One of the key moments in the Opening Ceremony for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin June 10th will be the “Gathering of Ireland’s Tribes” from the island nation’s four provinces, Ulster to the North, Munster to the South, Leinster to the East and Connaught to the West. Emer McCarthy reports.
Faithful from each province will enter the main arena of the Royal Dublin Society, (RDS) led by their Archbishop singing the Congress Hymn “Though we are many”, written by Bernard Sexton. There will follow a pageantry of Irish music, song and prayer drawn from the centuries old heritage of Irish worship. Lest any of the thousands of pilgrims from overseas – who will form the “5th” province of the Congress – forget that Christ’s message first arrived on these shores over 1500 years ago.
This is just one example of how organisers have endeavoured to marry the island nation’s deep Christian roots with the new reality of being Church in Ireland. The liturgies that will permeate the week long Congress and the two principal celebrations, the Opening Mass and Statio orbis, have also been carefully planned to reflect Irish spirituality – past and present – and the Universal Church.
New Mass settings were commissioned from contemporary Irish composers and bear the title Sing the Mass. This may seem obvious to many, but not to Irish congregations. The irony is, that while Ireland is synonymous worldwide with music, celebration and song, once inside the Church and gathered around the altar, Irish congregations tend to leave the singing to choirs.
This is why, for IEC2012, 100 choirs drawn from across the nation are going “undercover”. They will be dotted around the RDS Arena and the Croke Park stadium, among ordinary pilgrims. Each choir and their individual leader will try their best to encourage the people around them to celebrate their faith in song.
“Really what the Archbishop of Dublin was looking for was just this huge voice of congregational singing”, says Germaine Carlos the women tasked with coordinating all one hundred choirs. For over a year, she says, choirs big and small have been preparing for the Congress experience. “They are so excited, that is the feeling right now, it’s the utter excitement. Whether the weather is rainy, they really don’t mind that at all they just want to get the music and get to Congress”.
So what will they be singing? Everything from Hasslers O Sacrum Convivium to a new setting by Colin Mawby of the renowned hymn of adoration O Sacrament Most Holy. And in between real jems from Irish sacred music.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist, when prepared with thought and care, can be the most powerful and compelling means to communicate the faith to people. The role of sacred music within the structure of the liturgy is often underestimated. Praise of God in song is not only a doorway open towards Heavens, it is also a channel of communication to others here on earth:
“The Congress for us here in Dublin is not just the week”, says Fr. Pat O’Donoghue Director of Music for IEC2012. “We are encouraging everyone to freshly look at how they celebrate liturgy and from my point of view, how they celebrate the music of the liturgy. I am sure that people will come away with a sense of Ireland and music and the welcomes and hopefully the saints and the scholars too”.