Category Archives: Bishop’s Homilies

Ordination Homily

Bishop Brendan returned to his native diocese of Galway on Sunday July 16th to ordain the diocese’s newest priest, Fr Declan Lohan.  Declan who trained in law and had been called to The Bar, responded to God’s call to serve His people as a priest.  This is the text of Bishop Brendan’s homily.  Our own diocese wishes Fr Declan every blessing for his future ministry among God’s people in the Diocese of Galway.


Declan,

The biographical note published by Father Diarmuid for your ordination today tells us that you ‘give much credit for your vocation to the witness and example of many significant people in your life.’

The words ‘witness’ and ‘example’ leaped off the page when I read this.  I’d like us then to reflect today on the importance of witness and example.  Particularly when it comes to our task in the Church today, so emphasised by Pope Francis and all recent Popes, of spreading the word, planting the good seed.  The day is gone in Europe, and particularly in Ireland, when the dominant culture will do that for us.

It’s now 42 years since Pope Paul the Sixth (now Blessed Paul VI) made the following oft-quoted remark in his powerful exhortation on the proclamation of the gospel, Evangelii Nuntiandi :

‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’.  Example is the great teacher, for good or ill.  Children will do what I do, not what I say.  Faith is caught, not taught, and caught best when the life I live is in sync with the words I speak.  But in a particular way in these times when all institutions and traditional sources of authority and wisdom are doubted and under severe scrutiny, witness and example in the matter of faith become far more significant.  This is true for all followers of Jesus Christ, but especially for those of us called to the service of priesthood.  Such witness will expose us to opposition, even ridicule and possibly danger.  Never forget what Saint Paul says today: The spirit comes to help us in our weakness.

You go on to say Declan, that the significant people whose example and witness led you to this day were your family, your teachers, your neighbours and your friends.  These people are here today.  You yourselves know who you are.

And what you are describing, Declan, is the community of faith out of which your call from God emerged and within which it could be discerned.  Clearly this community of faith in Oranmore feels affirmed by your ordination: the sense of celebration and joy is palpable here today and rightly so.

As a priest, the witness of your life will be everything.  The rituals you perform, the clothes you will wear have their significance, but what people will see above all is the life you live, the way you relate.  And as a priest, your work will be the work of building community, community after the heart of God who is love, as revealed by Jesus Christ.  That is the community of faith that is the church.  That community always stands in need of being built and re-built (as our family homes do, and indeed our families themselves), for the community is made up of people, all of us, priests and people, imperfect and unfinished by definition – and we sin. [Isn’t that why the owner therefore in today’s Gospel cautions his over-eager servants or ministers against their plans for  purification now.]  The harvest is rich as Jesus said, and in need of labourers.  You have responded to Jesus’ appeal.  The heart of the God who is Holy Trinity longs for his children to love one another, and that’s what building the community that in his church is all about.

Pope Paul went on to say ‘It is ..primarily by her conduct and life that the church will evangelize (bring the Good News to) the world, in other words by her living witness to the Lord Jesus, the living witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in face of the powers of this world…’ 

The implements that will do the building of the community of Jesus Christ are poverty and detachment, and freedom in face of the powers of the world.  These are the implements of the priestly trade.  These were Jesus’ implements, the tools of his trade, for which at the age of thirty he laid aside the tools of his training in the carpenter’s shed at Nazareth.

You too have laid aside the trade in which you were trained, to follow Jesus as a priest, with and for the people of God in the Diocese of Galway.  Your priesthood and shepherding will be enhanced by your first training, just as the experience of being wood-worker was never lost on Jesus.  On behalf of the diocese I thank you, and thank God for inspiring you, for the quiet persistence with which he planted that good seed of your vocation and gathered you into a community in which you could hear his call.

Talking of poverty and detachment, Pope Francis, speaking to priests, religious and seminarians in Havana in September of 2015, told them ‘to love poverty like a mother’.  That’s not the message the world gives, nor any of us want to hear maybe.  And then, when you think a mother gives life and unconditional love.  Isn’t the Pope saying that it is out of our poverty and detachment that we become life-givers?

