Eucharistic Congress 2012,
RDS and Croke Park, Dublin
I have to compliment RTE's Nationwide team for an excellent review
of the Congress on Monday of last week. If you wanted a video souvenir
of the event you couldn't do much better. Mary Kennedy and Anne Cassin
presented a warm retrospective that featured many elements people might
have missed in the news coverage. Fr Robert McCabe did well explaining
the work of the military chaplaincy, not too widely known up to now I'd
say. We got a look at the "Through the Eyes of the Apostles" exhibit in
the company of John Waters, a better coverage of the Eucharistic Procession
than was on the News, and lots of positive contribution from pilgrims.
It will be available for another two weeks on the RTE Player. Click here.
a day in Croke Park for the closing ceremonies of the 50th International
Eucharistic Congress. Spectacular and moving at the same time. I was frozen
in the Hogan stand as the evening went on but who cares, the music was
just out of this world. The one-hour concert that preceded the Mass was
a great showcase. I'm not a great fan of "Panis Angelicus" and
I think John McCormack's version has been way over-exposed lately (one
of my son says he's allergic to it) , but it got freshened up bigtime
today when sung by Celine Byrne, Fr Marino Nguekam and Jacek Wislocki.
Liam Lawton sang "The Could's Veil" from the centre of the arena
and that was special. Fuaimlaoi, with their conductor and composer Ronan
McDonagh, impressed with their distinctive blend of traditional Irish
and liturgical. The Three Tenors Ireland did well on "You Raise Me
Up" though that one is also overexposed. The Priests excelled on
"King of Kings" while the Monastervan Gospel Choir livened things
up and added a contemporary flavour. I was delighted to see St Mary's
School Choir from the School for the Deaf again (had been absorbed by
their performance at the Emmanuel concerts), though as they were signing
to slow songs their vibrancy didn't come through so strongly.
Needless to say with such talent on board the music for the Mass was exceptional.
Again the Congress theme "Though We Are Many", by Bernard Sexton,
was sung with appropriate gusto, while the Ó Riada music never
looses its freshness - "Ag Críost an Síol" figured
strongly and linked into the Gospel reading about sowing seeds. And what
about that striking Responsorial Psalm so beautifully sung by Karen O'Donovan
Last day at IEC2012 in the RDS so it was time to catch up on a
few things that had been longfingered.
If art can be created with plants the Rosary Garden in the Poor Clares
St Damian's, next door to Simmonscourt fits the bill. That was a most
unusual creation which led into the small chapel for Eucharistic Adoration.
I visited the Army Chaplaincy camp in the Simmonscourt area and that was
quite impressive. There was a liitle tent chapel, and lots of interesting
posters. I think my pupils would love to see some of this. Boys and armies!
Over at the Youth Space I came across a session of what seemed to be Christian
Disco Dancing! The workshop was called "Street Dance - The Move of
Faith". and people were certainly having a ball.
evening I finally got in to see the Exhibition "Through the Eyes
of the Apostles", a recreation of the village of Capurnaum in the
time of Jesus. That was impressive - I especially liked the lakeshore
setting where the projected video of the lake on a huge screen made you
feel like you were there. Hopefully this exhibition will surface again.
More rich experiences of music and drama at the International Eucharistic
Congress today. I started the day with my monthly slot on Spirit Radio
- did it in studio this time as I was already in Ballsbridge area. I spoke
about the arts events at the Eucharistic Congress, pretty much a short
version of what I've been writing here.
I got back over to Congress in time for the play Servant at the Supper
a one-woman show by Eleanor Glenn, a retired school principal from
Canada. It was an imaginative idea - the fictional character was the daughter
of the man who owned the Upper Room, scene of the Last Supper. Everything
that followed is seen through her eyes - the Apostles return to the same
Upper Room after the Crucifixion, Jesus appears there after Resurrection,
the dramatic events of Pentecost happen there. This unity of place works
well, and Glenn has a great voice and great command of the stage. The
chalice and bread were central symbols the whole time and she frequently
drew attention to them. The servant is looking back years later, but I
would like her to have captured better some of the puzzlement and angst
as the younger girl tried to make sense of it all. The script is very
close to Scripture, which has its advantages, but more exploration would
have helped - like T.S. Eliot does in Journey of the Magi or Song
For Simeon. Also I thought there was too much of a sudden jump from
Last Supper to Crucifixion, and to the Ascension. One song/chant for the
Resurrection didn't work for me. Glen did well to cope with the fact another
workshop was going on behind the curtain and every word from that talk
could be heard - a real Pro!
