At the End of the Sky

When we speak about inculturation in the liturgy, we tend to think of the Zaire Rite or the situation in the Amazonian Region.  However, we cannot limit discussions on inculturation to other places – it is also necessary in regions where Christianity has been present for a longer time and is more established.

Indeed, a new interchange between Christianity and Culture is still a vital nexus for the New Evangelization. A number of years ago Vincent Twomey published an excellent analysis of the challenges facing Irish Catholicism entitled The End of Irish Catholicism? Twomey, often the English-language spokesperson for the Ratzinger Schülerkreis, proposed that many of Catholicism’s problems in today’s Ireland are due to the fact that “so-called traditional Irish Catholic culture was neither fully Catholic nor authentically Irish.” Therefore, a necessary process of liturgical inculturation must take place today.

One area where this inculturation can be particularly fruitful is in the area of liturgical music. A generation ago, Seán Ó Riada pioneered an inculturated style of liturgical music in the Irish language. Unfortunately, Ó Riada died at the age of 40 in 1971 and only composed three Mass settings. Some of his liturgical compositions in Irish (Gaelic) are still widely used, including in English speaking liturgies.

Today some other composers are continuing his legacy and one particular composer I would like to highlight in this post is Ronan McDonagh. McDonagh is one of Ireland’s foremost liturgical musicians and composers and for the last 30 years has ministered as the (full-time) Organist and Director of Music at St Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, Dublin.  Much of his liturgical music attempts to integrate the worlds of traditional Irish music, and especially traditional Irish spirituality, with current liturgical practice. He is particularly successful in forming a bridge between the popular piety earlier generations of Irish-speaking Catholics and today’s Catholics, many of whom do not speak Irish and are unfamiliar with this aspect of their heritage.

McDonagh’s latest project of liturgical music rooted in the Irish Tradition has just been published as At the End of the Sky, a book of music scores/CD combination. Here he directs the group Fuaimlaoi in the performance of the music. Due to the continued COVID-19 restrictions the launch could not be held as a live public launch. However, the virtual launch is posted to YouTube and anyone can listen to it.  Apart from giving some samples of uplifting liturgical music, it might also spark some creative intuitions among PrayTell’s readership to create something similar in their own cultural contexts.

I was unable to post the video of the launch directly into this post, but readers can find it here: At the End of the Sky 

Or alternatively by following this link:




3 responses to “At the End of the Sky”

  1. Brian Duffy Avatar
    Brian Duffy

    Quite interesting as are all of your postings.

    I was looking on the web for a few prayers in Irish Gaelic. I was amazed to find that the Church of Ireland offers many wonderful resources on their web page. They even sponsor a group promoting the liturgy in Irish Gaelic. I thought someone would have placed the Paul VI Irish missal online but I couldn’t find it.

    I was also hoping to find a few Eastern prayers in Irish Gaelic, but couldn’t although I read that an Eastern Catholic priest had made his own translation. Evidently that is difficult to get. I’m only at the beginning of my Irish studies and probably should learn to crawl before running.

    1. Fr. Neil Xavier O'Donoghue Avatar
      Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue

      Hi Brian

      I’ve posted on the Irish language Missal (An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach): before:

      Unfortunately it is not available on-line. The full altar version is available for €300:

      Also we published a bilingual set of booklets with the EP for Masses with Children last year:

      Cumann na Sagart provides liturgical resources in Irish, including the readings for Mass every week:

      I believe that work has started on a new Irish edition of the Sunday Missal that will have the prayers and readings for all Sunday’s and feast days. This would probably be the best resource for you, but it might take a couple of years to get it out.

      Also nearly every church in Ireland is still streaming all their liturgies, so a Google search of “aifreann as gaeilge ar líne” should give a number of options to stream Mass in Irish.

      1. Brian Duffy Avatar
        Brian Duffy

        Many thanks for this illuminating information. I now recall I once had a copy of the Collectio Rituum for Ireland which included the Irish Gaelic version of the formularies. Alas, in a mood of unaccustomed generosity I recall giving it away to a customer.

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