‘It has religious meaning.’ Priest explains Mayo altar flag that has gone viral

A Mayo church is flying the flag proudly on their altar in the build-up to Sunday’s All-Ireland final meeting with Dublin.

St. Mary's Church in Westport decorated their lectern with the Mayo flag, generating a huge response on Facebook, with the picture quickly racking up nearly 2,000 likes.

The social media wags have been quick to suggest the green and gold needs all the prayers they can get.

But Fr Charlie McDonnell downplays the scale of the decoration in his church, stating: "if you were in the church, you would hardly see it".

"It looks more on Facebook.  It's just a small piece in the church on the anvil." the priest explains.

"It's after going viral but if you come to the church it's something very small and it has a religious meaning."

Involved with the Athenry hurling team at both senior and minor level in the past, it was easy for Fr McDonnell to understand the whirlwind of attention on Facebook. He knows better than anyone else where GAA ranks in Westport and any other Mayo parish, for that matter.

"GAA is a big part of the parish, we have two parishioners that are involved in the local club. It's more of a local thing than a hyped-up thing, there's a deep significance about it.

"For any county too. I lived in Galway for 13 years. I was in Tuam  for nine of those years at the heart of football, GAA was a massive part of the parish.

"I was in Athenry for four years involved with the club and hurling, it was big in the parish," McDonnell explained. "The parish and GAA are still very closely linked."

"It's more about the symbolism and the ecclesiastical story of the county than anything else."

"Chriost Linn is from St. Patrick's breastplate, meaning 'Christ be with us'."

‘It has religious meaning.’ Priest explains Mayo altar flag that has gone viral

"You look into the crest itself and you see the four crosses. One of them is a double barred one and is the symbol of the Archdiocese Tuam and then the other crosses represent Galway, Killala and Achonry.

“Croagh Patrick has our church on top of it [on the crest]. It has a very deep and local  significance along with Grainne O'Malley's boat. We have a chalice from 1614 that her son donated to the church in Murrisk."

Fr McDonnell explains that there has always been an intrinsic link between the church and the local community and St. Mary's try to support Westport and Mayo in any way they can.

"We have six flagpoles outside the church." he said. "I suppose if there's anything going on in the parish we try to support it whether it's soccer, rugby, GAA or athletics.

"If there's any visitors of cultural significance or something big on we'll support it. It's the town that pulls together."

So Mayo to reclaim the Sam Maguire after 65 years, then?

"We'll see... Ring me this time next week!"

[url=https://www.facebook.com/stmaryswestport]Visit the St Mary's Facebook page[/url]


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