Devotion to the saints among Irish Catholics is examined in the fourth episode of 'Survey' a series which examines the attitudes of Irish people to some of the major influences in their lives.
For many Catholics devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints can be greater than to Christ himself who is almost seen as a remote figure. Irish Catholics will often pray to a particular saint to intercede with God for special intentions and favours.
Activities outside the official liturgy of the Catholic Church such as sodalities, Marian devotion and retreats are on the decline, but certain devotions, such as the perpetual devotion to Saint Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases, remain popular.
Every Tuesday night 2000 people attend Whitefriar Street Church on Aungier Street in Dublin as Father Christopher Crowley reads out the list of favours sought and received from Saint Jude. Some of the church-goers explain why they are there, with one man saying he is praying for a house loan.
Those present all agree that Saint Jude is very reliable with one woman saying
I’ve yet to ask for a favour and not received it, he’s that good.
Another woman mostly prays on behalf of others and her requests are nearly always granted but
If Saint Jude doesn’t want you to get something he’ll put the skids on you I’ll tell you.
The new church liturgy is moving away from this form of prayer and is also reflected in the design of new churches which no longer have altars and nooks and crannies.
The Church of the Annunciation in Finglas West built in 1966 was one of the last large scale churches to be built before the trend changed in favour of building smaller, more intimate buildings. The church cost £175,000 to build, but in spite of collections and plan giving, high interest rates mean the church still owes as much as it cost to build.
Parish Priest Erill O’Connor has the unenviable job of trying to reduce the debt. Given how Finglas has grown, the church is no longer best placed to serve the needs of the community. However he disagrees that the size of the church changes the relationship between the priest and the people.
People will remain people and they love to see the priest.
This episode of ‘Survey’ was broadcast on 15 March 1977. The presenter is Pat Kenny.