Category Archives: Bishop’s Homilies

Bishop Eamonn Casey Funeral

The following is the text of the homily preached by Bishop Brendan Kelly at the Funeral Mass for the Late Bishop Eamonn Casey, R.I.P.

“Indeed I promise you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

These are amongst the loveliest words that Jesus spoke. Is there a man or a woman amongst us who wouldn’t love to hear them spoken to us; the promise, the assurance, our deepest hope fulfilled? … Paradise!

May we hear these words today, and may we be as humble, honest and repentant as the man hanging on another cross beside Jesus.

With God, all things are possible. All healing, all reconciliation, all peace. This is where we believers take our stand. And this is why when we come together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we always begin with where we ourselves are at. We begin on our knees, aware of our sin… heart sorrowful and repentant.

This must apply in the first place to those of us entrusted by the Holy Spirit with a greater responsibility in the service of God’s people. I speak of those of us who are priests and bishops particularly. Saint Patrick sixteen hundred years ago began his Confessio with the words, ‘I am Patrick, a sinner…’. Pope Francis too is deeply aware of this truth. When asked at the beginning of his Petrine ministry, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” After a pause he said quietly, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech. I am a sinner”. He later added, “but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ”. So must we.

Eamonn Casey, whose mortal remains are with us today in this Cathedral, had a long life as priest and bishop. He did much good. As a young priest with the Emigrant Mission in London, he enabled many young couples to acquire their first home, to rise out of tenements and homelessness and thereby anchor their families in positive community environments. Later, back in Ireland, as bishop, in Kerry first and then in Galway, he acquired an even bigger profile as a man of energy and initiative. He was a doer. Not just within his dioceses, but on the national and international scene with the development, from 1973, of Trocáire, and as a defender of the rights of people who were oppressed and poor. He is particularly remembered for his courage as he attended dozens of stricken people when soldiers opened fire and many people were killed and injured at Archbishop – now ‘Blessed’ - Oscar Romero’s funeral in San Salvador in March 1980.

There are those of us who remember, with gratitude, his kindness and encouragement when personally we most needed it.

Then 25 years ago, the emergence into the light of other hidden realities in his life, beginning with the fact that he had a son, Peter, were profoundly upsetting for the Church and for people in general.

This is neither the time nor the place to go over the details which in any case are very well known, not only in Ireland, but all over the world. Yes, we are all sinners, but irresponsibility, infidelity and sin are particularly shocking in the lives of those who preach the Gospel. In 1992 Bishop Eamonn resigned and left the country. He expressed his sorrow many times, apologised and asked for forgiveness. He spent a number of years working on the missions in South America, and later in the south of England, before eventually coming home to live in Shanaglish, Co Galway.

But people had been hurt and wounded … wounds that do not always heal easily or quickly. We remember these people too today. We acknowledge their suffering. We pray for continued healing and peace for them.

Bishop Casey’s health deteriorated further on Ash Wednesday, the day on which believers make their way to churches to receive the mark of the ashes on their forehead. “Dust you are, to dust you shall return.” The road to Calvary begins. We walk that hard road with Jesus through Lent, recognising our own need for redemption and committed with him by the repentance the ashes signifies, to the Father’s saving project for all people. Ash Wednesday this year marked the beginning of the last stage in Bishop Eamonn’s life journey.

Calvary though is not the end for Jesus. Neither is Calvary the end for those who take Jesus’ word to heart today and follow him. Not because we don’t fail again and again, we do and we will, but because we trust in that same promise of Jesus to the repentant sinner on the cross beside him: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. Mercy has the last word on Calvary and for all who, like that ‘good thief’, turn to Jesus in faith. May it be so for Eamonn Casey and for all of us. For that we pray today. In that Good News we put our trust.

Suaimhneas síoraí tabhair dó, a Thiarna, agus go lonnraí an solas bhuan mharthanach air. Go bhfaighe a anam, agus anamnacha na bhfírein uile trócaire ó Dhia agus cónaí faoi shíocháin. Améin.

