One of our frequent, fecund, and most flexible of commentators here alerted me to a piece at National Catholic Register.
I find this simultaneously discouraging and encouraging.
Ireland’s ‘Mass Rocks’ Are Becoming Popular Again
Remote flat rocks in the hills of rural Ireland were once popular places for small groups of people who had gathered to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the mid-16th century and beyond. They became known as “Mass Rocks” and there were thousands of them dotted all over Ireland, helping the Catholic faith survive under persecution while providing the Catholic Church with thousands of priest-martyrs — including famous saints such as St. Oliver Plunkett, the Archbishop of Armagh.
During the 1650s, when Oliver Cromwell and his troops came to Ireland, many of the clergy had to flee for their lives, while others stayed and remained faithful in order to minister to their scattered flocks — albeit in secret and in disguise. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was said in the open on a rock which more than likely came from one of the monasteries or churches that Cromwell and his thugs had burned down and looted. The Penal Laws were enacted in 1695 whereby bishops and priests were banned from Ireland. Many went to safe countries like France, Portugal and Hungary, as was the case of Bishop Walter Lynch of Clonfert, who brought with him a miraculous image of Our Lady, “Consoler of the Afflicted.” Ireland was consecrated to Our Lady before this very image in 1662 by all the Irish bishops before their departure from Ireland. [I did not know that!]
Since March 2020, with the COVID-19 lockdown in Ireland, people have begun returning to the Mass Rocks to pray while the churches up and down the country were closed. While some faithful priests offered the Mass with small groups of the faithful at the Mass Rocks, other groups of laity would gather [NB] and place priestly vestments on a Mass Rock while praying the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together. [*sniff*] This way, in the face of the lockdown and other obstacles, the Catholic faith and prayer is being preserved in the rural countryside of Ireland.
The Catholic bishops in Ireland will admit to having lost a large portion of the Catholic population who will never return to the Church or to the sacraments. Much of the blame lies with the bishops themselves, who for years ignored the call to instruct, to teach and to abandon sugarcoated homilies, while ignoring the steady advance of same-sex unions and abortion in the country.
Should another lockdown be enacted again for any period of time, the faithful people, like their forefathers before them, will return again and to Ireland’s beloved and revered Mass Rocks to pray, with or without their priests. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary now triumph over all evil and every sickness — let Christ be Over all Viruses and Infectious Diseases (COVID).
That image of people at a Mass rock, with vestments but no priest…. gosh.
We are seeing the Church experience a Job-like testing. If Christ endured a Passion, the Church must endure a Passion as well. The Passion reveals the radical, unfathomable depths of God’s love. We must learn to recognize this love, and manifest it. We are going to experience painful but purifying down-sizing. We must creatively form places where the Faith and love can “dwell”, habitats of Faith.
In the wake of the terrible scandals which deluged Ireland, Benedict XVI urged in a letter to the Irish people that they return to traditional faith and faith practices.
That doesn’t apply to Ireland alone, but everywhere.