Category Archives: Bishop’s Homilies

Bishop Brendan Installed as Bishop of Galway

Bishop Brendan Kelly was installed as Bishop of Galway in a very prayerful, moving and spectacular ceremony held today, February 11th, in Galway Cathedral.  Over 2000 people in attendance, including many from the diocese of Achonry.  Below is the text of Bishop Kelly’s words of welcome and his homily notes.  

Words of welcome

A phobail Dé na páirte, fáiltím romhaibh ar fad chuig Ardeaglais Muire na Deastógala agus Naomh Nioclás anseo i gCathair ársa na dTreabh.  Is aoibheann liom bhúr dteacht.

Is mór linn go bhfuil Uachtarán ar dtíre, a Shoillse Míchéal D Ó hUiginn anseo, in éineacht le bean Uí Uigín – fáilte Uí Cheallaigh agus chuile fháilte eile romhaibh.

I welcome also, representing all the people of this great city, the Mayor of Galway, Mr Pearse Flannery, along with the members of the City Council of Galway.

I welcome all the public representatives, both local and national, from the city and the various electoral areas within the diocese.

Fáiltím roimh na Priomh-Oidí Scoile atá anseo from this diocese and those representing Catholic education from Achonry.

Our brothers and sisters from other Christian churches and communions, thank you for honouring us with your presence.  An Arddeochan Gary Hastings ó séipéal ársa San Nioclás í gcroí na Cathrach, tá mile fáilte romhat.  And a most particular welcome to the Rev Andrea Wills here with her husband Charles from Foxford.  I am glad to see you both today.  I welcome also Rev Helen Freeburn from the local Presbyterian and Methodist community; Father Tudor Ghita from the Romanian Orthodox community and Abba Pauls Antony of the Coptic Church.  I am happy that we are welcoming a local Imam from the Muslim community.  What an incredibly rich and diverse religious and Christian reality in this city you represent.  I look forward to us working together for the welfare of all the people of Galway and the generations who come after us.

My brother bishops, thank you for coming, and the many priests and religious from this diocese.  A particular welcome to the priests who have come from Achonry, with whom I have had the privilege of working for the last ten years, a very special welcome to you today, I will never forget your kindness agus míle míle buíochas.

I welcome all the people who are here from the various diocesan pastoral services and the Marriage Tribunal.

I thank all the people who are here from the Diocese of Achonry.  I have been so happy living amongst you these past ten years.

I welcome the family members of recent bishops.

I welcome and have been welcomed by the priests of this diocese – my old diocese and now, again, my new diocese.  I look forward very much indeed to working with you.

Most of all though, I welcome the representatives of all the parishes of this diocese.  And I am sure the rest won’t mind if I make special mention of all those who have come from Kinvara, Coláiste Einde, Gort, Lisdoonvarna, agus An Spidéal.

I, of course, welcome my own family members and finally I welcome all my friends, some of whom have come a long distance and from overseas, and in a very particular way, I welcome all those from Faith and Light, and other services, who are so ably represented on the altar today by Jose, who began serving Mass with me over forty years ago.


Homily notes

I dtús báire … mo bhuíochas ó chroí daoibh ar fad as a bheith anseo inniu: comhluadar ós cionn dhá mhile duine le chéile ag ceiliúradh Aifreann  Dé agus ag gabháil buíochas le Dia.  We gather on this occasion to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, so we gather to prayer and worship, always an act of profound humility.  And so critical for all of us in this world of too much waste and too much want.

To pray and worship is to become our best possible selves as rational human beings.  It is for this we have been created.  And for me to be in the middle of this great wellspring means everything today.  I am so happy to be with and I thank you all, and bheirim míle moladh agus altú le Dia.

The Cathedral

I would like first of all to invite us all to become aware, in the silence, of this great structure that surrounds us, this Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas, that is giving us sanctuary this afternoon.

I invite you to feel the size, the great height, the light and the colour through the beautiful windows, as we listen to the life-giving Word, the uplifting music, aware of the strength and spaciousness, the stark beauty and the safety of this sacred place.

While still in primary school fadó, at the end of the 1950’s of the last century, myself and my sister Mary went round the byroads and townlands in the parish of Craughwell on our bicycles collecting the half-crown a week or less – whatever people could afford – to fund the building of this mighty edifice.  We enjoyed the task very much as we got to know the parish and its people.  And somehow we knew that like those contributing, we were all part of a great project. ’Twas all long before health and safety was heard of!

