This year, Midnight Mass around the country will be one like no other - small mostly ticketed congregations, all socially distanced, cantors instead of choirs, and many of the congregation may choose to tune in from home rather than risk venturing out. Yet, faith remains. It remains in the communities who are still helping to support those affected by the pandemic, it remains in the support bubbles that will stick together throughout the month, and it remains in all those who are working behind the scenes in each parish around the country to try and ensure that where one or two are gathered in his name, He is there with them.
1500 years ago, St. Finian founded a monastery in Clonard, in Co. Meath and helped to share faith and belief around Ireland through his students, from St. Brendan the Navigator to Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, St. Finian was the teacher of the Saints who shared the light of Christ and carried the faith across Europe, and the world. This year's RTÉ Midnight Mass will pay tribute to St. Finian and will be broadcast from St. Finian's Church in Clonard, close to where St. Finian founded his monastery centuries ago. While the physical remains of his monastery have vanished across the centuries, the gift of faith he shared from there lives on in the community to this day.
Ireland has been fortunate over the past few years that some of our Christmas Masses have had not only national attention, but also European attention by being simulcast on RTÉ and the European Broadcast Network (the EBU), and this year, we will transmit Midnight Mass from this small corner of Europe to the rest of the E.U. The 11pm broadcast will also be simulcast across RTÉ platforms, including Radio 1 & worldwide on the RTÉPlayer. Some countries tuning in via the EBU may opt to provide a commentary on the Mass, but whatever the language, the story of St. Finian and Clonard will be shared across the EU.
We spent a few days in early December filming in and around the village in order to be able to share the sights and sounds of Clonard and its community with those across Ireland and Europe. St. Finian's Church is situated in the middle of the village, and across the road from it is a familiar stopping point for so many traveling to and from the West via the old N4, The Clonard Monastery Inn. As with so many communities in Ireland, the recent spate of restrictions and forced closures have impacted greatly, but the community spirit shines through - as evidenced by the many who showed up to help with the filming in early December - from classic car owners to carol singers, nothing was too much trouble for anyone to do to help with the filming. This filming will form a short introduction to the parish of Clonard, St. Finian and the community of Clonard at the beginning of the live Mass.
On the night itself, Kairos will be in situ at the church with a socially distanced crew of about 20 people who will be involved in the transmission of the mass, from cameras to sound and lighting, engineering, satellite crew and those back in the truck gallery selecting the shots to mix out live to Europe. While it seem a peculiar way to spend a Christmas Eve, many of the same freelancing faces show up on the crew each year; and it's become a Christmas tradition for many on the night.
Our MD at Kairos, and producer on the night, Fr. Finbarr Tracey is aware of the great responsibility and privilege it is to be sending the signal of Christmas mass from the very western edge of Europe right into the heart of the European Union, and had this to say:
"Christmas is a time when we remember the birth of Jesus and the shared togetherness of the Christian message. This broadcast too reminds us of our connections across Europe and how much we share as human beings no matter what barriers or borders or languages there may be between us."
If you'd like to tune in to the Mass on the night, it will air on RTÉ One at 11pm on Dec. 24th, 2020
You can tune in online on the rte player via this link:
On digital radio via the RTÉ Radio Player
or by going to the RTÉ Radio 1 page and clicking the "Listen Live" link