A stag party had an unusual first stop in Edinburgh this month – a Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral.
When a picture of the occasion was posted on the cathedral’s Facebook page, it was liked and shared by hundreds of people. Many wrote messages congratulating the couple and praising the groom’s example.
Conor Gildea, 24, said that when he and his friends began to talk about the day it seemed like a natural first thing to do.
He and friends at Glasgow University, where he is training to be an RE teacher, “often go to Mass together as a group”, he explained.
The Mass was celebrated for Gildea’s intentions. “To have all my friends there praying with me and for me – it was amazing. It gave me a lot of encouragement in the preparation for marriage.”
“To go to Mass exactly a week before was quite important for me to prepare spiritually,” Gildea said.
He explained that some at the stag party were “quite surprised” at the itinerary. They had not been to Mass since school and so found it a “bit bizarre” that they were returning to Mass on a stag do.
But Gildea said it resulted in interesting chats later in the day. “They wondered why it was so important for us to go to Mass,” he said. For them, he explained, it had been something they had been forced into at school.
The conversation came round to how the faith was “based on a personal encounter with Christ” and that the Blessed Sacrament was “the most profound way to encounter him.”
“If you believe he was present in the Blessed Sacrament,” said Gildea, “why would you not want to encounter him every day? Why would that not be a great way to start any day, even a stag do?”
His non-Mass-going friends “might not have agreed with it but they could see the rationale behind it”, he said.
Later they had lunch and a few drinks and watched some of the Celtic match.
Gildea and his fiancee Naomi, a music graduate, were married a week later at the Glasgow University Catholic chaplaincy. At the time of writing they were on honeymoon in Rome.