St. Flannan’s Cathedral – A Place of Pilgrimage and Prayer
Isaiah 11: 1-3, 10
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Lynda Christian is a local artist who offered to do something for the Cathedral, and the conversation began about her work and how it might feature in the Cathedral. The present idea arose from the scripture text above. Lynda is a multi-media artist and also specialises in metal art. She tries to use recycling metals, such as tin cans.
Lynda says: “It’s impossible to do exactly the same piece twice, as the metals are hand-cut and shaped. The metals will twist differently and join together differently each time. I like to mix the primary paints as I paint, so each piece keeps its individuality. I design innovatively – each piece is bespoke, unique with its own characteristics. I am often being inspired by ‘found art’, preferably rusty metals, discarded and rejected, getting a second lease of life.”
So the piece, right down to the materials used, depicts rejection that is taken-up and given new life. This piece of art which was commissioned for St. Flannan’s Cathedral depicts an old stump, with new shoots growing from it. It reflects that something new can come from something that seems dead or has fallen like a tree. Often our lives can feel dead or broken through hurt, loss, depression, rejection and so on. The shoot does not grow from the centre, but from the edge of the stump. Sometimes from the fuzzy edges of our lives – in areas of unknowing, confusion, searching – can spring this new life which gives us hope, if we are open to the working of God’s spirit. The Christian hope of resurrection into a new reality is expressed in this piece of art.
Our emphasis in recent years is that the Cathedral in Killaloe is a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Our hope is that those who visit, or those who are regular worshippers, can experience the sacred mystery as a reality that is greater than ourselves or our circumstances. People in Ireland have always found places to express themselves in and through nature. One of the old customs is that people would tie a ribbon on a tree. We envisage that people will tie a prayer ribbon on this metal tree, a ribbon symbolizing their prayer intention. There is an ancient baptismal font just opposite the tree, expressing the significance of water and new life, with water also being the symbol of life and hope. Therefore we are combining ancient Celtic custom with our Christian tradition in the context of the Cathedral as an aid for people to express themselves. The tree of death has become a tree of hope and new life in Christ.
In recent months we have also developed a text with different points in the Cathedral for people to pause, reflect and pray. We are grateful to Jessica Brown for her work on a booklet as a help and tool for people going around the Cathedral, prayerfully reflecting on what is in the building and how it can move us to deeper connection with the holy mystery all around us. Jessica finds the corner of literature and theology fascinating. Her book The Grace to be Human is forthcoming this autumn with Kalos Press, and her children’s novel The River Boy was released in 2016. Having lived in Texas, California, New York, England and New Zealand, Jessica now lives in the west of Ireland with her husband and son. We are extremely fortunate to have Jessica and her family as part of our worshipping community at the Cathedral, as she is so willing to share her gifts with all of us and the wider community.
At the Harvest Festival service in the Cathedral on 15th October the Right Reverend Kenneth Kearon, Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, dedicated the tree and the new booklet, which will be offered as aids to those coming to pray. We hope that many will make their way to the Cathedral as a pilgrimage, and be able to continue that journey as they explore the Cathedral with all its symbols, beauty and rich Christian heritage.