Today marks the centenary date of the 1916 Easter Rising. Archbishops Eamon Martin and Diarmuid Martin concelebrated the annual 1916 Mass of Remembrance in the Church of the Sacred Heart – the church of the Defence Forces – in Arbour Hill, Dublin. Archbishop Eamon Martin was the principal celebrant. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin presided and preached the homily.
The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, as well as members of the Government, were in attendance at the Mass, joined by relatives of those executed following the Rising.
Music at the Mass was provided by the Palestrina Choir who are attached to Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. Music performed included a specially commissioned piece by Joseph Mary Plunkett called ‘I see his blood upon the rose’.
In his words of welcome Archbishop Eamon Martin said that, “Since the beginning of this centenary year Irish people at home and abroad have been marking the significance of the Easter Rising in the story of our land. We’ve done so in various ways – with grand State Ceremonial, by researching and debating the history of that time, through cultural expressions in music, drama, agus in ár dteanga bheo dhúchais.
“But this morning is different. We gather in prayer and quiet reflection to remember those who died in the Rising and, as we do every year, to pay our respects at the resting place of the leaders here at Arbour Hill.
“The 1916 commemorations have drawn us to reflect on what it is to remember. We’ve discovered that our remembering is not just about looking back to a time long ago and piecing together the story of what happened from old documents, photographs and testimony. Remembering speaks also to our present; the way we remember says a lot about who we are today, our sense of identity, what is important to us now also shapes our future, because it helps us discern the kind of people, society and nation that we want to hand on to our children and grandchildren.
“Respectful remembering holds the past, present and future delicately together in trust, faith and hope”.
Click here to read the full text of the Archbishop’s words of welcome.
In his homily Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said, “We have come to pray at this State Commemoration as we remember those who gave their lives for the cause of Irish freedom. We remember them for their nobility and their courage. But we remember them also as men and women of human emotion and sensitivity, poets and writers, dreamers and idealists, but also simply as individual unique talented human beings. We remember them with the names they bore in this life and which they still bear in eternal life. We remember them in prayer.
“I was especially struck in these days of commemoration by reading the notes taken in 1916 by Father Columbus Murphy, a Capuchin Priest, who received permission to meet Padraig Pearce while he was in detention here in Arbour Hill. General Maxwell handed him the papers needed for the visit but with no sense of magnanimousness or generosity saying to the priest: “Oh but we will make those beggars pay for it”.
‘Arriving at Arbour Hill Father Columbus asked to meet Commandant Pearse and the Governor replied with further cynicism and sarcasm: “I believe there is a man here who calls himself that”.
‘But the most striking thing was Father Columbus’ encounter with Pearse himself, probably the first outside visitor that Pearse met. Father Columbus recalls:
‘[Pearse] was seated with his head bowed down, sunk deep into his arms resting on a little table… Disturbed by the noise of my entry he slowly raised his head… Then recognizing the [religious] habit in which I was garbed he got up, stretching out his hand and said ‘Oh Father, the loss of life, the destruction, but please God it will not be in vain’.
“What struck me was not just the human anguish of Pearse but that plea: “Please God it will not be in vain”. That was not just an expression of deep personal anguish. It was a question and a challenge addressed to us, to each succeeding generation of Irish men and Irish women: “Do not allow what we did and what we suffered ever to be in vain”. As Irish men and Irish women we are called still today never to betray the ideals which inspired these who took part in the 1916 Rising or to let those ideals be betrayed or watered down through our cynicism or mediocrity.
“Commemoration is not just celebration and looking back. We celebrate the 1916 Rising by the way we live as individuals and as a society. We commemorate the 1916 Rising, as each new generation springs up, with a promise and a commitment to put in place in differing and changing times those ideals expressed in the Proclamation”.
During his homily Archbishop Diarmuid Martin thanked the Parish of James’ Street in Dublin for providing some very significant heirlooms of their parish for use at today’s ceremony.
In 1916 Kilmainham Jail was in the Parish of James Street and the Parish Priest was the official Chaplain to the prison. Together with the Capuchin Friars from Church Street, a small group of priests ministered to the leaders of the 1916 Rising, both religiously and in their personal pain, in the days in which they awaited trial and execution.
This chalice and the paten are those which were used at the wedding in Kilmainham between Joseph Mary Plunket and Grace Gifford, just seven hours prior to Plunket’s execution. It is hard for us to imagine the anguish and the poignancy of that wedding in a prison chapel. It is hard for us to imagine the emotion of a wedding followed by such a heartrending farewell.
This ciborium which also belongs to the Parish of James’ Street is the one which was used in Kilmainham Jail to bring Holy Communion to those who were executed, in the days leading up to their final hour, including James Connolly when he had made his final peace with God.
To read the full text of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s homily please click here.
An inter-faith prayer service took place after the Mass in Arbour Hill Cemetery, along with a wreath-laying ceremony by President Higgins. The adjacent military cemetery is the resting place for fourteen of the executed leaders of the Rising including Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly and Major John McBride.