|393: St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin|
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Mystery Worshipper: Carmel.
The church: St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: It is a classical style building dating from about 1800 tucked away in a back street in one of the less genteel areas of Dublin, which was all the Anglo-Irish city leaders of the time were prepared to concede to Dublin's only Catholic cathedral. Inside it is quite spacious, the most notable features being the great thick white fluted pillars that dominate it. The ceiling is very concave with a grey moulded relief. The windows have pre-Raphaelite motifs, and over the carved white marble altar there are three stained glass windows, the central one a lovely pre-Raphaelite picture of Our Lady with a beautiful Celtic pattern border which glows like a jewel when the sun shines through it.
The neighbourhood: Lots of small shops, many boarded up, a railway bridge with trains thundering past, various rough-looking characters hanging about at any given time of day or night.
The cast: Fr. Pat O'Donoghue.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday morning solemn Latin Mass, 11.00am.
How full was the building?
Emptyish to start with, but it began to fill up quite quickly in the last 10 minutes.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was given a warm smile and asked if I would like two leaflets for the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
Not very. A nicely moulded piece of pew coincided exactly with the wrong part of my back to cause discomfort unless I sat up very straight. There was also not very much room to kneel.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Busy with people coming in, but no sense of community as such: I got the impression that many visitors were tourists staying nearby. Some had even brought backpacks with them.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In nomine Patris..." etc.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Just the leaflets.
What musical instruments were played?
Cello and organ (separately). The cellist, Arun Rao, was excellent. We should have had the Palestrina Choir as well, but they are usually on tour at this time a pity because it would have been a real musical feast.
Did anything distract you?
Apart from people dropping coins into the slots for the candles at the back of the church, I found myself wondering how on earth these people with huge backpacks could manage to squeeze so discreetly into the pews and stow their burdens with the minimum of inconvenience to others. Why can't they do that on public transport?
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Formal sung Latin mass.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 he was concise, clear and to the point.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Mary and Martha: learning to balance both aspects in our own characters and being hospitable.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I'd say most of it. It was sung Latin but it still had that indefinable Celtic flavour about it: the familiar accents, the priest's style, his singing voice, the beauty of the windows; in the quieter moments, you could hear the sound of the seagulls, which is something I have missed a lot as I live inland. The place seemed timeless, somehow, and present and past seemed to mingle harmoniously. It must have been very much the same throughout its existence and it did give me a flavour of earlier eras which added depth.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Someone's mobile going off just during the consecration. This is the second time I've experienced this recently. You would hope people would have the good manners to turn them off before they come in.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was approached by a man with a bucket collecting for a fund for alcoholics and drug users.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Not aware that there was any.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 It was nice, but (and I am probably misjudging it), did seem to be full of tourists rather than have a stable community.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Discovering that the priest, who I would say was in his late 50s, had a singing voice like that of a younger man with a clear, accomplished tenor. He didn't sound old or even slightly shaky at all, and at first I couldn't believe he was the one doing the singing. He was a real pleasure to listen to.