Ireland sees ancient Mass Rocks tradition reborn

Irish priests celebrated Mass at “Mass Rocks” in all 26 Dioceses of Ireland in honor of Irish Catholics who practiced their faith in secret when it was illegal to do so under British rule.

All expressions of the Catholic faith were banned in Ireland between the 16th and 18th centuries under criminal law, forcing priests to celebrate mass in isolated outdoor locations.

Priests faced fines, imprisonment, and death for performing Mass, using stones and rocks as makeshift altars. Many of these altars, or “Mass Rocks”, still exist today and recall the hardships endured by Irish Catholics under British rule.

Throughout the month of June, a Mass was offered to a Mass Rock in each of Ireland’s 26 dioceses for “the renewal of the faith in Ireland through the intercession of the Irish martyrs” – a campaign organized by the association charitable Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

ACN hopes the campaign will demonstrate that the Mass Rocks are not only interesting historical artifacts, but sacred places where priests can celebrate the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Monsignor Tommy Johnston, who celebrated mass at a mass rock in the Ox Mountains in County Sligo, said it was a “unique privilege” to celebrate mass at a place used by his predecessors because they feared the persecution.

“On Mass Rock there is a huge boulder with an uneven surface offering no indication that it could possibly be used for such a sacred purpose,” said Johnston.

“Maybe that’s why he was chosen. It didn’t deserve a second look. It was beyond suspicion.”

He said the location is tucked into the hillside, offering stunning views of the surrounding area.

“It was a unique privilege to stand in a place made sacred by our ancestors who had stood there all those years ago, expressing their faith in presence and in prayer, aware of the ever-present danger to life and means. subsistence. ”

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