Teach Dé agus Teach an Phobail. House of God and of God’s people.  I could never imagine then a day like this, presiding here with so many people at this great banquet of life and joy and welcome.  God is here.  And we are here.  Meeting.  Cathedral and Church are built so that we can remember who we are and what we are for in this world.  And the immense dignity, respect and reverence that is due to every living person, regardless of ability, health, colour, size, nationality, or otherwise.  This place exists lest we forget the nobility and dignity, the wonder of human life from its tiniest origins.  It is prayer, that meeting with our Maker, that matters, all that this place invites us to, to pray and be ourselves, ‘pray – ers’.

Recently I have been asked to do quite a few interviews with journalists.  Invariably I am asked about my plans and hopes and, invariably, I find myself talking about prayer as the first thing, sitting, resting, finding the quiet and lonely place like Jesus, away from it all, time out from all the bustle and business to be silent, to reflect and be with God and Jesus, the Word and Mary, that we might recognise and become alive to God’s plan for us now.

Prayer

In a world of too much speed and debilitating stress and pressure, we need to discover prayer anew, all of us, to begin again.  And we have no shortage of places thanks to the humbler and more eternal view of the generations that went before us.  Places like this Cathedral.  Built for our restoration and healing.  For all that Jesus gave to the poor leper in answer to that desperate cry, his prayer in today’s Gospel: “If you want to, you can cure me.”  The reply is immediate, spontaneous, “Of course I want to. Be cured.”  And he was.  It is the gift of Jesus to all who come to Him.  It is when we cry from the heart that we are believers.  Faith and prayer.  You cannot have one without the other.

Thinking beyond ourselves

Back in 1965, at the opening of this great Cathedral, Cardinal Cushing of Boston asked the packed congregation, (just like today), rhetorically over and over again: “Why did you build this Cathedral?”  I remember the question resounding out, though I cannot recall any of his answers.  It is a question that I invite us all to ask ourselves today.  And let us give thanks for the generations gone before us from whom we have inherited the sustaining treasure of our Christian and Catholic Faith and the knowledge of Jesus Christ; those ancestors of ours, who built this and so many other churches in more frugal times.  They were thinking of the future, too, and the generations to come.  Thinking of us.

Do we sufficiently think of our children and those who come after us, and what sort of world are we going to leave them?

We are now commonly known and referred to, all of us, in certain circles especially, as “consumers”.  Merely that.  And there is great evidence that we have succumbed to the designation, and will leave this world as a much more desert place than we found it.  The leper today came from a deserted place.  Hordes of desperate people are clamouring at the shores of Europe today as their homelands cannot sustain them anymore, ravaged as they are by modern wars and the excess consumption of resources by the ironically titled “developed world” of which we are part, that same world that supplies all the weapons of destruction and death.  Pope Francis has written much about the cry of the poor – and of all people whose lives in their defenceless innocence and vulnerability – being under threat in these times.

We follow Jesus.  Or do we?  It is not easy today.  It never was, in fact.  He challenges and invites us to assume a responsibility that we can find too burdensome, unrealistic and even impossible.

World Day of the Sick

Today the Universal Church celebrates the World Day of the Sick.  It is also the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. ‘Twas on this day, 160 years ago, that the beautiful woman appeared to an impoverished, asthmatic, and sickly child, Bernadette, and prayed with her as she foraged in the local dump at Lourdes for firewood so her misfortunate family might be warm.  Nowadays many of us love to visit Lourdes.  We go there on pilgrimage.  It is a place where people who are sick, disabled, and utterly dependent on others, are at the centre, given the place of honour.  Wheelchairs have priority on the roads.  And it is a place of miracles, not so much physically, but miracles of the heart.  People like you and I transformed inside, discovering a new joy in giving themselves to the point of exhaustion frequently to help and support and accompany those who are in need.  We return home, like the Three Wise Men, ‘by a different way’.

The Church, the followers of Jesus, has from the beginning given the place of honour to those whose lives in their weakness and innocence are under threat.  And it is in giving life that we ourselves become all that God has made us to be.  “I try,” Saint Paul says in the second reading today, “to be helpful to everyone at all times, not anxious for my own advantage, but for the advantage of everyone else, so that they may be saved.”  He then goes on to say, “take me for your model, as I take Christ.”  If there is a programme or a plan that we must have today, it is the plan of God, already revealed in the man, Jesus, who today, on this World Day of the Sick, in our Gospel reached out to the one who was discarded and feared, and gave life … to His own terrible cost.