He went on then to invite them to ask themselves the question ‘How is my spirit of poverty doing?’ And ‘How is my spirit of interior detachment?’  Good questions for all of us priests as we ponder ordination today and if we are to be renewed joyfully in the call to priesthood now coming to its first fruition in Declan.  Can it be that my greatest gift or talent in this particular calling lies in the areas in which I need you and you and you who have the gifts and talents I don’t have?  The first Beatitude of Jesus – and the one that matters most – is Blessed are the poor’ as Saint Luke’s version has it, indicating something visible and Blessed are the Poor in Spirit’ in Saint Matthew’s better-known version, indicating an interior reality as well.  But never forget Saint Paul in today’s second reading: ‘The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness’.  What I lack, my poverty, leaves room for the Holy Spirit.  If I think I have it all, or should have it all, the Holy Spirit cannot get in.

And last year Pope Francis in his prayer for the Year of Mercy gave us another powerful reason to give thanks for our poverty: ‘Lord, you willed that your ministers would be clothed in weakness, in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error.  Let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved and forgiven by God’.  Declan my brother, do not ever be afraid, when you doubt yourself, feel unable or incapable, feel lost or famished.  These things are God’s gift so you can be the man of compassion like Jesus, with a heart always for the misery people experience.

The enemy of today’s parable continues to scatter his seed when the planter of the good seed is sleeping.  The field in which you will now prosper, please God, has its share of darnel, weed, in it.  Growing strong, loud at times, assertive and threatening to swallow up and smother the good wheat.  In the face of all that, you must keep your eyes on the master and owner of the field and your ears especially open to his word, above all other words and promptings.  And when that word seems dry and lifeless, remember again Paul’s words today: ‘when we cannot pray properly, the Spirit Himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words…’  Servants in the field of the Lord can panic in our day too at the seeming strength and proliferation of the darnel. ‘Do you want us to weed it out?’  Let’s clean things up now!  The owner’s concern and passion is for the good wheat: rooting out weed at this point will do damage, destroy the good wheat too.  Leave the judgment to the owner.  ‘No’, he is definite and clear.  The voice of Wisdom herself, who tells us in today’s first reading that our relationship with our fellow-men, all of them, must be governed by kindness.

The Gospel story today brings home to us – thank God – that God is patient above all else with this world he has made and all of us who are in it.  Love is patient always in the first place, because the God who is Love is patient above all.  Jesus addressed this God always as ‘Father’, as you will be Declan from today.  Patient with all things and with everybody.  Including yourself.

We’re not priests in order to fix the world, or anybody in it.  So we can relax on that score.  We are priests however because God has called us, and like him we believe for all, we hope for all, hope against hope often, and we love each one more than they do themselves, and to love too God’s field, the Church and the common home in which the God of life has planted all people, for their thriving.

Accord @ 40

“O blessed trinity of love, for whom the human heart was made, to you be praise and timeless song and everlasting homage paid” – that’s what you do when you work for Accord” (Bishop Brendan Kelly)

On Sunday, June 11th, Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at a Mass of Thanksgiving in St James’ Church, Charlestown.  Joined by priests of the diocese who, over the years, have been associated with the work of Accord within the diocese and with many of the counsellors and associates of Accord, thanks was given for the great work done over the past four decades.

Bishop Brendan spoke of the significance of the word – ACCORD – and its central role in the harmony of the home and family, whose core is marriage. He acknowledged the work done by ACCORD in preparing couples for marriage, accompanying them through it and, in some cases, offering support in the event of separation or bereavement.

Remembering members of Achonry’s Accord Team who have died over the years, there were prayers for the repose of their Souls and for God’s reward of the part they played in sustaining the Sacrament of Marriage.

“To serve marriage …. can never be anywhere but at the heart of the church”

“What is God like?” is a question we are often asked and Bishop Brendan felt that God was readily identifiable in the living of married life and, so in answer to the question, we might well be told: “Take a look and Mary and Pat, John and Margaret …” and you will see God present in the shared love and journey of married life with all its ups and downs, good days and bad, joys and sorrows.

“Love is our origin”, the bishop quoted from one of the Prefaces of Marriage, “it is our constant calling and our fulfillment in Heaven”.  Accord, in its work, supports such love and draws strength from this same love for its own journey.

