Every year, on the morning of its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Nutley Irish American Alliance holds an Investiture Mass for the parade dignitaries at St. Mary’s Church. The 2016 Mass took place this past Saturday, and this year it had an extra meaning, for this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916. As noted in the parade program, this “was one of the defining moments of the struggle for Irish independence.”
In Ireland’s long history of subjugation by England, rebels had more than once taken up arms in the name of freedom, and failed. The British believed the Easter Rising “failed” too, with the Irish forces’ surrender within a week and the imprisonment and execution of their leaders.
But the thirst for liberty could not be quenched by blood. The Rising set in motion social and political changes that eventually led to the breaking of the British shackles and the declaration of the Irish Free State in 1921.
The Nutley Irish beautifully incorporated this history into the Mass.
Every year, their offertory gifts — presented to the celebrant priest prior to the Consecration — have some special Irish theme. This year, that theme was the Easter Rising.
Parade Grand Marshal Mary Ellen Clyne carried to the altar a framed copy of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, posted on April 24 of that year – the day the Rising began — and read aloud by rebel leader Padraig Pearse outside the General Post Office on Dublin’s O’Connell St. (then called Sackville St.).
Deputy Grand Marshal John Kruse and Nutley Irish President Thomas McEnery formally presented a replica of the Irish Republic flag that had been raised over the GPO.
The other presenters and gifts were:
* Nutley Irish Member of the Year Maureen Connor — a pictorial history of Dublin’s Kilmainham Jail, where Rising leaders were imprisoned and executed.
* Parade Queen MaryKate Hood — a plaque honoring the Proclamation’s seven signatories: Pearse, Thomas J. Clarke, Seán MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.
* Police Officer of the Year Ryan T. Mulligan — reprints of Irish newspapers as they appeared in 1916.
The Rev. Richard J. Berbary, pastor of St. Mary’s, was the Mass celebrant, with co-celebrants the Rev. Augustine Curley, St. Benedict’s, Newark; the Rev. Ivan Sciberras, Holy Family Church, Nutley; and the Rev. Thomas D. Nicastro, St. Mary’s, who serves as chaplain to the Nutley Irish.
Berbary also delivered the homily, based on two letters written by St. Patrick in the 5th century, which he described as “the oldest written historical records in existence about life in Ireland.” One was to the bishops in England who were trying to remove him from his mission in Eire, which, circa 400 A.D., Berbary noted, “was considered the last stop in the civilized world.” In that missive, Berbary said, Patrick “pleads that he might be allowed to die in his beloved Ireland.”
The other letter was to the soldiers of Coroticus, a pagan king who ruled near present-day Glasgow and whose forces had plundered an Irish village.
Berbary noted he was not going to quote extensively from either. “You can Google them,” he said. And so we did. We were particularly interested in the Coroticus one. Let us say that Patrick was not someone who minced words.
According to one translation, he addressed, “Soldiers whom I no longer call my fellow citizens, or citizens of the Roman saints, but fellow citizens of the devils, in consequence of their evil deeds; who live in death, after the hostile rite of the barbarians . . . desirous of glutting themselves with the blood of innocent Christians . . . .”
But, being Patrick, he ended with a supplication that his letter might be read to them and “inspire them to come back to their right senses before God. However late it may be, may they repent of acting so wrongly . . . .”
Berbary was right. You should Google both letters and read them in their entirety.
He ended the homily with this saying: “I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent.”
Belief, love, hope, forgiveness, joy and faith — and Irish history. All were evident at St. Mary’s on Saturday morning. Thank you, reverends. Thank you, harpist Miranda Adams. Thank you organist and soloist Bruce Mauro. Thank you Rory O’Moore pipe band. Thank you, congregants. Thank you, Investiture Mass Committee: Mary O’Connell, Peggy Sullivan, Alicia Frannicola and Mary Scaine. Thank you, Nutley Irish American Alliance and all who contributed to an exceptionally beautiful and moving service.
“Wherever you go and whatever you do, May the luck of the Irish be there with you.”