If you’ve ever wondered about the significance of the little blue tiles over the doors of some of the older houses in Galway, then wonder no more as a new website launched by the Franciscans and Poor Clares will help shed some light.
Next year the Franciscans and Poor Clares are celebrating a Year of the Holy Name of Jesus beginning on Friday, January 3. This came about as a result of a discovery by the Galway Poor Clares that a wave of devotion to promote the holy name of Jesus began after a retreat to their monastery conducted by a Franciscan friar, Fr Francis Donnelly, in January 1914.
It was Fr Donnelly who introduced the blue YHS tiles that can be seen over the doors of many houses in the cities of Galway, Cork and Limerick where he ministered, and in other places such as Ennis, Co Clare and Tuam, Co Galway. The tiles depict an abbreviation of the name of Jesus in Greek and they were placed above the doors of houses in order invoke God’s blessings on the occupants.
As part of the commemorations for the Year of the Holy Name, and to help inform the public about the significance of the YHS tiles, the Franciscans have set up a comprehensive new website www.holyname.ie with contributions from the Poor Clares.
“There was a lot of division and unrest in Irish society during the years of Fr Donnelly’s ministry in Ireland (1908-1929 ) so it’s not difficult to imagine why people were eager to put up the monograms of the name of Jesus to protect their dwellings and bring peace to their families.
“It seems to me that people in our own times, and especially in our country, are yearning for peace of soul more than ever before. We all search for meaning in so many different ways, but only Jesus can provide what we need in the face of suffering and heal our hearts,” explained the Abbess of the Galway Poor Clare monastery, Sr Colette.
This, she believes, was a big factor in the success of the Poor Clares book, Calm the Soul. The book remained in the number one position in its category for three months of 2013 and was the fifth best-selling book in Ireland in the first six months of the year.
“There is something for everyone on this website,” said Fr Francis Cotter, the Franciscan co-ordinator of the Year. He added: “There are prayers, slideshows, a resource section, music, reflections from many different spiritual writers and a special theme song written by the Galway Poor Clares and arranged by Julianne Woods, which can be downloaded free for choirs. I suppose you could say it’s a kind of cyber sanctuary for the soul.”
The website will remain when the year is over and there are plans to develop it further. For those with an interest in heritage, there is a history section containing some scanned documents from the Poor Clare and Franciscan archives relating to the devotion and Fr Donnelly. Those who have a particular interest in the Holy Name tiles can explore the ‘Collecting Information’ section of the history section and share any information they might have about the location of the tiles and their condition.
As well as exploring the website, the Facebook pages of the Galway Poor Clares and the Franciscans can be followed for updates and reports on events throughout the Year.