The final word of course centred on “thanks” and the bishop was convinced this was not just a trite or throw away phrase.  He wanted all involved with the work of Accord, at present, in the past and into the future to know the gratitude of our diocese for the work so well done, the time so freely given and the ministry fulfilled. “We are grateful to you, we thank you and ask God to continue to bless you in your great work. Amen.”


BISHOP BRENDAN’S HOMILY

 

 

 

Eucharistic Adoration Committee Homily

Text of homily preached at Mass in St James’ Church, Charlestown to launch recently trained Diocesan Team to oversee and develop Eucharistic Adoration in the Diocese of Achonry.


The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen”, the first Reading today tells us.

After that,  in the Gospel, we find that when Mary of Magdala told the disciples that Jesus had appeared to her, “they did not believe her when they heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him”.

Neither did the rest of the apostles believe their two companions who said they had met Jesus on the road.

Incredulity and obstinacy” the Gospel today tells us, is what Jesus himself encountered in the eleven. And yet – to these doubting, unbelieving and obstinate men he entrusted his entire mission:

Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation!”

People who were considered “uneducated laymen”!

There is a depth and a mystery here that is worth pondering. And particularly in the light of what we are doing here today, what we are beginning: the commissioning of a Diocesan Eucharistic Adoration Committee, made up entirely of laymen and women.

Pope Francis never ceases to emphasise that the mission of the Church is not, and never has been that of Clergy and Religious only. It is entrusted to ALL believers.

Declaring one person ‘better’ or more ‘elevated’ than another is not in Jesus’ way of seeing things. We don’t all have the same mission. But we all have THE mission and we are ALL missionaries. Like Mary of Magdala, we are called to share the Good News, our own experience of faith, what we have heard and seen.

You are people who have come to a deep appreciation of the Holy Eucharist. You’ve come to love silence and adoration, spending time before the Blessed Sacrament. You are now assuming responsibility for this practice throughout our parishes with the blessing of the diocese and the Bishop. What you love is your gift and is now your mission. ‘How much children and young people long to be led into reverence, and to stillness’, a secondary school teacher said to me recently. And it is so critical that we do lead people to stillness and reverence, to adoration: it will redress the balance in a world where there is far too much careless exploitation of people and of mother earth. All that the church stands for and that Jesus stands for has much to do with reverence and respect: looking at, marveling and enjoying, never just using or consuming. The utilitarian attitude is destroying people and our world. Everything we stand for as Christians and as Church particularly in the matter of caring for the sick and disabled, and in the teaching we propose on sexuality, human relationships, and fidelity – all of these are entirely connected to the attitude of reverence and respect which Jesus proposes. This is the attitude Eucharistic Adoration nurtures. It was never so badly needed in the world.

The Holy Eucharist is foundational and central to the Christian scheme of things. It is the summit and the source of all Christian life, as the Second Vatican Council pointed out. You are people who have come to appreciate this. And so you are men and women of prayer, contemplation and adoration. As members of this committee, committed to Eucharistic Adoration, you do yourselves what you show to others and will now lead them to, please God, all over our diocese.  Eucharistic Adoration has the power to transform our diocese, our parishes and our homes, too, and all our relationships.

And as you adore, please pray for vocations. We need the priesthood, if we are to have the Eucharist and if the deep longing for Eucharist which lives in the hearts of all true believers is to be satisfied.

Day for Religious

Earlier today, (February 5th) we gathered with the Religious of the Diocese to celebrate the Feast of The Presentation in The Temple (took place earlier this week) and to pray for the Religious.  Sisters from the various communities in the diocese attended along with a number of our priests.

Bishop Brendan spoke about today’s Gospel on the theme of Salt and Light and acknowledged the great work done by the Religious in Achonry diocese through the years. Acknowledging too the age profile of the gathering he reflected on the role of prayer now in our lives.  He spoke of the bishops’ recent meeting with Pope Francis and that he too spoke of the need for prayer around and for vocations and the future of our church. The bishop suggested that we might have something of the time required now, as the abiliity for day to day work diminishes to focus our prayer lives.

