirs then sang the Rutter setting of the Gaelic Blessing before leading the congregation in the final hymn, “I Cannot Tell” to the tune “Londonderry Air”, a beautiful ending for a lovely celebration of our Celtic roots. It was followed by generous hospitality from the Jesuit community.