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30th Nov 2018

Irish people’s love of a short mass summed up in one great story by the man behind Father Ted

Conor Heneghan

short mass

“He must’ve brought it in under ten minutes.”

The Catholic Church might not have the level of influence over the people of Ireland it once did, but going to mass remains a staple part of the routine for many in towns and villages throughout the country.

Whisper it, but not every member of the churchgoing populace is a fan of the long mass perfected by the likes of Father Clippit in Father Ted (“three hours he does on a good night”).

In fact, a significant portion of the congregation in every parish will likely tell you that brevity is a much more preferable option and that the shorter a mass is, the better.

Stories of short masses have become the stuff of legend in Ireland and during a discussion with Dion Fanning on Ireland Unfiltered this week, Arthur Mathews, who co-created Father Ted, told one that sums up both the appeal of a short mass to Irish churchgoers and of the great resourcefulness of Irish priests.

Speaking about his Uncle Tom, a priest who was active abroad as well as in Ireland, Mathews told Fanning about a time when circumstances forced him to say a mass in the most unlikely of places in what must be record time.

“He (Uncle Tom) was stuck for a place to say the mass, so he said ‘I’ll just say it in the car, I’m hiring the car in the airport, so I’ll just say it in the car’,” Mathews said.

“So true enough we went off to Avis Rent a Car or something and he was in the front and me and my sister in the back and he just said the mass in the front seat. He got the stuff out the back, the chalice and the little silver box and he said it.

“We were looking at him in the mirror, it was bizarre. And all these people, like y’know, pilots and people, passed the car while he was saying mass.”

Asked by Fanning if it was a fast mass, Mathews responded: “It was really fast, yeah. There was a small sermon about my mother but he must’ve brought it in under 10 minutes I’d say.”

After Fanning recalled the exploits of a priest from his childhood, who regularly completed mass in less than 10 minutes, Mathews harked back to a time when Irish people were prepared to stretch all sorts of boundaries in pursuit of a fast mass.

“People used to… I think I read that when cars, people started driving cars, they’d use them to go to another parish where they’d get a shorter mass.”

You can listen to the sixth episode of Ireland Unfiltered in its entirety by simply clicking here, and you can use #IrelandUnfiltered to join the conversation on social.

Ireland Unfiltered, brought to you in partnership with Carlsberg Unfiltered, is available everywhere you get your podcasts and on YouTube every Tuesday.