Bishop Smith celebrated Mass on the Hill of Slane on Sunday 19 August, marking historic links between the local community and various historic events in Irish Christian tradition.
The Hill of Slane has huge significance in Irish Christian tradition. It has been the venue for many large gatherings over the years. In 1932 between 50 and 60 thousand people assembled on the hill to celebrate the fifteenth centenary of the coming of St. Patrick in 432 AD, who, according to tradition, lit the Paschal fire there on Easter Saturday – a symbol of the light of Faith in God and the banishment of darkness and evil.
In 1932, all roads leading to the village of Slane were decorated with flags, bunting and scrolls. Every house had its Papal or Eucharistic emblem. Attendees included dignitaries from Church and State. The largest crowd ever seen before or since in Slane attended High Mass which was followed by a Eucharistic procession to the Parish Church. Earlier that same year the 31st IEC was held in Dublin for the first time, when one million people attended the final Mass in the Phoenix Park.
In 1961 huge crowds assembled on the hill for ceremonies marking the 1,500th anniversary of the death of St. Patrick. In the year 2,000 the principal Holy Year celebration for the Diocese of Meath also took place there, with 15,000 attendees. This was a memorable occasion with messages from Pope John Paul II and President Mary McAleese.
Last month’s celebrations in Slane coincided with the the 50th International Eucharistic Congress which was held in Dublin on 10 – 17 June. Among the symbols presented in the procession during the Congress to represent the Diocese of Meath were three lanterns lit from the paschal fire of Slane.
Today the Congress bell continues to ring out in Slane, heralding a new beginning and a reconnection with Patrick’s message.
For there [Slane] in prayer is Patrick bent,
With Christ his soul is knit,
And there before his simple tent,
The Paschal fire is lit.
(Fr Joseph Deegan PP, Slane)