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Church Of The Sacred Heart Kilcullen

Kildare Observer, October 6th 1883

Church Of The Sacred Heart Kilcullen

This handsome edifice was filled to overflowing on Sunday. Father Langran, the esteemed and beloved pastor, had chosen the day for the dedication of the new side altar. The ceremony was invested with peculiar impressiveness, and awakened a feeling of deep fervour amongst the Catholics of the parish. The gift of Mr. Owens, Celbridge, the new altar is in keeping with its surroundings, and may be said to complete all the appointments of his exquisite church, which, as a model of chaste architecture, has no superior in the diocese. The artist who designed the noble high altar (Mr. McCarthy), and the sculptor who carried the design into effect (Pearse and Sharpe, Great Brunswick-st.), produced a work of art which has won general admiration, and it was in the natural fitness of things that the benefactor who has endowed the church with its latest adornment, should have turned to them to realise on a smaller scale what they so successfully accomplished on a larger. How well they executed the trust is reflected in the finished appearance of the new altar, and in the scrupulous care with which even the minutest detail is worked out. The material used in the altar is Caen stone of Irish marble. The design of the reredos is particularly striking. All the figures are beautifully carved, and the most critical eye is satisfied by the delicate tracery which fills up the intervening spaces.

The ornamentation on the frontal stone is also very effective, and even in the most subordinate portions of the work there are points of great beauty and taste. The ceremonies commenced at half-past eleven o’clock with High Mass, which was sung by Father Murphy, Rev. T. Morrin, P.P. Naas, being deacon, Rev. Father Kelly sub-deacon, and Rev. Father Langran master of ceremonies. At the conclusion of the High Mass, the music of which was admirably rendered by the local choir, the Blessed Sacrament was carried in solemn procession round the church. The scene, as the various parts of the procession fell into their allotted places round the high altar, was one of unsurpassed beauty and edification. First was borne a beautiful banner of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a number of young children, walking three abreast, and wearing blue sashes. Then came a banner representing St. Joseph and child, followed by a number of children similarly attired in white and blue. Next a banner of the Blessed Virgin, followed by a member of the sodality of the Children of Mary; next a banner of the Sacred Heart, followed by a number of gentleman in soutanes, who chanted the solemn strains of the Pange Lingus, and then came twelve children most beautifully dressed in white, with red sashes. Each child carried in her hand a tiny basket of flowers, and these were strewn in the path of the Blessed Sacrament, which was borne under a magnificent canopy by the officiating priest. This closed the procession, which, after making the circuit of the church, returned to the high altar, where the Litanies of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints were then sung.

The sermon was preached after the first Gospel, by the Very Rev. Dr. Tynan, who took for his text the following passage from the 21st chapter of Apocalypse: - “Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself with them shall be their God.” In the course of an eloquent and impressive address, the very rev. preacher said-John the Evangelist, the loved disciple of Jesus Christ, in recompense for his labours, his fidelity, and his love, was raised above the ordinary condition of humanity, and was permitted to see things which no human eye had ever seen before, and to hear words which till then had never fallen upon the ear of man. As the events of the past are successfully unfolded in the pages of history, as the outlines and objects are carefully reflected, so before the vision of John rose up one by one those events which will mark the last stage of the present order of things. He saw the material world melting with the fire of God’s justice, and going forth from the purifying flames pure and free from the stain of sin. He beheld the Divine Spirit breathing with a breath of love upon the scattered homes of humanity, and the souls of the just re-assuming their bodies and entering into possession of the promised reward, intimate and eternal union with God-“Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be their God.”  This intimate union with God, foreseen by John, is the only object to which man can rest content for ever. Nothing else can satisfy the desire which the Creator has implanted in the breast of man. We may seem, perhaps in this life in the possession or enjoyment of creative things, but perfect happiness we can never find in them-not in sensual pleasures, not in riches, not in power, which is full of anxiety and care, not in honour, fame or glory, which are ever dependant upon the whim of others. The end for which we were created, to which we were created, to which we must ever tend, even in spite of ourselves, is no creative thing, but the Creator himself. Hence it is that from the day our first parents were driven from Paradise, man has felt within himself an instinct to seek for the presence of God to love and to enter into union with Him. It was this instinct which impelled our Pagan forefathers to erect their altars and build their temples that God might dwell therein. It was the same instinct which impelled the ancient Greeks and Romans to place in their altars and temple statues, which were regarded with reverential fear, as if they possessed the majesty and the power of God. This desire for the visible presence of God was not confined to the civilized or semi-civilized nations of antiquity. The savage felt the same need of a God dwelling with him, and interpreted every important or marvellous event as a manifestation of the divine presence. The thunder was the voice of God, the lightning flash was the brightness of God, the wild waves were the breath of God; His smiles were manifested in the lovely flowers; His threats were in the howling tempest. Three times, and in three different ways, had God condescended to give to man the visible presence of Himself.

