You Must Hear The Story Behind This Mysterious and Unique Prayer Book

If books could talk, this nearly 70 year old opus on prayers from 1952 would have a story to tell. The year is 1986 and my 35 year old Father stepped out of the Church of St.Nicholas in Dundalk one day onto Bridge street. Adjacent to and directly across the road was this miniature shop full of the usual, unusual and everything in between.

I don’t know how you feel about them, but to this day I’ve always felt drawn to these eccentric places of curiosity. I think there’s a bit of an eccentric in all of us that loves to investigate. Yes, no matter how old or young we are, we like to have a good old rummage into the weird world of assorted antique areas of interest.

My father goes into the little shop cap in hand. There was so much stuff in the shop that although the light outside was strong, nevertheless try as it may, it was prevented that day from penetrating this store of the bizarre. The reason for it was due to the amount of objects pressed against the window.

Many different things filled every corner of it both modern and old. Tables, chairs, oil lamps, and the remnants of an old doll that was more or less fit for the movie prop of the exorcist than it was the arms of a child. “I’d really like to have that book” he sighed, “But I’m afraid I don’t have the money right now. I’ll go get the money, but I ask you to please hold onto that book. I mean it now, don’t be letting anyone have it d’ya hear me?”

The man reluctantly agrees to keep an eye on it. The man must’ve thought “what are the chances anyone will come in anytime soon to buy it anyway? After all, the only people interested in this sort of thing are old ladies at deaths door in need of a few prayers.”

My father runs off to get the money. Arriving back and out of breath he barely gets the words out to even greet the man before he says, “Sorry but the book has been sold.” My father frowns with disgust that the man would do the unthinkable and break his word. “By who? I thought I told you to keep it for me. I was barely five minutes.” “I know, but I need the money. I run a business here and couldn’t rely on your return to purchase the book.” Accepting defeat my Father asked again, “And who was it?” “Some old woman came in and took it. Look, I’m really sorry but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Upset at the thought of losing the book, my father walked back to his house at No.45 St.Nicholas avenue. He sat down in the chair and noticed his mother was awfully quiet. She was enjoying the quiet afternoon reading a book and it only reminded him all the more of the loss he had made. He closed his eyes to drown out the world around him. While he succeeded with difficulty in doing that he could not put to death the memory of that lovely book he’d let slip from his hands.

His mother asked, “Is everything alright son?” “Yeah, I’m alright.” He opens his eyes again to look at his mother who is staring back at him with a big grin on her face. Wanting to know what it was she was reading he walked over and asked. Removing her hands that were until now blinding the cover of it, she showed it to him. Why, my fathers mouth opened so wide you could fit the singer Pavarotti himself into it. He thought of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as he exclaimed, “That’s the book I wanted. It. . . it was you, you’re the one that took it. Of all the people in the world and sure wasn’t it only me own mother?”

She let out a big cackle at her sons own misfortune at missing out on the book. The shopkeeper could not resist the old charm of an Irish Granny. In fact, if he had not fallen that day for her charm, he would have surely fallen to the floor with a right hook to the jaw, such was her way. She’d loved that book so much she printed her name and address in it. When I saw this, I knew there was little chance of my Father ever getting it off her while still alive. I can even hear her saying now in that big thick Irish Dundalk accent, “Over my dead body will ye get it.”

My father was to get the book back but at a most unexpected and sad time. The day she died he arrived at the house and one of his sisters handed him the book. Today he handed it to me and it’s now in my possession. It was interesting to see her thumbprints on the pages of a prayer she prayed on it every day of her life. The book mark was even on this particular page being left largely untouched by my father since he got it back. The prayer she prayed was “The thirty days prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

The book itself was printed in 1952. In the beginning of its pages it had some graffiti as my cousin Stacey wrote her name on it as a child. Towards the back some old phone numbers of nearby neighbours and friends were penned in the book. My face caught a breeze as I fanned through the pages with my thumbs. I happened upon a prayer for a woman deceased. This was the first prayer I prayed and there’s no need to explain who I prayed it for. Her name was Mary McElligott. She was a devout woman who loved her local football club.

She is pictured today in the football stadium receiving trophies for her loyalty as Dundalks oldest and most loyal fan. Since she was 4 years old in the pram she’d never missed a match. She even travelled to see them play in Russia of all places. She used to shout at me playing football on the street. “You’d make a great Goalie if you keep that up.” But she had a fiery side to her also at official Dundalk matches.

She used to bring her own whistle and blow on it to the disturbance of the officials, the crowd and most of all the referee and players. She was known to storm the football field and give him (the ref) a good dig of the fist sometimes. I don’t think you’d get away with that today though. Yet, as much as her fiery football temper got through the skin of even the most resilient temperaments present, she was loved and cherished by all who knew her.

Now I finally have a piece of her in my home and I’m forever grateful that she came today that I may pray for her and my grandfather using this book. I’m a big believer that although power is always in the prayer, certain sacramentals hold a piece of the Holy people who used them. Whether they be rosaries, medals or books they hold a piece of the persons soul.

She’d never admit it while alive but my granny was a holy woman. I firmly believe that when holding the book I felt her presence and that her soul lives on in the book. We like to look at books as mere objects of no value. Yet, when they belonged to someone who’d read them, who it meant a lot to, that alone tends to change our perception of it being merely a piece of simple material matter. No, there’s something going on the naked sinful eye cannot see.

It’s an interesting book with over 1570 pages of amazing prayers. I’m surprised because it’s so good no modern prayer book could hold a candle to it. I will now sign off this blog post with a prayer for my granny from the book. It’s called A Prayer for a woman deceased”.

Let us pray,

We beseech Thee, O Lord, in Thy
mercy, to have pity on the soul of
Thy handmaid; do Thou, Who hast
freed her from the perils of this mortal
life, restore to her the portion of ever-
lasting salvation. Through Christ our Lord,

Amen!






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