Calvary though is not the end for Jesus. Neither is Calvary the end for those who take Jesus’ word to heart today and follow him. Not because we don’t fail again and again, we do and we will, but because we trust in that same promise of Jesus to the repentant sinner on the cross beside him: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. Mercy has the last word on Calvary and for all who, like that ‘good thief’, turn to Jesus in faith. May it be so for Eamonn Casey and for all of us. For that we pray today. In that Good News we put our trust.

+Brendan Kelly

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

Mission Sunday 2016

missionsunday16

MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS
FOR WORLD MISSION DAY 2016

Missionary Church, Witness of Mercy

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which the Church is celebrating, casts a distinct light on World Mission Sunday 2016: it invites us to consider the missio ad gentes as a great, immense work of mercy, both spiritual and material. On this World Mission Sunday, all of us are invited to “go out” as missionary disciples, each generously offering their talents, creativity, wisdom and experience in order to bring the message of God’s tenderness and compassion to the entire human family. By virtue of the missionary mandate, the Church cares for those who do not know the Gospel, because she wants everyone to be saved and to experience the Lord’s love. She “is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel” (Misericordiae Vultus, 12) and to proclaim mercy in every corner of the world, reaching every person, young or old.

When mercy encounters a person, it brings deep joy to the Father’s heart; for from the beginning the Father has lovingly turned towards the most vulnerable, because his greatness and power are revealed precisely in his capacity to identify with the young, the marginalized and the oppressed (cf. Deut 4:31; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 111:4). He is a kind, caring and faithful God who is close to those in need, especially the poor; he involves himself tenderly in human reality just as a father and mother do in the lives of their children (cf. Jer 31:20). When speaking of the womb, the Bible uses the word that signifies mercy: therefore it refers to the love of a mother for her children, whom she will always love, in every circumstance and regardless of what happens, because they are the fruit of her womb. This is also an essential aspect of the love that God has for all his children, whom he created and whom he wants to raise and educate; in the face of their weaknesses and infidelity, his heart is overcome with compassion (cf. Hos 11:8). He is merciful towards all; his love is for all people and his compassion extends to all creatures (cf. Ps 144:8-9).

Mercy finds its most noble and complete expression in the Incarnate Word. Jesus reveals the face of the Father who is rich in mercy; he “speaks of [mercy] and explains it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all he himself makes it incarnate and personifies it” (John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 2). When we welcome and follow Jesus by means of the Gospel and sacraments, we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, become merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful; we can learn to love as he loves us and make of our lives a free gift, a sign of his goodness (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 3). The Church, in the midst of humanity, is first of all the community that lives by the mercy of Christ: she senses his gaze and feels he has chosen her with his merciful love. It is through this love that the Church discovers its mandate, lives it and makes it known to all peoples through a respectful dialogue with every culture and religious belief.

This merciful love, as in the early days of the Church, is witnessed to by many men and women of every age and condition. The considerable and growing presence of women in the missionary world, working alongside their male counterparts, is a significant sign of God’s maternal love. Women, lay and religious, and today even many families, carry out their missionary vocation in various forms: from announcing the Gospel to charitable service. Together with the evangelizing and sacramental work of missionaries, women and families often more adequately understand people’s problems and know how to deal with them in an appropriate and, at times, fresh way: in caring for life, with a strong focus on people rather than structures, and by allocating human and spiritual resources towards the building of good relations, harmony, peace, solidarity, dialogue, cooperation and fraternity, both among individuals and in social and cultural life, in particular through care for the poor.

In many places evangelization begins with education, to which missionary work dedicates much time and effort, like the merciful vine-dresser of the Gospel (cf. Lk 13:7-9; Jn 15:1), patiently waiting for fruit after years of slow cultivation; in this way they bring forth a new people able to evangelize, who will take the Gospel to those places where it otherwise would not have been thought possible. The Church can also be defined as “mother” for those who will one day have faith in Christ. I hope, therefore, that the holy people of God will continue to exercise this maternal service of mercy, which helps those who do not yet know the Lord to encounter and love him. