Wednesday 21 February 2018

Poor Clares solve mystery of the tiles

Marco Stanga and Moe Kim clean their tile in Galway
Marco Stanga and Moe Kim clean their tile in Galway

Brian McDonald

A 100-year-old mystery has been solved -- by an enclosed order of nuns in Galway.

Blue tiles placed over the doorway of thousands of homes in Cork, Limerick, Clare and Galway have often been mistaken as indicating the homes were originally those of gardai, because of the similarity to the garda crest.

Others believed that they were mementoes of the International Eucharistic Congress of 1932.

The lettering YHS confused many, despite its closeness to the religious monogram IHS for the name of Jesus.

The Poor Clare nuns in Galway carried out extensive research to confirm that the tiles were put in place by householders to keep their families safe.

The sisters discovered that a wave of devotion to promote the holy name of Jesus began after a retreat to their monastery conducted by a Franciscan friar, Fr Francis Donnelly, in January 1914.

It was Fr Donnelly who introduced the blue YHS tiles, as they depict an abbreviation of the name of Jesus in Greek and they were placed above the doors of houses in order to invoke God's blessings .

"There was a lot of division and unrest in Irish society during the years of Fr Donnelly's ministry in Ireland (1908-1929), so it's not difficult to imagine why people were eager to put up the monograms of the name of Jesus to protect their dwellings and bring peace to their families.

"It seems to me that people in our own times, and especially in our country, are yearning for peace of soul more than ever before. We all search for meaning in so many different ways, but only Jesus can provide what we need in the face of suffering and heal our hearts," explained the Abbess of the Galway Poor Clare monastery, Sr Colette.

This, she believes, was a big factor in the success of the Poor Clares' book 'Calm the Soul'. The book remained in the number one position in its category for three months of 2013 and was the fifth best-selling book in Ireland in the first six months of the year.

On Friday, the Franciscans and the Poor Clares will commemorate the events of January 1914 by inaugurating the Year of the Holy Name of Jesus.

As part of the commemorations and to help inform the public about the significance of the YHS tiles, the Franciscans have set up a comprehensive website, www.holyname.ie with contributions from the Poor Clares.

"There is something for everyone on this website," said Fr Francis Cotter, the Franciscan co-ordinator of the Year. Fr Cotter added: "There are prayers, slideshows, a resource section, music, reflections from many different spiritual writers and a special theme song written by the Galway Poor Clares.

Irish Independent

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