11 October 2018

The 100th birthday in Glenstal

On Saturday 6th October 2018, the first time in its history, the community of Glenstal Abbey celebrated the 100th birthday of one of its members – Fr Placid Murray. Fr Placid is now resident in a nearby nursing home, but, as he does most weeks, he returned to Glenstal for Mass and lunch on the day. He was one of the concelebrants at the Mass, at which Abbot Brendan Coffey presided. Fittingly, the Mass was that of the saint of the day, St Bruno – a monk and priest and founder of the Carthusians. In his homily, Father Abbot reflected on the long span of history through which Fr Placid has lived. ‘You were born in the final days of World War I, in 1918. Benedict XV was Pope, Ireland was in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and Europe was in deep shock at the sheer scale of the slaughter the World War had brought. At that time Glenstal had not yet been founded as a monastery. Over the course of the last century you have seen nine different Popes, four English monarchs, all nine Irish Presidents and eighteen US Presidents.’ He also recalled the dramatic circumstances of Fr Placid’s return from Rome during World War II: ‘As a student in Rome you experienced at first hand the Second World War, having to make your way home through occupied Italy into Vichy France, then over the Pyrenees and into Spain, from there to Portugal where you were able to get a flying boat to Foynes and eventually back to Glenstal. It sounds more like a chapter from the life of James Bond than a page from the life of a monk.’ Reflecting on the ups and downs of a long life, Abbot Brendan concluded: ‘Those who walk with the Lord through life will know the joy of these words from the gospel, “Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.” Fr Placid, as you complete your one hundredth year, we wish you every blessing and good health. May God be with you as you continue your journey and may he bring us all to everlasting life.’ Fr Placid has served in many capacities in the monastery over the years, including several years as Superior in the years before the monastery became an abbey. As a scholar, his work is known world-wide in the fields of liturgical translation and in the study of the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman. He maintains his scholarly interests to this day and, remarkably, produced a new book on the idea of Mary as ‘Custodian of the Incarnation’ in Newman’s writings. A copy of this limited edition volume was on display outside the monastery refectory when the community and Fr Placid’s guests arrived for a festive lunch after Mass. Alongside it were a recent painting completed by Fr Placid in his art classes at Millbrae Lodge nursing home in Newport, Co. Tipperary, and the traditional letter sent by the President of Ireland to all centenarians for their birthday. The ‘birthday boy’ cut the cake unaided and was delighted to be able to celebrate with his confreres, relatives and friends. Ad multos annos! source: https://www.glenstal.com/abbey

Michał Dragan OSB

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