So, may our prayer and worship this day, together and in each heart, inspire us not to be afraid ever but rather to be renewed in our determination to joyfully love one another as Jesus loves us and gives His life still for our sake.  For that is what we are now about to celebrate in this mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

Christmas Homily

The following is the text of Bishop Brendan’s Homily – Christmas 2017.


Crib Scene Church of St Celsus, Kilkelly, Co. Mayo.

In the beginning was the Word

The Word was with God

and the Word was God….

The Word was the true light….

But the world did not know him, nor accept him… ‘He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him’

These first verses of the Gospel of St John are a reflection on the events described more concretely by St Luke which was read last night at the Midnight Mass: the story of Mary and Joseph and the Census of Caesar Augustus and they going up to Bethlehem…

‘While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger….because there was no room for them in the inn’

It’s a very succinct and matter of fact story as given by St Luke. A child is born. It’s a very common and ordinary thing. For example if we are an hour at Mass today, the estimated number of little children born into the world as we celebrate is 15,060!   [Let’s offer a little prayer for them…

What’s lovely in this story is that the child is immediately wrapped up warmly and lovingly ‘in swaddling clothes’ by his mother and laid gently to rest… but then, it’s in a ‘manger’ – the first hint of something not so normal and immediately confirmed by ‘because there was no room for them in the inn’. Not for the child or his family. Homeless. Out in the cold. ‘He came to his own domain, and his own people did not accept him’ is how St John puts it, writing in his old age, long after this Christmas infant had been executed as a criminal.

How little our world changes. Everybody knows the figures today in our own Republic. 3000 children plus without a home of their own. Along with their families

But then John goes on to tell us ‘But for all who did accept him, who believe in him, he gave power to become children of God’. What is so good and normal in the Christmas story is the Mother who wraps the infant up warm and safe in swaddling clothes. No doubt with the help of the father. As you and I were warm and safe. [So much to be thankful for]: this unexpected unplanned infant, at least as far as Mary and Joseph were initially concerned. And it is the couple alone, mother and father, that matters to the tiny mite. And their welcome and love. Isn’t that all that matters to any of us? – that there be someone who accepts us, with welcome and love and throws the blanket round us?  We heard of Mary’s fear and perplexity at the idea of her bearing a child in the Annunciation story that was yesterday morning’s Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Advent.

Not their plan, but very much God’s plan, this pregnancy and birth. The angel of God is clear to the shepherds: ‘I bring you good news of great joy for all the people’.  All the people. There is no such thing as a private birth. Each birth is surely ‘for the people’…all people…the future.  The great 17th Century English poet John Donne, speaking of death said ‘every man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee’. And in the same way we can say: Every child’s birth enhances me because I am involved in Humankind’ so never send to know for whom the great throng of the heavenly host is praising God and singing. It is for thee, for you and me and every child conceived and born.

Christmas then is wonderful not just for children but for us all and for every little baby: for each one is part of a far greater design and plan, to which each one is essential. [And when St Paul in the Second reading last night speaks in challenging terms to us all ‘we must live good and religious lives here in this present world’, this is what he is saying:] the birth of Jesus, this child for whom there was no room, proclaims to us all that we are each part in our birth of a far greater mystery and marvel than meets the eye: the mystery that is life flourishing and continuing to the greater glory of the Creator God and Father of all. The Christmas story is so loved precisely because it is all about the revelation of the wondrous mystery that is each little infant…and each one of us? Where would we be without the mystery that is the divine dimension in us? Plunged into narrow and short-sighted self-worship, a dark that needs dispelling if we and life are to thrive and blossom.

The child Jesus for whom there was no room in the inn…and for whom very often still there is no room…is very God as we sing in the great carol ‘Adeste Fideles’ (O come all ye Faithful) truly God from God and Light from Light… so we will all know who we are, and every tiny infant [and every one in our fragility] sacred and utterly worthy of our protection and care….and ‘to be wrapped in the swaddling clothes’ of love and laid gently in the manger of our hearts.

Our song this day then can only be that of the angels in the fields:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men and women who enjoy his favour”

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

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