Ah, that’s brass: a missal stand restored

It’s good to give thanks! That’s not original because the bible and the Christian tradition are peppered with this motif. But we don’t always heed it.

A few days ago I collected from a craftsman in Cork city a Missal Stand belong to our parish which I had left in to be repaired several months ago – indicating that there was no hurry with it. [A missal stand is used to support the missal on the altar, ie the book which contains all the prayers for each Mass.] It is a good few years since it was used. It had been put to one side because it was damaged as a result of a bad fall which snapped off the ledge that supports the book.

It was repaired by what is now the only form in Cork working with brass. Murphy & Quinlan is based off Douglas Street in the heart of the South Parish and John and Barry have kept alive a craft which was once practised by up to four firms in Cork. John is lamenting the fact that when they retire, it will probably mean the end of this great skill in Cork.

But back to our missal stand. John did a lovely job of cleaning it, polishing it, replacing the ledge for the missal and then lacquering it – making look as new. He commented, in passing, that it must be very hold. I asked him if he thought the beautiful shapes and engraving were cut out of the brass plates. He said, no, the main part was hot moulded — probably in the 1800s when they had no electric tools — and then the ornamentation was engraved on the other side by hand.

This gave me a renewed appreciation of the beautiful workmanship that created this stand, the time it took to make it, and the spirit in the hearts of the people who made it, commissioned it, polished it down through the years and all the people who prayed near it — as well as all my former colleague priests who have offered Mass beside it.

The engraved face of the Missal Stand at Enniskeane Church

I used it at Mass in Enniskeane Church again today. I also prayed a prayer of thanks for all the people who have helped maintain and adorn our churches through the ages in praise of God. I also gave thanks for the gift of the craftspeople who help us to see that God is beauty.

The reverse of the missal stand