Sunday 23 October 2016

Most of us want to retain our traditional rituals

Published 26/06/2015 | 02:30

Pascal Finn and his granddaughter Siofra feeding the swans on O’Callaghan Strand, Limerick, with Tess Finn looking on
Pascal Finn and his granddaughter Siofra feeding the swans on O’Callaghan Strand, Limerick, with Tess Finn looking on

It is of course a Roman Catholic devotion, but what's wrong with that? The bells of the Angelus ring out at dawn, noon and sunset - or in the case of RTÉ, noon and six o'clock.

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For most of us, the peal of the Angelus bells before the 'Six One News' is a comforting sound which reminds us we've survived another day, a quiet interlude before more bad news, war and pestilence unfold on the radio or the television screen.

But for some strange reason there are always some people trying to get rid of it, even if the prayerful part is now a tradition only observed by a few die-hard Catholics.

I can remember a time sitting in Peter Clarke's pub in Dublin Street, Longford at six o'clock when the Angelus rang out. The old men along the counter would take off their cloth caps and mutter softly into their bottles of stout.

The rest of us would keep silent out of respect. I couldn't recite the Angelus today. But that doesn't mean I don't like the idea of a moment of silence amid the clamour of modern life.

We live in a dismal world of 'inclusion' - that awful state of extremism where every belief must be catered for, and if that is not possible then the whole thing must be abandoned.

'The Angelus' on RTÉ is a tradition, as are the bells that sound out from churches of all denominations calling the faithful to prayer. Of course, it is also uniquely Irish, bringing us back to a time when the vast majority of the population were Roman Catholic.

That is the problem for those who keep chipping away at its existence on the national broadcasting service.

Their aim is to end this harmless tradition because it reminds them too much of a bygone era. They want to obliterate the past at all costs, especially if it has any connection, no matter how tenuous, to the Roman Catholic Church, and standardise our lives so that we're just as bland as they are.

There was a time a couple of decades ago when the Angelus meant the Angelus, the picture had to coincide with the Incarnation 'the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.'

But gradually RTÉ watered down the religious aspect until they had an anodyne moment of a woman peering through a window, a gardener standing still over his spade, bullrushes bristling in an autumn breeze.

That I don't mind… because it does reflect the world we live in. Like the Angelus, baptism, first communion and confirmation are now social rather than religious occasions.

But the vast majority of us still want to retain these traditional rituals.

The old rogue George Moore used to stand up at 6pm in the largely Protestant Kildare Street Club and loudly intone the Angelus, just to annoy his fellow members. But nobody is advocating that kind of coat-trailing today.

All we want is to hear the bells, to remind ourselves of a less complicated era, to perhaps stop for a moment and appreciate the world we live in. The Angelus is part of what we are and it should stay that way.

Irish Independent

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