Didn’t take many photographs but posted a few clips and tweets on our twitter account @achonrydiocese

OPENING HYMN

RENEWAL OF CONSECRATION

THE MAGNIFICAT

CLOSING PRAYER

Baptism of The Lord

Homily given in Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghderreen, by Bishop Brendan Kelly on the Feast of The Baptism of The Lord and in light of the news that Syrian Refugees are to be re-located to Ballaghaderreen.


‘The truth I have now come to realise’ St Peter says in the house of the Gentile Cornelius, ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him’.

I find these words from the second reading today very striking in the light of the news that refugees from Syria will be housed amongst us, and that that will be happening soon.

Many people were interviewed by media here on Friday, and it was so good to hear over and over that we will welcome these people whose terrible suffering we have witnessed for years now on our television screens. This deep compassion for the people who will come was, as one paper put it, mixed with a sense of exasperation that there had been no consultation with the people locally.

One person who was interviewed described Syria very appropriately as ‘St Paul’s country’. Yes, sometimes the sacred scripture becomes alive and real and very close to us. Our own history of famine and emigration comes alive and close too at moments like this.  People were saying that too in the reports from Ballaghaderreen.

I am struck too by the fact that we celebrated the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus at Bethlehem on the very day this surprise announcement was made: We know that as soon as the Wise men had left them, Mary and Joseph had to gather up whatever they could and take flight with their infant, Jesus, becoming refugees in Egypt. After the Wise Men had left ‘the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt…for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him”’ (Mt 2:13).

Just as Jesus identified with the most impoverished and rejected people in being born in a shed, and with the condemned and criminals in dying on the cross, so he identifies with all refugees, and all endangered, innocent and helpless people. It is our faith that Jesus comes to us in them. And so must we  reach out to help in whatever way we can … It’s a big challenge, but we are up for it, please God.

Today, this first Sunday of the Year, is the feast of the Baptism of Jesus. Every one of us too is baptised. In baptism we identify with Jesus. ‘This is my son, my daughter’ the voice of the Father declares of each person who is baptised, as He did of Jesus. We are each of us beloved of the Father, sharing that relationship with Jesus by adoption as it were.  Today is a day for us to remember this fact, and to look again at all that Baptism is, and what our identity now as brother, sister of Jesus means for our lives and attitudes.

And this has implications for how we see all other people…and particularly those who are different and who are victims of the hatred, inhumanity and terror so widespread in our times. For us as for Jesus, all people are fundamentally children of God, his beloved sons or daughters…whether they know it or not, whether they accept it or not. This is how we see them and treat them. Each one a gift of God to us, to the world…each one having the capability of being gift.

We have had a long tradition of men and women going out to faraway places to serve people who are very different to ourselves…missionaries of the Love of God, wanting to serve them in whatever way they could.

More and more that call is at home. ‘My neighbour is all mankind, even those who injure me or differ from me in religion’, many of us learned in the old catechism years ago. God does not have favourites, as St Peter tells us today. May that same God, present as Father Son and Holy Spirit at the Baptism of Jesus and at all our baptisms, enable us now and always to be good neighbours…and particularly to people who are new amongst us.

AMEN

Christmas Prayer

A Christmas Reflection

‘Do you have a prayer for me this Christmas?’ the question came on the phone.

A prayer I’d like to make for all of us this Christmas goes something like this:

May the birth of the Christ-child be a blessing for each one, and for every one of our families. May  the sight of the Crib be a source of new hope and of joy for all our hearts: there is so much more to this family ‘for whom there was no room’ than meets the eye.

Family is at the heart of Christmas from the very beginning.  Family and home. This is one reason why we love the Christmas. We long to be home at Christmas and we all long for home. May that deep longing be fulfilled for each of us.

Our Holy Father’s Prayer to the Holy Family stands beside the Crib in every Church in the country this year as we begin our journey of preparation for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin at the end of August 2018. Please God, we will welcome Pope Francis himself amongst us for that occasion. He is as passionate about family as he is about mercy, to which he had this past year dedicated in the Church. Let us each pray this Prayer to the Holy Family from Christmas Day on, and with our families best of all.

For many people Christmas is a time when pain, loss and loneliness are all the sharper. Often home and family do not live up to our longing, or only do so very imperfectly. We all know this. We are made of such fragile and delicate stuff : is that why He came amongst us as a tiny baby? And in extreme poverty?