the usual variety in the main arena at lunchtime. St Ultan's Orchestra
from Cherry Orchard was wonderful, and they even had a mini gospel choir
within the group. Elation
Ministries rocked the crowd from the second stage - they seemed to
have their own fan club in the front row. I believe they've been playing
a blinder in the Youth Space all week. I loved their light rock version
of Our Lady of Knock, though I'd say it wasn't to everyone's liking!
They were followed, in striking contrast, by the Brook Singers, a male
voice singing group specialising in Welsh hymns. Later the burst into
song in the food tent!
the evening I went to see Danielle
Rose, a singer-songwriter from USA, at Haddington Road Church. Her
songs were really beautiful, her voice really attractive and her finger
picking guitar matched the songs perfectly. Many of the songs were about
Our Lady, not surprising as the event was organised by Family Rosary International
who promote the work of Fr Patrick Peyton, the famous Irish Rosary Priest.
She engaged the audience with her patter between songs, which was in turn
intense, deeply spiritual and even giddy at times. It was more a prayer
event than a concert - she said "Amen" at the end of every song.
One of my favourite songs was "I'll See You in the Eucharist",
which I've definitely heard before but can't remember where or when. It's
recurring refrain of "do not be afraid" was haunting. Towards
the end she sang acapella, which really highlighted the quality of her
voice, on "Crown of Thorns" and a fine version of "Hail
Holy Queen". A pleasant surprise on the night was the "Rosary
Room" - a small oratory off the main church featuring a multimedia
presentation of the Rosary - with four screens showing meaningful imagery
and meditative music in the background. For more info: www.familyrosary.org
the night over in the Youth Space in the Simmonscourt area of the RDS.
I arrived for the end of a Focolare presentation on the life of the young
Chiara Luce Badano,
beatified in 2010, and patron of the Youth Space, which finished with
some lively singing from a group of Focolare singers and musicians. Finally,
in music and prayer a Young Carmelite group led a very quiet and dignified
service of Night Prayer.
most impressive music I heard today at the Eucharistic Congress
was at the main Mass of the day - the Mass was mostly in Irish, and the
music also had a very Irish flavour, with many of Sean Ó Riada's
pieces which never date, along with some fine harp and fiddle music. The
choir was in excellent form and the soloists sang exceptionally well.
During Communion time the Congress hymn, "Though We Are Many",
written by Bernard Sexton, was sung better than I've ever heard it. The
congregation near me joined enthusiastically in the singing, especially
on that distinctive arrangement of "O Sacrament Most Holy" combined
with "I Am the Bread of Life". After the Mass the Vard Sisters
sang a beautiful "Ave Maria" and the Liam Lawton song "Send
Me an Angel".
Visual art has been prominent at the Congress - there's a striking Icon
behind the main altar (pic above left), and the smaller Icons of the Congress
form part of many of the ceremonies, accompanying the Congress Bell. These
are by iconographers Colette Clarke, Phillip Brennan and Richard Sinclair.
For more information on these click here.
think numbers are increasing at the Congress - very busy this morning.
Got there early for workshop on "Poets of the Eucharist" but
it was full! All was not lost as I found space at the workshop on Faith
and Film presented by Fr Peter Hannon SJ. It didn't focus specifically
on religious films but looked at broader human and philosophical concerns.
In particular he spoke of the idea of following your dreams, and the tension
between that and meeting expectations. He used clips from Dead Poets
Society, Field of Dreams and Cinema Paradiso to illustrate
his points. The idea of the dream, he said, was common to both faith and
film. The dream within us always manages to surface even when we ignore
or neglect it, and even when harsh realities seem to smother it. Three
stories were important - our own, those told to us by others (incl. in
film) and the Gospel story. On missionary work in Zambia years ago he
found his RE classes failing to link with the students and after that
began to start with their own story, something real and personal for them,
and then moved into the gospel story. All in all an interesting and thought
provoking workshop, though I would like to have seen more clips, and have
had time for questions.
