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A memorial and a reminder - (on Explore) | by Frank Fullard
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A memorial and a reminder - (on Explore)

This simple undressed stone monument is located in a beautiful setting near Mulranny, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean (Clew Bay is just beyond the sand dunes here); with Croagh Patrick in the background. It marks a childrens’ burial ground, or cillín.


Until relatively recent times the Catholic Church would not allow children who were unbaptised at the time of their death to be buried in consecrated ground. It held that baptism was the necessary threshold through which all must pass before entering Christian society, and so have any possibility of getting to heaven. A more barbaric, uncaring and un-Christian approach I cannot imagine, forcing as it did parents to bury dead babies wherever they would, or could, but not in consecrated ground. This where, in the West of Ireland in particular, we had a society where there were no other official graveyards and where infant mortality rates were exceptionally high.


I understand that the current position of the Catholic Church is that the notion of Limbus Infantus, or what is more commonly called Limbo, has never been dogmatically defined. However, in the past, the approach of the Catholic Church in Ireland was nothing if not dogmatic on this point. As a result we have cillíni scattered all over the rural landscape of the West of Ireland, and in Mayo in particular.


In recent years local communities have in very many cases erected simple memorials, like this one at Mulranny, to remember those buried there. It is good that we remember them.


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Taken on July 2, 2011