Family nevertheless is central to God’s design, and imaged in our deep hearts’ core. ‘It is not good for the human person to be alone’. Family is necessary. That’s the story of Christmas, God’s story from the beginning, and ours.

Isn’t it because of this deep need for the communion of family that the gift-giving, the greetings and the good wishes pre-occupy our preparations? Even if we go overboard, and the commercial takes too much space, somewhere the best of us is being played out too at the prompting of Christmas.

In a world still plagued by violence and unwelcome, by unspeakable terror and inhumanity, Christmas will not let us forget the goodness that is in us, and rekindles every year the warm flames of care and love that makes us our best selves, and calls us to be family. To be human is to be good. In the Creation story, after he had created man and woman, God looked and saw that what he had created was not just ‘good’, like the rest of his creation, but ‘very good’. Jesus was born lest we forget that fundamental goodness that is in us. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us. In human flesh and blood like us.

 God is born to us in the little Child in the manger…and by extension in every child and person consigned in our 21st Century to the outhouse of life. But he is born too every time we choose generosity and welcome, eschewing fear, sharing what we have, and trusting in the future precisely because it is in God’s hands, he who is our merciful Father.

As we pray then for all who are suffering and unable to really celebrate Christmas, we also give thanks to God for the wondrous generosity and self-giving that marks this time: together these two realities make Christmas, in the light of Jesus born for us on Calvary as at Bethlehem, a sacred season. And praying together, even if separated, we are family. Family of God.

Nollaig mhaith go raibh agaibh ar fad.

+Brendan Kelly

Bishop of Achonry

Sisters of St Louis Kiltimagh

On Sunday, October 9th 2016, Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at Mass in Kiltimagh.  The Mass was one of thanksgiving and farewell for the Sisters of St Louis, whose long link with Kiltimagh has come to an end.  Below is the text of the homily preached by Bishop Brendan on this sad but memorable occasion for the parish and the Sisters of St Louis.


St Louis Secondary School, Kiltimagh

St Louis Secondary School, Kiltimagh

Go mbeannaí Dia dhaoibh a phobail dílis Dé Choillte Mách. Is maith bheith libh inniu ar an ócaid buíoch, brónach, stairiúil seo: Slán le Siúracha Naomh Lughaidh.

I’m happy to be with you today for this Mass of Thanksgiving for the immense, immeasurable and irreplaceable contribution of the Sisters of St Louis to this parish and its people over one hundred and nineteen years. Our theme can only be thanksgiving, but it is tinged with a deep sense of sadness. The loss of a praying community, consecrated to God and to the welfare of his people, particularly the most needy, that loss to this parish and to the entire diocese is a great one.

The Gospel today is apt for the occasion. The leper who came back to Jesus when he found himself cured ‘threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him’

That is exactly what we are doing here today in this Mass, metaphorically: throwing ourselves at the feet of Jesus and thanking him for 119 years of the dedicated service and faithful presence of the Sisters of St Louis in our midst, as parish and diocese. In doing so we throw ourselves too at your feet, sisters, in deep gratitude to you and all those St Louis Sisters who have served here all the way back to the arrival here of the first six sisters on the 14th of September, 1897.

The person responsible for what a newspaper of the day called ‘the home-bringing’ of the nuns to Kiltimagh was the great Fr Denis O Hara. The paper goes on to report that the ‘good nuns of St Louis’ arrived ‘amid the prayers and blessings of priests and people’…referring to the crowd that had gathered at the station to greet the sisters and accompany them to the new convent Fr Denis had had built for them. Today, the prayers and blessings of priests and people now accompany the final departure of the nuns, though these prayers and blessings are accompanied now more with sadness than celebration.

Today is October 9th, the feast of St Denis, when the girls in the St Louis Secondary school always got a free day. Such was the respect in which Fr Denis was always held and remembered by the sisters. I like to think that it’s no mere coincidence that we happen to be giving thanks to God for the sisters on this day. It is most surely the hand of Providence giving us a sign. What is happening now in October 2016 regarding the sisters and this parish is all part of God’s providential design. May we be able to discern truly its meaning for this parish and for the sisters in this year of Our Lord, 2016. That calls for deep faith and trust in the eternal wisdom and goodness of God towards us.

