The Stripping of the Altars

The Church is closed:

Today is the 7thOctober. 11 o’clock was the Final Mass. It was a cold day. The Church was cold which was normal. The heating has died. The road was even closed by the gardai! The Church was packed. Some reports said that the Church was built for 3500 people and when it was opened (1967) it was almost too small! This may or may not be true but is part of the present story. The Church was full today.  It was an extraordinary day.

Crying in the aisles:

‘The Stripping of the Altars’ – Traditional Religion in England (Eamon Duffy 1992)  came to mind today in the Church of the Annunciation, Finglas West, Dublin as the various symbols were carried out at the end of the Final Mass. It was a day of history, emotion and nostalgia. I have no idea whether it was raining in the Church or not today – but tears weren’t too far away for many.

Was it a wake?

The world of the past had ended. The leaves of autumn are colouring and falling. The Annunciation was rich in colour today. The huge crowd. The great music. The overwhelming memories. It will soon fall. And the Parish will flourish in a new and very different Spring.

The meeting place:  The Sacristy

I never liked the Church. I dreaded when I was asked to lead Funerals in the Church. The sound meandered and echoed in a booming manner. The Sanctuary area was a great distance from where the people were. I felt it was a Liturgical nightmare! It was always cold. It leaked.  The warmth in the place came from the Community. The Sacristy was at the heart of the Church. It was a Community Room- a Meeting place. It was always teeming with people. The chatter, banter and fun in that Sacristy was always warm. The people are big hearted and lovely. Communion went on in that heart-centre. Communion was harder to sense outside in the main Church.

The Church was outstanding:

The symbolism of today was very moving. The closing of a Church brought people to Mass!  The building of the new Church will also galvanise the whole Community. There is great affection attached to this Church but a major part of that affection will hardly translate into commitment for building up a very new Church and a very different kind of Church community. Duffy’s book on traditional religion could be seen in some ways to apply to today’s gathering. Faith of our Fathers and Mothers is deep in our hearts. God hasn’t died. Faith isn’t ended. We may not know where we are going but we want to get there!  God is the very oxygen of daily life. The heart of faith is alive.

The imagination of faith:

A new world of God, is opening up. We do need to be very creative. Buildings help it happen. It will occur in a very different way. We can knock down some of the structures of religion and become architects of a very new and simple faith.  Pope Francis expresses it well how our Church has to grow and develop. We need to focus on faith-building rather than brick-building


The people of Finglas West, are great people. The people of Finglas are great people. They don’t have the conceit of education! There is a spontaneity and honesty which thrives in the raw experiences of life. The academy of life is a great teacher if we are learners. There is little truck with formalities. They have no need to get caught up in the spurious arguments of church life. They live through the mess and complexity of everyday. And their God is near, straightforward and very real.  Practising may not be regular but there is a residual faith in their guts.  Those who minister here, love, where they are and are loved, by being around in the crucial moments of life.  This is a dressed-down rather than a dressed-up type of place.  We are very blessed in being here and very humbled. Every day is a Transfiguration moment if we can catch it.

God’s work of art:

‘We are God’s work of art created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning God intended us to live.’  Eph 2.10. Today that Work of Art (people of Finglas West) was inspirational.  Thanks Eamann, Parish Team and the Community of the West.   (A neighbour – Seamus Ahearne osa)

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  1. Paddy Ferry says:

    “They don’t have the conceit of education!”–I know what you mean, Seamus, but I will always thank God, and Donagh O’Malley for that inspired and life-changing stroke of his ministerial pen.
    Goodnight and God bless you always.
    PS. I should have said earlier, Seamus, I only ever watched Strictly when my neighbour Daniel was on it !

  2. Kay McGinty says:

    Seamus, another beautiful description of faith, hope and love.. alive and well in Finglas.. ! New beginnings.. always full of hope and joy..reminds me of a song I learned many years ago.. “over my head I hear music in the air, there must be a God somewhere “.. Thank you again for all your inspiring thoughts.. Kay McGinty.

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