a good look around the exhibition hall today - plenty of resources and
ideas for RE teachers! The Ennis Gospel Choir was giving an informal concert
in the centre of the hall, and they were certainly drawing a crowd with
their lively and familiar songs, like Shackles (by Mary, Mary)
and the Beatles' Let It Be. I was very impressed by the artwork
of Fintan Tracey - especially the Eucharistic art - check out his stand
on the balcony, where you can also find Liam Lawton's stand, and one for
fine day at IEC, though the weather did threaten, and out came
the free ponchos! Lunchtime is a good time to be in Main Arena for music
fans. First group I saw today was Kisi - God's Singing Children, a group
from Austria whose music ministry is extending to other European Countries.
They danced and sang through a lively set of gospel songs. On the other
stage Ian Callanan directed a wonderful choir, who sang songs about today's
Congress theme of family. There was a beautiful song which would be most
suitable for weddings - not sure of the name but the chorus went "Make
of our hearts one heart". To the tune of Loch Lomond they sang a
fine pilgrim song which I think was called "Love is the Boat for
The music for Mass that afternoon saw Fr Liam Lawton directing choirs
from Kildare and Leighlin, Ossory & Ferns and Waterford
& Lismore. It must have been quite a challenge as there was a choir on
each side of the main altar area, but it worked well.
I called over to the Youth Space later in the evening for a concert -
a great idea to have events there going on until late. The Gardiner Street
Gospel Choir was in fine form, accompanied by an effective six piece band,
with lead piano a standout - their styles included foot tappin' gospel,
reggae, and slow soulful songs. Highlight for me was their performance
of the song "Hands" by Texas singer Jewel.
day at the International Eucharistic Congress today. Very impressive,
carnival atmosphere, sunshine, good music, meeting friends and acquaintances
around every corner. And it sure is multicultural with so many pilgrims
from abroad, and members of religious orders wearing habits I'd never
seen before, adding to the colour palette.
I was impressed by the multicultural Discovery Gospel Choir who sang in
the lunchtime warmup in the main arena - vibrant singing, tasty instrumental
backup and colourful outfits.
I attended a talk given by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in the morning.
He was speaking about the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes,
the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, and he was
strong on the idea of faith interacting with culture, which is central
to what Faitharts is about. He quoted what Pope Benedict said to him on
a visit to Rome: "Where are the points of contact between the Church
and those areas where the future of Irish culture are being formed?”.
The full speech is well worth reading - click here.
were many events tonight but I opted for a play The Trial in the
RDS Concert Hall (it's on again at 7 pm Tuesday night). It was written
by Glen Gannon, who played the Jesus figure "heysus", directed
by Frank Allen and musical director was Ken Touhy. I wasn't sure what
is was going to be about, but not surprisingly it was a passion play,
covering the period from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, but in a future
setting - 2033, and Troika soldiers are ruling Ireland with a heavy hand!
It was good to see such imagination at work. And it was a musical, in
that songs were interspersed with the drama.
The songs were good and the singing by the female leads was excellent.
However there were problems. To start with the play was way too long -
including the break it lasted two and three quarter hours. Some of the
songs could be trimmed, and both the Garden of Gethsemane and Trial scenes
needed to be much shorter. Given the title I think it would have been
best to focus entirely on the trial scene - the play would have had a
tighter focus, and lots of issues around justice could have been teased
out. There was a difficulty with tone - for example the first part was
for the most part very serious. Then the second part opened with the trial
scene and at times it descended into pantomime, with references to Nama,
brown envelopes and a "whip around", and then Pilate and his
assistant acting like a comedy team - jarring. Later there were a few
false finishes, like the ensemble singing of a melodic Our Father.
I thought there were too many songs, and most sounded too alike. I can
remember only one uptempo number as the crowd argued over whether "heysus"
or Barabbas should be released, and that scene worked well.
I thought the Jesus/heysus (Why not Jésus?) parallel didn't work
as well as it should have, and sometimes the mixture of modern and Biblical
didn't gel. Considering it was a Eucharistic Congress I thought the modern
equivalent of the words of consecration were weak - something along the
lines of this wine is the colour of blood and this bread is the colour
I don't like to be negative about something that was sincere and well
produced, but I do think the play needs a considerable amount of revision.