From Treasures of Irish Christianity, Salvador Ryan and Brenden Leahy, editors
The new edition of the Roman Missal (2011) includes a very full National Calendar and Proper, that is, the prayer texts and, in some cases, the readings that are used at Mass on the saints’ days. Though the Calendar has been included in the annual Liturgical Calendar since 1999, following approval in October 1998, and the Proper was published in booklet form in 2009, their publication within the new edition of the Missal makes them completely available to all congregations in Ireland.
Revisions of National Calendars following the Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (1969) tended to reduce the number of observances, leaving most to diocesan or local celebration. The National Calendar, as revised in 1972, had only five observances: the solemnity of Saint Patrick and the feasts of Saint Brigid, Saint Columba (Colm Cille), All the Saints of Ireland and Saint Columban, with a sixth, Saint Oliver Plunkett, added in 1976. Previously, diocesan patrons had been included. However, the further revision approved in 1998 offers a very full Calender, with its one solemnity (Saint Patrick), three feasts (Saint Brigid, Saint Columba, All the Saints of Ireland) and fifty-eight memorials. In April 2011, three additional memorials were included: Our Lady of Knock, Blessed Columba Marmion, and Blessed John Henry Newman. Eight of the memorials are classed as obligatory: Saint Ita, Saint Kevin, the Blessed Irish Martyrs, Saint Oliver Plunkett, Our Lady of Knock, Saint Ciaran, Saint Malachy, and Saint Columban. Diocesan patrons are again included, though mostly as optional memorials. The revision, however, allows for a greater Irish identity in the Calendar.
A few examples of the prayer texts composed for the Irish saints conveys the richness of our spiritual tradition:
Lord God, it was through the power of your Spirit,
that Saint Ita was tireless in caring for the afflicted
and in guiding the young towards holiness,
and so we pray:
prepare in our hearts, as you prepared in hers,
a home where you will dwell.
The collect for Saint Ita, the first obligatory memorial that we celebrate in the year, on January 15, recalls the saint’s nurturing of the young and her great success in leading many to holiness as well as her kindness to those in need. The second part of the prayer echoes a ninth-century poem, reflecting Saint Ita’s deep prayer life.
The collect for Our Lady of Knock (August 17) is the newest composition:
O God, who gives hope to your people in a time of distress,
grant that we who keep the memorial
of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Knock
may, through her intercession,
be steadfast in the faith during our Earthly pilgrimage to Heaven,
and so come to eternal glory with all the Angels and the Saints.
The first line, adapted from the Knock novena prayer, notes the sign of hope that the apparition was to the Irish people in a time of distress, but also applies this to our own times. Pilgrims go to Knock, imploring the intercession of Our Lady, praying that we may be steadfast in the faith. “With all the Angels and Saints” reminds us of their presence at the apparition.
The National Proper gives us four additional prefaces for Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid, Saint Columba, and All the Saints of Ireland. The preface highlights the element of thanksgiving to God in the Eucharistic Prayer. On the fast of Saint Brigid (February 1) it is specified in the following words:
For your wonderful love is seen in Saint Brigid:
you taught her to open her heart and hands to the poor
and to seek the image of your Son in every welcomed guest.
Through her you showed a people
the way of Mary, the Mother of your Son,
in dedicated service and holiness of life.
On this feast you fill our hearts with joy
for you continue to bless the Church
you planted by her labors.
The reference to Mary is included in the Solemn Blessing with Saint Brigid called Mary of the Gael. The final lines of that blessing are taken from her Vita in the Book of Lismore:
May God fill you with his love,
as you honor Saint Brigid,
whose heart and mind became
a throne of rest for the Holy Spirit.
On the memorial of Saint Kevin (June 3) we ask that our lives, like the life of the saint, may be inspired by the desire for God, since our hearts can only find true rest in God.
In the solitude of Glendalough, O Lord,
you spoke to the heart of Saint Kevin
and taught him to find through prayer
the life that he desired;
by his intercession,
turn our hearts from all that would betray us,
for you alone are our goal and our reward.
Saint Laurence O’Toole was abbot of Glendalough when, in 1162, he was chosen as the first native archbishop of Dublin. The collect (November 14) reflects the contrast in his life between the retreat of Glendalough and the tensions of the city of Dublin but it also highlights him as a shepherd of the people, a teacher of the clergy and a friend of the poor. He died on a peace mission at Eu in Normandy in 1180. All of this is reflected in the Collect as we pray to follow his example of perseverance and, through his intercession, arrive at the peace of God’s kingdom:
God of all holiness, who called Saint Laurence O’Toole from a life of quiet and solitude to be a shepherd of your people, a teacher of the clergy, and friend of the poor; grant, we pray, that we may follow his example of perseverance and through his intercession arrive at the peace of your kingdom.