The Roscrea Autumn conference weekend, the 45th gathering at Mount St Joseph Abbey, with the theme of Irish Saints and the Liturgy, certainly lived up to the promise of an extraordinary weekend. And what a weekend it was experienced by over eighty participants from all over these islands.
The talks were of the very highest quality with inputs from some of Ireland’s leading scholars including the doyen of Irish hagiography (the study of saints lives ) Professor Padraig O Riain from UCC in fine form as he explained the background to the litanies (remember the long rosary with all the trimmings?), the calendars and the martyrologies of the saints – all fitting in very well with the weekend of All Saints and All Souls.
Dom Laurence Walsh, Dr Nicola Gordon Bowe and Dom Richard Purcell at the launch of Lumen Christi
Dr Francisca Rumsey, a Poor Clare nun from Wales, complemented this with an in depth study of the martyrology of Oengus, the Céle Dé from Clonenagh, near Mountrath.
Dr Colmán Ó Clabaigh, a monk of Glenstal, dealt with the cult of Thomas Becket in Ireland and medieval models of Irish holiness – hot stuff indeed and most entertaining.
If you did not hear Dr Dagmar O Riain Raedel you missed her listing of ten sure ways to get into heaven, presented in a most entertaining fashion. And Dr Damian Bracken’s research into the gospels of St Gaul and the medieval Irish manuscripts on the continent was a revelation. Dr Bracken also brought the newly-published facsmililes of two of these extraordinary ‘books’ which were much admired. An tAthair Ciarán and Father Nivard added much too to the weekend with personal insights on the topic drawing on their own monastic lives.
At the launch of Lumen Christi which took place during the
2009 Autumn Conference
Dr Ann Buckley, TCD, members of Schola Hyberniae, Rachael Croash, Anne Marie Corcoran and the director, Giovanna Feeley with the conference director George Cunningham who acted as MC at the launch.
Integral parts of the weekend were the launch of Lumen Christi and the exquisite medieval music provided by Schola Hyberniae, an all female ensemble, directed by Giovanna Feeley. Dr Ann Buckley TCD was on hand to provide the historical background to the music both on the Friday evening and at the recital on Saturday following the launch. Her contribution added much to the enjoyment of the Schola, both at the conference and at the recital. The Schola also sang at the High Mass at Mt St Joseph on the Sunday morning.
For many the highlight of the weekend was the launch of Dom Laurence Walsh’s magnificent new book Lumen Christi, the stained glass windows of Mount St Joseph. What a book! A graceful work of art presented in every way to the highest of international standards. The book of the year in many people’s eyes.
The monastic church was the venue for the launch attended by well over 300. George Cunningham, director of the conference acting as MC and provided a brief background to each speaker.
Dom Richard Purcell Abbot of Mt St Joseph, the conceiver and producer of the book, spoke of how it all came about. Dr Nicola Gordan Bowe, who contributed an introduction to the work spoke of its significance. By a happy chance the present Chairman of Offaly Co Co, Cllr Noel Burke is a native of Roscrea, the son of the late Paddy Burke, the renowned hackney driver of Bunkers Hill. Cllr Bourke told that Offaly Co Co were very proud of the heritage of Mt St Joseph and were delighted to help both the book and the conservation of the windows.
The author Dom Laurence in his address was profusive in his praise of his back ground team, particularly his abbot, the designer Connie Scanlon, the two photographers, James Fraher and Sean Curtin and the printers.
The book is on sale at the monastic shop at the giveaway price of 50 euro. It makes a wonderful Christmas present and is virtually a potted history of the Abbey and has much more besides.
The weekend had many more trimmings such as the ‘Wish I had been here slot’ on the Saturday, George Cunningham’s quizzical visual tour to Ireland’s sacred spots and the welcome and opening talk by Dom Richard which set the scene for another memorable weekend well up with the best of all the previous forty four conferences. The book fair associated with the conference added much too to the enjoyment as many of the publications were at bargain prices. Also some twenty new publications from Four Courts press were on display. Another reason to come to Roscrea! The conferences are run by Roscrea People in association with Roscrea Heritage Society and the OPW. Additional financial help for the Autumn conference is received from AIB Bank Roscrea and Roscrea Credit Union.
The 46th gathering will be on the 9th -11th April 2010 with the theme of Irish Christianity and the Gaelic World before the coming of the Vikings.