03 – The Mass rock

From the church gates, gaze down the glen opposite, or the forest as it is called today, where we know the mass rock is situated deep in that glen. It is where two streams meet, on a ledge high up, dangerous enough in many ways. It stands for a time in our history, when Roman Catholics existed only to be punished. Men, women and children gathered here in secret, in all kinds of weather to attend Holy Mass. It represents a deep rooted faith in God, and also a period of butchery and slaughter. Priests lived in the hills, often eating and sleeping in holes in the ground. Here is a sample of what the Penal Laws enacted, any history book will give you these and more.

Irish Catholics were forbidden the exercise of their religion, forbidden to receive education, forbidden to enter a profession, forbidden to hold public office, forbidden to own a horse worth more than 5 pounds, forbidden to purchase land, to lease land, or accept a mortgage on land in security of a loan. They were forbidden to vote, receive a gift of land, or inherit land from a Protestant. They were compelled by law to attend Protestant worship and could not attend Catholic worship. They could not educate their children themselves, send them to a catholic teacher, nor employ a catholic teacher to come to their homes. Priests were banned and hunted with bloodhounds – as were the school masters.

No wonder Hedge schools and Mass Rocks flourished. The Mass Rock down there in the glen says to us today “Part of the past is always alive “. We give thanks today to all those who risked their lives, to keep the faith alive.