The Mass of our Celtic Roots at St. Aloysius church, Garnethill, has become a fixture during the Celtic Connections festival. Begun with the intention of giving people the opportunity to express or experience the spiritual dimension of their culture during the festival, it is now in its 17th year.
The principal celebrant this year was Mgr. Peter Magee and the homilist Fr. Dermot Preston SJ, the new Parish Priest of St. Aloysius. They were joined by Mgr Gerry Fitzpatrick and Fr. Tim Curtis. The music for the Mass was led by the St. Mungo Singers and the choir of St. Mungo’s Parish Alloa, with piper Isla, organist Jacqueline, and a group of instrumentalists (John on whistle, Carissa on harp, Clare on violin, Pauline on clarinet, Marika on flute and Annette on horn.
The congregation included representatives of the Gaelic and Irish communities and members of the Knights of St.Columba. As always, the service was a rich tapestry of music, much of it with Celtic roots or in the Celtic idiom. A new piece this year was Catherine Walker’s Come Now to Me, My Child with its trio of verses following the Celtic prayer style of invocation of the Trinity.
Although the Glasgow Gaelic school were unable to join us for the Mass, Gaelic speaking members of the St. Mungo Singers, Frances Dunlop (with a little help from Marion Morrison of Argyll & the Isles Diocesan Choir) and George Ferguson provided some Gaelic input in the opening and closing hymns. The first and second readings of the Mass were proclaimed in Gaelic and Irish, and the Intercessions were in Gaelic, Irish and English.
The homilist, Fr. Dermot Preston, raised smiles when he said that his mother would have been proud to see him as she was born in the Gaeltacht in County Cork. His homily covered two themes: culture and discernment. Taking discernment first, he noted that the first reading of the Mass pointed towards the Gospel, identifying Jesus as the Teacher and prophet who was promised but he noted that in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ identity is never stated until almost the end. People have to make up their own minds about him. Only the evil spirits discern who he is and that his mission is to destroy evil .
The founder of the Jesuits, St.Ignatius of Loyola taught in his Spiritual Exercises of the discernment of spirits. The loudest shout does not mean truth and powerful does not necessarily mean good. With regard to the spirits of our own time, it is our task to discern and listen to the good and to turn away from evil.
Turning to the theme of culture, he recalled a BBC World Service programme he had heard in which a young musician from Mosul was being interviewed about how life had been under Islamic State. The young man had been so angry with their behaviour because, as he saw it, it lacked culture in the widest sense. His response however had not been to kill but to play the music of the Australian rock band AC/DC by way of protest, a novel and peaceful approach.
This Celtic Roots Mass, he said, is about culture – of people, place and language. We recognise that cultures are different but they are good and we discern that, through the music of our culture, we raise our hearts and minds to God. This shows God working in our world.
After the Mass, there was an opportunity to enjoy hospitality in the Ogilvie Centre and catch up on the news with friends.