Saturday, December 30, 2023

Sacrifice of slain Wexford priest remembered as 370-year-old chalice used in service at Mass Rock

The sacrifices of a man who lost his life for practising his religious beliefs were remembered as a solemn ceremony in Tomhaggard on Christmas morning. 

This annual event commemorates the life of Father Nicholas Mayler, the former parish priest of Tomhaggard and Tacumshane, who was killed by British troops while celebrating Mass at a Mass Rock on Christmas Day, 1653.

Father Mayler, like many priests at the time, was persecuted for his faith and ultimately paid for it with his life. 

Remarkably, the chalice used during that Mass was rescued by a Mrs Lambert and preserved until the 19th century when Archdeacon Philip Mayler, returned the chalice to the Church.

It is now used at the Christmas Day Mass in Tomhaggard which takes place at the same Mass Rock where Father Mayler was killed all those years ago. 

Larry Dunne was one of those in attendance on Christmas morning 2023 and he described the scene as the parishioners trekked through the fields to the rock for the 8 a.m. service.

“When I arrived in Tomhaggard, folk were beginning to assemble and it was still black dark,” Larry said. “Although it was dry and mild the trek to The Rock was sodden, we went through three fields and the going was fairly heavy.”

Having seen the chalice used in the service, Larry was struck by how small it was and later learned that ‘the tools of the trade’ at that time needed to be small so that they could be easily carried and obscured when required.

During the service, the Kilmore Carol Singers performed three hymns, and Larry said this only added to the solemnity of the occasion.

“To me, this was special. The Kilmore Carols are unique and historic. To hear them sing on the damp grass where people literally died for their right to pursue their religious faith was stunning.”

The carols were performed by Bobby Devereux, Pat Bates, PJ Boxwell, Jim Kielthy and Jimmy Shiel, with another song performed by John Ennis. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Ger Nash and Father Pat Mernagh.