We learnt the 6 precepts of the Church:-
1. To hear mass on Sundays and Holy days of obligation.
2. To fast and abstain on the days commanded.
3. To confess our sins at least once a year.
4. To receive the Blessed Eucharist at Easter time, between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday.
5. To pay dues to our pastors.
6.Not to marry at the forbidden times nor within the forbidden degrees of kindred and not to marry persons of a different religion.
We could also say off the seven deadly sins, knew the Rogation Days and the Ember Days, what was commanded and forbidden by all the Ten Commandments.
We were certainly well instructed in our religion. The present day children do not learn in such detail. The information is presented in a much more attractive manner and has more of an emphasis now, on our duty to a loving God and of loving our neighbours.
As a matter of course, everybody went to Sunday mass.
Fasting and abstaining on the days commanded was regarded as a very serious obligation. Every Friday was of course a day of abstinence; there are now only two in the year, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
The eves of certain feasts were days of abstinence too. My sister Eileen Colbert remembers this vividly. When she was in Tigaluinn and running it as a guesthouse in the forties, it must have been suddenly announced at Sunday Mass that the following day Monday eve of the Assumption was a day of abstinence and she had no fish for the mid-day meal. In a private household this would not have been a disaster, but in a guesthouse it was. It being Monday there was no fish to had in Youghal either, so Dick my husband drove to Cork to procure it for her.
People went to confession regularly and there were confraternity meetings once a month and practically everyone went to the sacraments once a month.
Jimmie Rooney speaks of the difficulty of getting into confession, the place being so crowded. One special time of the year when it was crowded was before Trinity Sunday as going to the sacraments at least once a year was obligatory and the time for this was between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday, i.e. doing your Easter duty.
On one occasion my sister and I cycled to Melleray to visit our brother James who was at school there. On the way up, a car passed and one of the Sergeant boys from Cappoquin, whom we knew, opened the window and waved at us in a sort of jeering way. We were puzzled but we soon found out the reason. We encountered a long line of the Melleray boys in the avenue and when we met James, he said, "What brought ye up to-day?" Evidently, it was the last day for the 'Easter Duty' and all the 'hard cases' were going to Melleray for confession that day.
Old Funeral Practices
Funeral Protocol has changed very much within the last forty years or so. It was thought necessary then to lay the dead person out in a brown habit bought at a draper's shop; now the personal clothes of the deceased person are used. In 1958, when my husband died, he was laid out in a habit, but my two sons in 1979 and 1982 were dressed in their own clothes. When my aunt Mrs Quain died in 1978, her daughter Ciss had her laid out in a beautiful white night-dress made by my grandmother. I know I can never, never again see such an extraordinarily superb example of needlework.
The corpse was always "waked" in the house too, and there, neighbours came to pay their respects. Food or drink was generally offered. Wakes still take place at home, but people tend to make much more use of 'funeral parlours' now; the body is conveyed there and the mourners come there to pay their respects. Later on, after the funeral, people are often invited to a meal in a local hotel or restaurant.
Up to about 30/40 years ago, the priests receiving the corpse at the church wore around their hats and hanging by their sides there long strip of white linen, which was donated by the family of the deceased.
At the period my husband died (1958) it was considered necessary to go into mourning and wear black clothes for a whole year afterwards and this I did. However, I didn't do so on the occasions of my sons' deaths in 1979 and 1982. The custom has changed completely in that respect. Very many things have changed as regards religious practise since then.
Lent was most definitely a penitential season up to about 30/40 years ago and it differed from diocese to diocese. The late John Cashman used to jokingly remark that in their household the old home at Red Forge on the Tallow road, they had the choice of two programmes at the borderline between the Diocese of Cloyne and of Waterford/Lismore passed through their house.
The law of fasting applied to those between the ages of 21 and 60 and generally consisted of the allowance of one full meal a day and two collations. The two collations meant light meals. Invalids and those who had to do difficult manual work were exempt.
It was more or less taken for granted that children fasted from sweets for Lent (except for St. Patricks Day). I remember saving them up and looking forward eagerly to noon on Easter Saturday when we considered ourselves dispensed.
Public entertainment too came under Lenten regulations and again the rules changed form Diocese to Diocese. No dances took place in our Diocese during Lent but other Diocese were different.
A feature of religious life in the parish was a mission run every few years. Two priests from a religious order came and worked hard to renew our religious fervour, instruct us and generally give us an indepth course in our religion. There were daily masses, sermons both morning and evening and confessions going on for hours during the day. The missioners visited all the sick in the parish.
A big feature of the week was the blessing of rosaries, statues and all kinds of religious objects. A stall was erected outside the church gate where all these objects were on display and could be bought.
The sermons in the church were listened to with great interest and the different preaching styles of the two missioners commented on. The Wednesday night sermon was usually on the 6th commandment and commanded a good deal of attention.
Mrs. Barry, the Cork lady who dominated the Cliff in the earlier years of the last century was a keen apostle of Temperance and is reputed to have sent a message to one of the missioners to preach on the subject. It is also reported that the missioner responded in a most unmissioner like way "Tell Mrs Barry go to hell". One cannot of course vouch for the veracity of the anecdote.
A well-known local man is said to have shocked the priest in the confession box when he reported the length of time since his last confession; the confessor voiced his horror in no uncertain manner and the would-be penitent re-acted by telling the priest out loud "We paid a lot of money to bring ye here and 'twasn't for abuse we brought ye".
Generally speaking there was practically 100% participation in church devotions during the mission period. It was like a spring clean and a revival of religious fervour in the parish.
Author: Siobhan Lincoln