Around the time Fr Denis came here in 1887 as PP, a newspaper of the day described Kiltimagh as a ‘ruined hamlet of thatched hovels’. Fr Denis immediately set about improving the lot of the people. Within two years of his arrival, this magnificent Church was built and consecrated. By the time he convinced the Sisters of St Louis in Monaghan to come here in 1897 and provide education for girls, Fr Denis had been instrumental in establishing six primary schools in the parish, bringing the railway to Kiltimagh, in forcing landlords to lower rents. He was a steadfast in his support of Michael Davitt and the Land League, for the sake of the impoverished tenants.

But no project was dearer to this good man’s heart than convincing the St Louis sisters in Monaghan to come here. Fr Denis could see the value of an education for the local women and girls as part of his great dream of lifting the people here out of poverty, giving new hope and creating new opportunities for them, thus enabling them to cope and contribute confidently to building of family, community and society, be that at home or as emigrants, for emigration was the destiny of many from these parts.

Fr Denis chose well. Over the subsequent years, the sisters took charge first of the new girls primary school, then established the Technical school for women and girls, where practical skills – dressmaking, laundry, poultry-keeping and finer arts like lace-making were taught. Within 4 weeks of its opening, 80 girls and women were enrolled. The sisters travelled all around the area on foot encouraging and inviting the young ladies of the area to come. Then St Philomena’s boarding school was established, and soon acquired a reputation for excellence in education that was nation-wide. Later on in the 30’s a highly successful commercial school was established. Along with all of that the sisters were discreetly and always available to help people in their need and poverty, in whatever way they could.
It’s an extraordinary story of extraordinary achievement that must not be forgotten. It arouses a deep sense of admiration but most of all of gratitude in any decent heart. Such stories need telling and remembering in these days when a sense of unearned entitlement so often takes all the space and the capacity for generosity, service, self-sacrifice is not awakened and called forth in men and women. The question for us all now is how can these qualities, so evident in the story of the sisters of St Louis be enkindled and ignited in this generation? This is where a new evangelisation, a new connecting with the greatest story of hope ever lived, the story of Jesus, is called for. For it was out of faith in Jesus, and joyful intimacy with his word and way that the story and the contribution of the Sisters of St Louis in Kiltimagh was born and sustained over so many decades.

The changes that occurred from the 1960’s on – the government more and more taking responsibility for education and social welfare, free education, growing material prosperity, the opening up to the world that came with television, cheaper transport etc., saw the sisters adjusting – coeducation, decline in need for Boarding schools etc. Eventually the amalgamation with Scoil Raftearaí took place and the St Louis Community School was born. Vocations to the sisterhood declined and gradually the sisters withdrew, quietly and without fanfare or fuss, as always accepting the new and emerging reality as part of God’s mysterious plan.

And so we come to this day. This moment of Farewell. I’d like to quote what one of the sisters has written: ‘The sisters have given much, but they received much too in this community of Kiltimagh. It has been their home and a place of friendships, kindnesses, support, being church together and part of a community, especially in these latter years in Cordarragh. Many sisters are buried here, both in the former convent cemetery and in Kilkenure in the past 20 years.’ In other words, they are part forever of the story of this parish and community and for that are deeply grateful.

The story of the sisters here is one, like that of Fr Denis O Hara who brought them here, of building and serving the great ideal and command of Jesus: be community, not just individual. Build communion, that most holy thing. Servants of unity…of what Jesus prayed for at the very end: that they may all be one. The wisdom of God lives in lives that are faithful to his word: that is how that unity, that communion, is formed and grows. These were the values set in place by the founders of the St Louis story in France one hundred years exactly – 1797- before they came to Kiltimagh.

AS we look back today, sisters, over your presence here for 119 years, we see how faithfully you carried out and lived your founding ideals. Our hearts are full of gratitude then at this Mass as we remember, and we give God thanks for you. And as we pray his blessing on each and every one of you. This community, this parish, this diocese will not forget.

