given on the occasion of the Holy Mass celebrated in Friarstown
Abbey, Co. Limerick, on May 21, 1995, by Fr. Daniel Couture.
I would like to thank Mr. Pat Mulcair for having permitted
the first steps in restoring Friarstown Abbey, located
here on his property, to be taken. And Mr. Con McNamara
for having organised and prepared the celebration of the
Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
is a privilege to be here, today, in this area so full
of history, of ancient sites and monuments, which focus
our forgetful minds on the many lessons of the past.
"Historia Magistra Vitae - The Past is a great teacher".
History is very important for a nation but it is especially
so for the true Faith, for the Catholic Faith.
Mathathias, the father of the Macchabees, said on his
my sons, call to remembrance the works of your fathers
which they have done in their generations and you shall
receive great glory and an everlasting name. Give your
lives for the covenant of your fathers"
Mac. 2,51-50), let us therefore pay heed to these inspired
words and call to mind some of our forefathers' works.
was called at one time the ‘Island of Saints and Scholars’
because of the multitude of souls who on this island consecrated
themselves to sanctity and to learning. From the time
of Saint Patrick, there has been a great yearning for
the consecrated life in Ireland. Divine Providence which
“orders all things in measure and number and weight” (Wis.
XI,21), sent at different times monastic spiritualities,
religious families, to make sure that the flame of sanctity
would never be extinguished. In the first years of Christendom
here, the monasteries of Glendalough, Clonmacnoise, Bangor
were established. Around the XIIth - XIIIth centuries,
the Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans and other Orders
founded many monasteries throughout Ireland. And when
these were declining, towards the early and mid- XIVth
century, the Lord of the Harvest sent a new team of labourers,
with their renewed zeal, into His harvest, these were
the sons of the Poverello, St. Francis of Assisi.
friary, here, was a foundation of the Third Order Regular
of St. Francis. It was a development of the Third Order
Secular, the well-known Franciscan Tertiaries. Tertiaries
having built their own churches and meeting places went
on to add residential building in order to withdraw from
the world to form their own religious communities. They
had male and female congregations who took the three vows
of poverty, chastity and obedience.
first foundation of the Third Order Regulars took place
around 1426, in Killeenbrenan, Co. Mayo. The Order built
up a strong priesthood and the priests and brothers lived
in community but they also did pastoral work and taught
in the school for boys which was attached to their monastery.
Friary were founded around 1450 and by the year 1540,
about 44 houses of brethren of the Third Order Regulars
the first lesson we can learn, comes from the very existence
of this friary: the desire of souls to consecrate themselves
to God by the three vows of religion: poverty, chastity
“Blessed are the poor in spirit”, Our Lord Jesus Christ
said, “for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”(Mt. V,3).
Poverty, ‘Sister Poverty’ as St. Francis called her, was
certainly a distinctive mark of Our Blessed Lord's life
and teaching, from the crib to the Cross. He even made
it the condition for Christian perfection “If thou wilt
be perfect”, said He to the young rich man, “go, sell
what thou hast and give to the poor and thou shall have
a treasure in heaven. And come, follow Me” (Mt. XIX,21).
The spirit of poverty is still today the best antidote
against the materialism of the world that is invading
everything and everywhere.
as Pioneers abstain from alcoholic drink in reparation
for those who abuse it, so these friars and all those
who take this vow, atone for the excessive attachment
to this passing world.
“Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.”
(Mt. V,8). We are not mere animals who follow blindly
their passions. Our body is like a wild horse, it needs
to be controlled tightly, especially since original sin
has made it wilder still. The friars who lived here took
this vow of chastity, they made themselves “eunuchs for
the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. XIX,12). And, as the 6th
Beatitude implies, purity, chastity, virginity, all these
noble virtues favour contemplation. “The sensual man
perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of
God.” (I Cor. II,14) Spiritual men can. It is not surprising
then to see the fruits of such contemplation being the
greatest treasures of Ireland - one thinks of the Book
of Kells, the Ardagh chalice. These are works of contemplative
Finally the 3rd vow, the vow of obedience, is taken in
order to have more perfectly the mind of Christ who was
subject to His parents (cf. Lk. II,52) for close to 30
years and “who became obedient unto death, even to the
death of the Cross” (Phil. II,8).
dear Brethren, “the kingdom of God is like a treasure
hidden in a field.” (Mt. XIII,44) We are in a field!
And this friary was a treasure. Those generous souls
who found it, “hid it indeed and for joy thereof went
and sold all they had and bought the field”, in other
words they joined in and consecrated their lives to the
service of the Heavenly King. And it still is a hidden
treasure for those who can understand all that it represents
and the ideal of Christian perfection to which it calls
Friary in ruins. Why?
have said at the beginning that history is a master of
life, that it has many lessons to teach us which we should
try not to forget. The 2nd lesson which I would like
to draw here is the following: Why is there no roof on
this friary? Why is it empty? How come this is the first
Mass in it for many hundred years?
me say first that there can be many answers to these questions.
In fact, historians tell us that towards the end of the
XVth century many of the monasteries of monks and canons
were in disrepair, impoverished, with communities diminishing
and rules not kept. However, they also tell us of the
expansion of the houses of the Third Order Regular, such
as this one, up to 1540.
caused the majority of the monasteries of Ireland to be
suppressed just at that moment, between 1536-1547, and
nearly all those who survived then to undergo the same
fate in the last 40 years of that century? Facts are
there, history has recorded it. It was a divorce. It
all began because of a divorce. A divorce which unleashed
the greatest religious and civil disorders which have
had terrible consequences to this very day.
is well known that unruly passions, if not kept under
the firm control of reason and faith, become fierce tyrants,
they boldly command then they cease to obey.
divorce of which I speak opened the flood gates to public
rebellion against the Pope, to leading a whole nation
into schism; to the plundering and looting of so much
Church property, such as all these monasteries, to sacrilegious
attacks on the greatest treasure of our Catholic Faith,
the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
offered in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, just as
it is celebrated now, in its traditional Latin rite.
dear Brethren, these are the lessons of history! When
those who receive authority from God to rule a country
disregard God's own law, beware!!! The greater the responsibility,
the more severe will be the judgment.
we, the people of Ireland, will be asked soon to vote
on this very issue of divorce, let us remember the lessons
of history, “Call to remembrance the works of your fathers.”
Do not let Ireland fall under the yoke of shameful passions!
Let us stand up firmly and defend the faith of our Fathers!
And the rights of God Almighty.
us beg the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Queen of Ireland
to come to our aid, as She did in 1879 in Knock. May
She who alone has crushed all heresies in the course of
centuries, conquer again at this critical moment and crush
the poisonous head of the infernal serpent.
Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse
The historical elements of this sermon have been taken
from the following book: Medieval Religious Houses
Ireland, By A. Gwynn and R.N. Hadcock, Longman, London,
1970, especially pages 1 - 12 and 267 - 270.
further information on the revival of Traditional Mass
in Ireland, as well as for copies of this sermon, please
Pius X House, 12 Tivoli Tce. South, Dun Laoghaire, Co.