Mass at St. Patrick’s Church, Belfast

BELFAST~Given the long history of sectarian strife in Belfast, the opportunity to practice my faith here felt infused with extra meaning and significance, especially at a church named after Ireland’s patron saint. I’ve visited more than a dozen St. Patricks’ churches over the years.

Less then two weeks ago, Protestant loyalist bands marched past the church playing triumphalist tunes and otherwise intimidating Catholics, breaching Parades Commission protocol for 12 July. The regular 1 p.m. weekday Mass was cancelled. It wasn’t the first time this has happened.

St. Patrick’s at 199 Donegall St. opened in 1815, same year as the Battle of Waterloo and before Catholic Emancipation in Ireland. The church’s centennial was the second year of the First World War; its bicentennial just last year. More history here.

Today, the exterior sandstone of the Romanesque style church is under significant restoration, including original stone carvings by James Pearse, father of Patrick Pearse, a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising.

I enjoyed the 1 p.m. weekday Mass and contributed to the restoration.

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