The Samaritan leper came back, we are told today. Crying out the praise of God, threw himself at the feet of Jesus, and thanked him. So do we thank God and thank you as we now celebrate this Holy Eucharist.

Day for Life 2016

Bishop Brendan’s Homily Cathedral of Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghaderreen

Day for Life 2016

dayforlife16

“Everything is Connected” Day for Life 2016


‘Lord, increase our faith!’ the apostles plead with Jesus today. Jesus is right there with them, yet their faith is weak: why then are we surprised and shaken by the doubts that keep coming?… ‘The line between belief and unbelief runs through each one of us’ the great Cardinal Martini of Milan said. He’s right. The fact is that doubt and faith go together. Questions constantly arise within us. We live in ‘an ocean of uncertainty’, as Pope Benedict once said, so doubt is normal for the believer. It’s part of being human.

And it can help to keep us grounded…

At the end of a certain football match yesterday evening, you will have noticed the members of a certain team disappointed, inconsolable, tears flowing from these big men….and no doubt full of questions and doubts… as they lay there disconsolate in defeat. Grounded. Renewal, strengthening of faith will now be necessary. A constant process… for footballers even. But definitively for followers of Jesus.

What’s wonderful in the Gospel passage we’ve just heard, is what Jesus goes on to say next… It’s a parable… about a master and his servant: the point it makes is simple, clear: We, men and women of faith, followers of Jesus, are to be servants, not masters. To follow Jesus means to surrender to the ‘Higher Power’, as the people in addiction recovery call him. Jesus – and we – call him ‘Father’. We are his servants, and therefore servants of each other, servants of his creation, servants of life. Never using others or the earth as if it were for me alone, or my generation. But serving and therefore con-serving. Putting ourselves at the service of God, of his creation is what it means to be a man or woman of faith. Our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our whole life…for others and that they may live and blossom. That’s the story of Jesus, the mystery of salvation we celebrate in the Mass.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, was in Georgia yesterday. There are very few Catholics in that country. 87% of the people however are Orthodox Christians. Pope Francis was welcomed in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Georgia by the Orthodox Patriarch. It’s a very ancient building, and in it is preserved the greatest Christian treasure of Georgia: the reputed Seamless Garment of which Jesus was stripped before his Crucifixion. It is the most sacred treasure of the Christian community in that country.

The Christian and Catholic attitude to Life…human life first and foremost…is that we treat it as a seamless garment. In its every manifestation, conception to natural death, life is a seamless robe. No matter how weak, malformed or immature, we respect and treasure it. We do not strip the sacred garment of life away from any human entity. This is a demanding responsibility and a duty we believe is ours as children of God, made in his image. A duty that costs, severely. But we are servants, our lives given for others, especially the weakest and most needy. We see ourselves as family, sharing a common home, thus caring for human life…and for all life… on this earth that is our common home. We are dependent on one another and on the earth. Independence in any absolute sense is a dangerous illusion and a threat to the common welfare, not just of humanity, but of the whole of mother earth.

Today’s Message for this Day for Life quotes Pope Francis: ‘It is our duty’, the Holy Father tells us in Laudato Si, to ‘pay special attention to the most vulnerable.’ He goes on, ‘Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.’ (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ 117)

Last night on the Television they were reviewing the All-Ireland, and the whole football year. The most moving and striking moment caught on camera during the All-Ireland series this year was after Waterford’s All Ireland hurling semi-final defeat by Kilkenny. The fine Waterford player Pauric Mahony was slumped on the ground distraught after his team’s defeat by Kilkenny. And the camera showed a young woman dressed in a Kilkenny jersey bending right down to him, hand gently on his back, comforting him, so moved is she by his distress. This lovely Kilkenny woman has Down’s Syndrome. One of the conditions nowadays diagnosed in the womb. Up to 90% of such diagnoses in some ‘developed’ countries today results in abortion.

But that moment after the Hurling semi-final in Thurles this year trumped every other moment in the GAA All-Ireland series this year. What a gift the life of this young woman is! Reminding us all of what is most important, and what we are here for on this earth: to care, to comfort, to cherish and to love. And it is the littlest ones who show us the way. May we cherish and care for them…and never in our laws or otherwise deliberately endanger or abandon them.

Lord, increase our faith….

AMEN

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