The Mission Mass

By Marie Conlon

This special Mass occurred long ago, when a house in the Parish was chosen by the Priest to say Mass in. This was a practice that had continued from the Penal times when the celebration of Mass was forbidden.

For the family, it was an honour to be chosen but did involve a lot of preparation and expense, even more so than that of a wake. The house had to be prepared, it was washed inside and outside, the walls were given a coat of lime wash. All the animals were moved away from the house and the manure heap shifted a distance away.

Food and drink had to be bought, and this entailed a long walk if there was no pony and trap. A leg of lamb was bought for the Priests dinner, tea, sugar, and shop bread and a bottle of the best whiskey was purchased as poitín could not be served.

More well off neighbours helped out by lending a table cloth, a set of china and good cutlery. A girl who had worked in “the Big House” was chosen to serve the Priests at table.

When the Priest arrived, he had breakfast, and then called a list of dues for all parish members, if your name was not on that list you would be in trouble. Confessions were then heard, this happened outside at the corner of the house where a stool was provided for the priest and the person would kneel. Then the Mass was celebrated and the people received Communion. Neighbours then
started arriving with their children to have them blessed.

The dinner was then served with a few glasses of whiskey to wash it down. After the dinner the priest and his curate who had come with him to help in the celebration left.

The villagers were then able to eat the food that was left over, which
was called “bainis na Saggart” (the Priests feast).

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