There are few surefire debates that are bound to drive schisms between friends, families, lovers, as that around which prayer is Ireland's favourite. For every person you'll come across who swears by the Our Father, you'll find someone so passionate about The Apostle's Creed that, should you in any way impugn its supposed supremacy, they will strip to the waist and demand you follow them to the nearest pub car-park where they will, and I quote, 'bust out a can open to open a family-sized can o' whoop-ass on your ass'. But enough about my father.
However, thanks to a frankly laudable dedication to national self-parody, only possible at the National Ploughing Championships, a survey was run to put this question to bed once and for all. Over the three days of the festival, attendees were asked to vote for what they considered to be the greatest ever prayer. Having not traveled down to what is, and I can't put too fine a point on it - an inordinately large festival themed around people watching other people dig holes - I can't ascertain as to the rigour of their surveying. Whether they simply elected to allow people to voluntarily offer their votes at specific stations, or whether every attendee was vigorously interrogated by some lackey in the employ of the clergy, when they were attempting to gain entry to the festival, I simply do not know.
The shortlist of prayers, from which people could choose their favourite, had been drawn up by Bishop Denis Nulty, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. The Hail Mary reigned supreme with 61% of the vote, while the other contenders were O Angel of God, The Our Father, The Rosary, and The Memorare.
If we're being honest, given that I have never heard of two of these prayers and, as far as my perhaps flawed understanding goes, The Rosary is simply a prayer compilation, this was always going to be a two-horse race between the Hail Mary and the Our Father.
As well as running a competition to try ascertain Ireland's favourite prayer, the ever PR-savvy Bishop Denis Nulty also ran a competition to crown the 'Prayer at the Ploughing'. He solicited attendees to compose and submit a new prayer which focused on environmentalism.
The winner of this competition was one Siobhan Hayes. It was praised by the judging panel for its 'simplicity' and 'poignancy'. However, what is perhaps most notable about it is, in the final paragraph, it seems to imply that Jesus Christ is some sort of root vegetable that must be excavated. Sure, you could make a case that dig' here is used in some metaphorical sense. However, I think, given the surfeit of pastoral and agrarian imagery deployed through the rest of the poem, it is reasonable to assume its literalism. That Christ is a root crop which must be dug from the earth.
Equal parts powerful, equal parts confusing.
The winner of our Prayer for the Environment is Siobhan Hayes from Ballacolla, Co Laois. @BishopDNulty @Independent_ie @CatholicBishops @RTECountryWide @RTENationwide @NPAIE @kclr96fm pic.twitter.com/onVb7Rnhnh
— K&L Diocese Ireland (@KANDLEi) September 18, 2019