This year’s Mass to link with the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow took place in St. Aloysius Garnethill on 31 January. Thankfully the weather was taking a break between storms Gertrude and Henry, and the church was full with singers (member of the St. Mungo Singers, the East End Deanery Choir and the visiting choir of St. Mungo’s Alloa), musicians (Jane, John, Monica, Annette, Pauline, Clare, Carissa, Benedict, Anne Marie and a quartet from St. Andrew & St. Bride’s East Kilbride) as well as representatives of the Knights of St. Columba and of the Gaelic and Irish communities, and parishioners from across Glasgow.
Brave piper, David, from the St. Francis Pipe Band (who are celebrating their 90th year this year) played outside to welcome people. The City Council was represented by Baillie John McLaughlin. The principal celebrant was Mgr. Paul Conroy and the homily was preached by Fr. John Gannon.
Before the Mass began, the instrumentalists played and the joint choirs sang some modern hymns written in a Celtic style: Celtic Invocation (Canon Fennelly/Noel S Donnelly), John Bell’s setting of Psalm 62 and Sean O’Riada’s To Christ the Seed.
The Mass itself began with the Hymn for the Year of Mercy and continued with an uplifting feast of liturgical music including the sung Gospel (by Deacon Kevin Kelly) and Eucharistic Prayer, the Jubilee Gloria, Schubert Sanctus and Acclamation, an unusual but lovely Gaelic hymn with a Latin response, and finishing with the Glasgow Anthem (Let Glasgow Flourish) and W.Y. Fullarton’s hymn set to the Londonderry Air (I cannot Tel).
The 1st and 2nd readings of the Mass were in Gaelic and Irish and the Psalm of the day (Ps.70) in the setting by Noel Donnelly. The Intercessions also reflected the Celtic Roots theme, being in English, Gaelic and Irish.
Fr. Gannon began his homily on a light note by assuring the congregation that he did not intend to follow Deacon Kevin’s example and sing his words. He reflected on people’s fascination with genealogy, tracing their family roots, while too often showing less interest in their living relatives! He admitted that he sometimes felt ambivalent about the concept of roots. So many modern conflicts in the world had their roots, so to speak, in the roots of countries and people, in ancient injustices and conflicts. Such roots are evil but roots and our interest in them are not of themselves evil.
Today, he said, we were celebrating the roots of our faith and culture, remembering and honouring them, and he pointed out that one of the problems of Europe at present was the collective amnesia of its Christian roots and the downgrading of its values.
Today’s Gospel, Fr. Gannon pointed out, fitted in well with the theme of roots. Jesus challenges his listeners’ views of their roots and of themselves, that they were special and the only people that God was interested in. He reminds them of two stories from their history that show this is not the case. God’s salvation is for everyone, and we will see this idea time and again in Luke’s
Gospel over the coming months. Christ indeed seems to be abandoning his roots.
Fr. Gannon invited us to recognise that, while our roots are important and ground us, and they cannot be devalued, they are only one part of the plant. The essential part is what the plant blossoms into. We are not created solely to look back. God calls us, as he did Israel, to share his Good News. God’s love is not just given to us for ourselves but to be shared with others, to reach out to those we have not yet reached out to, and to remain open to the Holy Spirit. His challenging reflection gave balance to our celebrations.
That celebration was rounded off with tea and nibbles and plenty of conversation in the Ogilvie Hall.