A Dominican in Ireland

Father James Moore, OP, points the way to the ruins of the Dominican Priory, destroyed by Henry VII at Trim Castle, where the movie ‘Braveheart’ was filmed. A few minutes later, he led the group in singing the Salve Regina where his brother Dominicans lived and worked centuries ago. (Photo by Katie Edson)

By Jennifer Stewart/Photos by Meghan Ferrara, Emily Clementi, Katie Edson and Alex Choong

He’s an American priest, a Californian. At 40, he is part of the new Dominican resurgence in America.

In early June 2017, Father James Moore, OP, found himself on a sojourn through Ireland with sixteen young Singaporeans, Canadians and Americans, all REGINA readers. Here’s what he told REGINA writer Jennifer Stewart about his unique experience.

REGINA: Were you familiar with Ireland before you went? 

FATHER MOORE: I did not know much about Ireland at all before this trip.  I’m Portuguese (the only side that’s ethnic), and Ireland wasn’t even on my radar screen.

REGINA: What were your impressions?

FATHER MOORE: I was surprised at how much I liked it!  I had read up on the island and its history, but still wasn’t prepared for the beauty of the place.

Father Moore preaches like a Dominican of old at ancient Muckross Abbey, where his impromptu Mass drew astonished tourists from several countries. (Photo Credit: Alex Choong)

REGINA: And the young people?

FATHER MOORE: The group was awesome!  Committed Catholics who want to set the world on fire?  Yes please!  I’ll go with them!

REGINA: What did you think about their lives?

FATHER MOORE: It was impressive as to how strongly these young people lived their faith even when they often felt alone.  I’ve had the privilege to serve at places with lots of young adults and often wonder how people without much of a community do it.  It was edifying.

Father Moore celebrated Mass for the travelers on the altar of ruined Murrisk Abbey, at the foot of Croagh Patrick. (Photo Credit: Katie Edson)

REGINA: You said Mass in two ruined abbeys.

FATHER MOORE: Those masses, along with the hike up Croagh Patrick, were definitely the highlights for me.  At Muckross Abbey near Killarney, the tourists all gathered around and were astounded by the beauty of the liturgy, even one celebrated with a Mass kit outside. It was profound.

Canon Wulfran Lebocq of the Institute of Christ the King at the Sacred Heart Church organ in Limerick with Father Moore, OP. (Photo Credit: Katie Edson)

REGINA: The Mass at Muckross Abbey has a special story.

FATHER MOORE: When we were coming back from Ross Castle, we had a horse-drawn cab driver who was smoking a cigarette and looked like a hardcore punk, but who turned out to be a great guy.  He told us how his ancestor had been married under a yew tree in Muckross Abbey and was later tortured by Oliver Cromwell.  This led me to speculate: perhaps these ruins had been a meeting place for Catholics to worship in secret during times of persecution?

Because of poor weather, we set up to celebrate Mass on the rail of the cloister wall near the yew tree, as it was covered and protected from the rain.  When Mass was finished, after singing the Salve Regina, we began to pull the altar cloths up.  It was then that we noticed some very small crosses carved into the stone slab on the top of the rail.  There were five small crosses that looked like the crosses carved on an altar.  This lead us to believe that we had “accidentally” (providentially) celebrated Mass on a “Mass Rock.”  Mass Rocks were places the faithful gathered unofficially during the persecutions to have Mass.  It was a profound experience to offer Mass at place where the Church has resisted persecution before.  

Father Moore at the Ring of Kerry (Photo Credit: Emily Clementi)

REGINA: What would your response be to those concerned about keeping young people in the Church? 

FATHER MOORE: I am forty and feel these thoughts about my generation too:  We want to be challenged!  We want a beautiful liturgy that will lift us up to God!  We love the Church and want to encourage her Priests and Religious to be zealous in the spread of the Faith!  Catholics love to celebrate Life!  This means being surrounded by God’s beauty, living as a sign contrary to the latest politically correct trend, having a joyful faith, and, ultimately, striving with God’s Grace to be joyful Saints!

REGINA: Can you speak to the situation of your Order, the Dominicans, in Ireland? 

FATHER MOORE: There was a general sense with most Diocesan and Religious Priests in Ireland that the Dominicans seem to be one of the few orders flourishing with native vocations.  At their House of Studies at St. Saviour’s in Dublin, I encountered a growing, joyful, zealous, and sharp group of young men who will be fantastic Dominican Priests.  I also was able to visit our Dominican Sisters of Nashville who now have a convent in Limerick.  They have at least one native Irish vocation now, and I’m looking forward to seeing more young women join their ranks.  This last point is very important.  Having a parish without the example of Religious Women is like having a single parent home . . . not ideal.

Father Moore on the Emerald Isle (Photo Credit: Alex Choong)

REGINA: In the months since this happened, what have been your thoughts?

FATHER MOORE: It was great to offer Mass where my Brother Priests once ministered, offered the Holy Sacrifice, and ultimately faced persecution. In our age, where there is increasing hostility to the Faith, it serves as a reminder that we always need to fight for freedom of religion.

A Dominican amongst Benedictines at Silverstream Priory, headed up by Dom Mark Kirby, OSB, on the right. (Photo Credit: Meghan Ferrara)

REGINA: Do you have any final thoughts to share with our readers?  

FATHER MOORE: It is my prayer that these pilgrimages can continue—and that they can be experiences to help bolster the faith of the next generation of Catholics.  I also hope that these can help our dear young friends to discern the vocations that God is calling them to: to be the next generation of Catholics who help bring the light of the Gospel into the midst of our dim and dreary world. . .


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