Beep, beep, beep. That horrible sound of the phone flashing 4am popped my bubble of sleepy slumber bright and early this Easter Sunday morning. It was still pitch black outside even though Easter was extremely late this year. There had been no 10k the day before as in the previous few years. Still, one would have loved nothing more than to snuggle back into their pillow. A half hour later however, as the aroma of scones wafted around the house, I had mellowed a bit. The kids were called and the car was filled with the bits and bobs as we made our way down the quiet roads to Cloonkeenkerrill cemetery as a thick blanket of fog dominated the countryside on route.
On arrival, John Joe had his own special compilation CD playing, to ensure the village was awoken so no one would miss Dawn Mass. He had all the preparatory work done well in advance; speakers and lighting set up, the lighted star lofted high over the wall of the old abbey ruins. There was even various amps of fuses left aside in case of an emergency. The cemetery path leading to the altar had been edged just for the occasion and there’s certain times in your life when you just stumble across someone and you think, ‘well that lad was sent from above’ and that’s just what Brendan Booth was as he barrowed in numerous barrows of stone to freshen up the entrance pathway.
It was a beautiful Easter Sunday morn, although a little chill was there as the smell of the wood & turf burning at the entrance gate fire and the paschal fire at the altar filled your nose. The altar was assembled in its usual spot as the branches of the cherry blossom had spread so wide that the altar was showered in a backdrop of pink flowers. The Hynes’s family led by Olive & Anne Tuohy were busy buttering scones and setting out the hospitality area. By the time dawn mass started, daylight had broken through the blackness of the early night. The dense fog had drifted away gently, unknown to us. The choir opened the mass as PC O’Connor was called upon to hold the Paschal candle. That’s what you get from Fr. Raymond for offering to say Dawn Mass!! Probably his one and only offer. After a little difficulty in lighting the Paschal candle, eventually John Joe guarded it for the duration of mass as he sheltered the flame with his hand.
The mass itself was no different to other Easter Dawn Masses- a beautiful celebration by Fr Raymond Sweeney and a truly blissful atmosphere. You could wander and get lost in it. You didn’t have to be Catholic, or Christian or a believer. In fact, it wouldn’t have mattered if you had no religion at all. This was simply a beautiful celebration of life and of nature.
After mass, there were copious cups of tea and coffee to cozy up the congregation. And just as the congregation arrived in dribs and drabs, they left the same way. The altar was taken down, rubbish was collected, the hospitality area disassembled and Easter Sunday Dawn Mass was over for another year. Thanks to Fr. Raymond and all the volunteers who made this Mass the beautiful celebration it was as we remembered all those lying in Cloonkeenkerrill cemetery & other cemeteries.
Then it was chocolate for the day after 40 days of fasting.