Any casual observer on the road leading into Baurearagh Valley, or travelling on the Knockduff road last night will be forgiven for wondering what the large accumulation of parked cars was all about. Coillte, the state-owned forestry company, had given permission to open the barrier preventing vehicular traffic from travelling down its forest track. Along the track, in lay-bys and the turning circle at the bottom of the roadway cars, vans and jeeps were competing for parking space. Groups of people, some small, some larger; people walking in pairs or – occasionally – on their own, made their way down to the Baurearagh River. They ignored the stepping stones leading across, slippery from a recent shower. The small bridge carried them to the other side of the river where one after another negotiated the narrow footpath and then the uneven steps leading uphill.
Bonane Community Council had called on the people of Bonane and from further afield, to attend Holy Mass at our Mass Rock at Inse an tSagairt last night at 8pm. Despite the dull evening, a great crowd of parishioners, ‘ex-pats’ and visitors had answered the call. Every age group was represented: From a young baby, well wrapped up against the persistent drizzle, to a very elderly gentleman who had farmed in Bonane all his life. Even one elderly dog took its well deserved place amongst its people.
The Mass Rock at Inse an tSagairt has always held a special place in the hearts of the people of Bonane. It is situated in scenic Baurearagh Valley, at the foot of the Inishfoyle cliffs which developed during the Ice Age. The isolated location is typical for Irish mass rocks from Penal Times, given that celebrating and attending a Catholic service was punishable by death at that time. In olden times, mass times were not regularly scheduled and were communicated by word of mouth. A bit like last Monday, when Bonane Community Council sent an SMS to all on their contacts list.
Our local parish priest Father Michael Moynihan found a temporary altar under the Mass Rock when he arrived; lovingly decked out by ladies from our parish. He proceeded to celebrate mass, undeterred by showers or breeze, supported by guitar music and a small choir. Yesterday evening’s mass was directly followed by the first evening of prayers of a Special Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes, for those who are sick and in need of intercession in our parish. Just as the Mass Rock congregation started praying the Rosary, a heavy and lengthy shower watered the soil of Baurearagh and Inishfoyle, unusually dry after many weeks of very warm weather. To the credit of all those assembled, nobody fled to the cars. Only the young baby was carried to shelter. The elderly dog shook water from its coat. So did the man beside me. Much later, when people walked back to their cars, most seemed to agree that it had been an hour well spent…
The Novena will continue with Rosary and Prayers each night in St Feaghna’s Church, Bonane from 8-9pm, concluding on 15th August after 9.30am mass. All are welcome!
Many thanks to Father Michael for giving us the lovely experience of celebrating mass at Inse an tSagairt!! Sorry you got wet.