When the chosen people, under the guidance of Moses, came up from the land of bondages, God was with them. Through the waters of the Red Sea, through the trackless waste of the desert, He marched at the head of His chosen people, concealing His glory under the form of a cloud, raining down manna from heaven, causing streams of sparkling water to spring from the rock, and proving in a thousand loving ways that He was present in the midst of them. And when at length they reached he Land of Promise the presence of the Divinity forsook them not. There God manifest His wish; there the people erected altars to pay Him the homage of sacrifice, there they assembled to lay before Him their offerings and thanks and praise and prayer. This presence in the midst of his chosen people was the main spring of their national power and national greatness. And when at length the Temple was destroyed, the altars demolished, the ark of the covenant despoiled, and the people carried into captivity nothing could console them for the loss of the Divine presence until they were assured that another temple would rise superior to this, and that God would appear no longer in the form of a cloud, but in the person of the Man-God. Time passed, the Man-God came; the sacred object formed in the womb of the Virgin Mary was the second tabernacle of God on earth. In the person of Jesus Christ was made the second manifestation of God’s love; for the second time since Adam was fallen the earth became the sanctuary of the Almighty, and all earth was sanctified by the presence of the Creator in the form of creature. The sun shone down on Him as he journeyed through the plains of Galilee, preaching his heavenly doctrines and performing works of miracle and mercy; the hills and the valleys re-echoed his words as they fell from his lips upon the heart of man, the seas and lakes bowed down before him, and the fierce storm ceased at the bidding of his voice.

God in this second manifestation to man also raised an altar; the altar was the cross of Calvary on which the victim offered was God himself. God’s revelation is progressive. The stream of his love never flows backwards, his gifts are multiplied, what he foreshadows he fulfils in reality. Hence it was that the night before suffered he instituted a means whereby his presence on earth might be continued to the end of time. Taking into his hands, as the scripture tells us, a piece of unleavened bread he pronounced the words, “This is my body,” and then taking the chalice of wine he pronounced likewise, “This is my blood of the new Testament which shall be shed for many into the remission of sin.” By these words he changed the substance of bread and wine into the substance of his body and blood, and he gave his apostles and his successors in the priesthood a command and a power to perform the same miracle; so that wherever and whenever a priest of God pronounces over bread and wine, with the intention of creating it , the solemn words of Jesus Christ, Jesus himself is present in the midst of us, and the Christian altar on which the sacrifice is offered is the third tabernacle of God with men. What Christ had promised in the synagogue at Capernaum he afterward accomplished in the upper room at Jerusalem.

The cause which brings us together to-day naturally recalls to our mind these thoughts. We are assembled to commemorate in a special way the great love which Jesus has shown for us in the sacrifice of the altar. We are assembled also to dedicate the altar upon which the sacrifice may be offered, that it may be amongst the throne of God. That altar is the greatest manifestation of God’s love for men, for the sacrifice of Calvary is not only renewed upon our altars, but is renewed as often as Mass is celebrated there. When for the first time we approached the altar pure and unsullied purity, and when our faith was lively and our hope was strong, had we not felt what a happiness it is to be united with God; and when later on, when the chain of sin had bound us, and the poisoned serpent had invaded our souls, had we not felt new life and a sense of liberty when we received the body of Jesus Christ. How often in days gone by has it not lessened our sorrows, calmed our troubled minds, enabled us to bear with patience our trials, and rekindled our languid piety and faith. It may be that some of us have never realised this great gift, the sacrament of the altar, but assuredly the day will come when we shall all see it in its true light. It will be the day of our last communion, the day on which Jesus Christ shall visit us on that bed of sickness from which we shall rise no more. How insignificant then will appear these earthly pleasures we now seek so greedily compared with the pleasures of the Blessed Eucharist, and which leave behind them nought but a bitter recollection and sickening remorse of conscience. The earthly pleasures on which our hearts are now set, the wordly pleasures we now seek, which allures us from the true way of heaven. The sacrament of the altar  will alone remain to console our dying moments, to secure our entrance into life eternal for “he who eats of this bread shall not die but shall live for ever.” Regard the sacrament of the altar now as you will regard it then. Receive the Eucharist now as you hope to receive it then; and during these few days that are given to you for a closer and more intimate union with God renew in your hearts those sentiments of lively faith, firm hope, and ardent charity, which is a consideration of this great mystery must necessarily excite; and this union commenced here at the foot of the altar which today is dedicated to Him will continue in that heavenly tabernacle which He has prepared for us; in which until we shall see Him no longer in the sacrament but in the fullness of His glory, and where we shall live for ever in the enjoyment of His love.


An article from the Kildare Observer 6 October 1883 about the dedication of a new side alter in the Church of the Sacred Heart Kilcullen. Retyped by Aisling Dermody.

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