09 Aug 2022

Offaly parish to mark feast of St Kieran

Offaly parish to mark feast of St Kieran

A procession honouring a local saint in a South American parish.

Friday next March 5th is the feast of St Kieran, the patron saint of the historic parish of Seir Kieran, which is in the Diocese of Ossory. The feast is celebrated annually in the Clareen parish but, unfortunately, this year’s celebrations have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and although the usual gatherings can’t take place, the feast day will be marked in the parish.

Fr Michael Reddan, PP, Seir Kieran, reflects here on the practice of celebrating feast days, their significance and the importance of St Kieran to the parish.

The parish of Seir Kieran dates back to 450. In January 1900, the Bishop of Ossory, Bishop Brownrigg, wrote that ‘This little parish has claims upon us that no other parish in our diocese can put forward. It was there the faith was first preached in Ossory. Yes it was in the grateful soil of Seir Kieran that was first deposited the little seed of Gospel truth . . ’

What is the significance and purpose of a Patron Saint’s day?

An older generation will have seen a lot of change from the time it was a Holy Day with the full and active participation of all. It would be naive to lament the loss of some of the tradition that yesterday had their reason for being but today must yield to a more secular society that presents new needs, new challenges.

The practice of commemorating and honouring local saints with their own feast day or Patron’s day is as old as Christianity itself. Particular customs and rituals are carried out on the day, such as visiting wells or ruins associated with the saint and reciting particular prayers and religious mantras.

In Latin America and certain European countries, effigies of the saint are carried in procession through the streets followed by huge crowds of people. As well as being occasions of religious observance, these days were opportunities for the ordinary people to joyously express themselves and proudly proclaim their faith as a community in song and dance and feasting. On these days it was as if the people themselves took ownership of their own church, often under the disapproving eyes of the church hierarchy themselves. Naturally superstitious practices crept in over many years and sometimes the celebrating got out of hand.

It would be naive to lament the loss of some such traditions but the idea of a people’s church organically nurturing and handing on the faith from generation to generation has a lot of offer in these Covid times. In these times of pandemic isolation and distancing, when our churches are closed and the organised worship centred on priest and chapel is on hold indefinitely, surely this model of faith by the people for the people has a lot to teach us. Even if there were no pandemic, it is becoming patently clearer, year after year, that the number of priests and religious is dropping incrementally.

In our parish of Seir Kieran, we will celebrate our own Pattern day on this Friday March 5th. It will centre, as it has for generations, not on the church building but on the three sacred areas associated with the saint; The Well, St Kieran’s Bush and the Monastic site. The significance of this annual observance is threefold. It speaks of unity, transcendence and protection, as it has done for hundreds of years.

St Kieran is first of all a force of unity; unity in love and in ideal among his people. The wonderful expression of joy and friendship permeates the heart for patron’s day.

St Kieran is also a proclamation of transcendence. Amid temporal concerns and obsessions, the patron is a reminder that we are on a journey. Yes, we are in the here and now, but our final destination is heaven. St Kieran is a reminder that what is promised is fashioned in the here and now of our own duties.

Finally, St Kieran awakens a sense of hope under the power of protection. The Patron already enjoys the security by possessing a life fully supported by God’s love. Under St Kieran’s protection, all of us can be inspired to renew our faith in Christ Jesus and work for the common good, proclaiming the Good News that our God reigns on earth as in heaven.

St Kieran we pray to you for the courage and strength to ‘act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God’.


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