This is not an episode of Father Ted


In today’s big story, the Limerick peasantry flock to a miraculous tree:

NEARLY 2,000 people have signed a petition seeking to prevent the removal of a tree stump on the grounds of a Co Limerick church, which they believe depicts an image of the Blessed Virgin.

Scores of people from across the country gathered to say prayers at Holy Mary Parish Church in Rathkeale yesterday where workmen made the discovery while cutting down trees earlier this week.

People from the town organised the petition in an effort to have the stump, which was due to be dug out of the ground yesterday, made into a permanent fixture at the church. “We have almost 2,000 signatures on the petition already and we are going to continue getting more,” said shopkeeper Séamus Hogan.

“People have been coming from Kerry and Clare to see this tree, which we believe shows a clear outline of Our Lady,” he continued. Mr Hogan said the discovery was bringing people from all walks of life to Rathkeale to pray.

I suppose Limerick has been a bit short of moving statues for the last few years, so Our Lady appearing in a tree stump is a bit of a turn up for the books. And look at who the defenders of rationalism are:

Local parish priest Fr Willie Russell said on radio station Limerick Live 95FM yesterday that people should not worship the tree. “There’s nothing there . . . it’s just a tree . . . you can’t worship a tree.”

A spokesman for the Limerick diocesan office said the “church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great scepticism”.

“While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition,” he said.

Yes, here’s Pope Benny trying to give a considered response to the world’s ills in his latest, impressively crunchy encyclical, only to see his impressive intellectualism being undermined by Irish culchies praying to a tree stump. Wherever Dermot Morgan is, he must be having a chuckle to himself. See also.


  1. Ray said,

    July 10, 2009 at 9:57 am

    You are offending my religion. You can expect to be brought up on blasphemy charges any day now.

  2. John Green said,

    July 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Clearly this is meant to coincide with the passage of the Blasphemy Law through the Dail. Our Lady is merely demonstrating her approval.

  3. July 10, 2009 at 11:33 am

    this isn’t the virgin Mary … it’s Jacko!

  4. ejh said,

    July 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Fr Willkie Russell said….it’s just a tree….you can’t worship a tree

    What about animism then? Did the Father not go to theological college?

  5. skidmarx said,

    July 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm

  6. Phil said,

    July 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I feel for Father Russell. That story was on the lunchtime news today; when that picture came up I actually pointed at the screen and laughed. Then I thought to myself, is that a rational way to behave? Am I any better than those people? Then I thought to myself, I’m not the one queuing up to touch a treestump.

  7. Liam said,

    July 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    There is a funny side to it but it does demonstrate that at some level pre-Christian religious ideas have managed to survive. The early missionaries had to go to great lengths to incorporate or obliterate these practices.

    Maybe the Celtic Tiger hasn’t evolved that much after all.

  8. chris y said,

    July 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    …While all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones.

  9. Ferenka Fred said,

    July 10, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Well everybody is talking about the 1980s being back…You may or may not be aware that Rathkeale is the centre of a major Travelling community settlement and the church is the middle of that, and Travellers tend to be very devout with regard to the Blessed Virgin etc.

  10. Lobby Ludd said,

    July 10, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    “There is a funny side to it but….”

    Personally, I would have left it there.

  11. bartholomew said,

    July 10, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    The defenders of rationalism:

    In 1995, there was a weeping statue in Civitavecchia, north of Rome. The local bishop and the Vatican immediately declared it to be superstition. The mayor, who was PDS, stopped the church taking the statue away for testing, declared it to be legitimate, and then went to Lourdes on a fact-finding mission.

  12. Phil said,

    July 11, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Fred – the local Travellers got a mention from someone who was interviewed on the BBC, as part of a list of all the different kinds of people who had been brought together by the stump (young, old, black, white…). He even mentioned Protestants, which I thought was pushing it a bit.

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