The priest conducting the ceremony is Father Cormac McIlraith.
Ah hah, did I not long years ago live in a house in Sandycove beside an engineer by the name of Declan McIlraith? I did, and he (my bean cheile H whispers beside me) is brother to the priest.
Not only that.
The First Holy Communicants are drawn from several schools in the Booterstown area of County Dublin. St Andrew's. All Saints National School, and Booterstown National School.
Ah hah again. Did not the father of one particular communicant attend the precursor of that Booterstown National School, then situated beside Monkstown Church?
He did, and he has flown in from the Middle East for the ceremomy. Just as I, his father, have trained in from the Far West for the ceremony.
It all hangs together.
The child communicant is my grandson.
A moment of reflection appropriate to the occasion.
First conclusion. I am now old enough to have a grandchild of first communication age.
Develop that reflection...do I remember my own First Communion?
Well in so far as I remember a crocodile of kids being marched along Sandycove in the rain and into Glasthule Church, I do. The rest is silence.
Carry on...do I remember the First Communions of my own four children?
Three of them yes, because they would have been as gaeilge, those particular kids having been brought up in the Irish language. But as for the older, he from the Middle East, tanned in suit, designer sunglasses perched in hair, gazillion dollar watch on wrist, I can't remember his First Communion at all. He did go to a Protestant school, but it must've happened. I may be lax and maybe lapsed, but in First Communions I take a hard Roman Catholic stance. This is my apostolic line in the sand. Once crossed, the whole thing will fall apart.
Today we're all doing our best to see that doesn't happen.
The ceremony is well thought out, and elegantly organised. Both prayerful and exuberant, it is a happy morning in an unhappy world.
At the bunfight afterwards I meet an interesting and intelligent Frenchman, a schoolteacher in Dublin. We have a wideranging conversation, among the topics raised being Moliere and Racine.
Ok. I know moliere all about Racine. And it is a racine certainty that I know even less about Moliere. But why let that get between oneself and a good intellectual discussion?
Another question. Why entitle this posting Tá Mac-na-hÓige Slán, and what does it mean? Well I can certainly translate the phrase, but I cannot tell the meaning. It translates as "The Virgin's Son is Safe". And its origins are in the old Irish story about the wife of one of the people involved in Christ's crucifixion, how she said that Jesus had as much chance as rising from the dead as that cock cooking there in the pot. At which the cock jumped out of the pot saying... "The Virgin's Son is Safe!" That is the translation and the explanation.
The meaning is another question entirely.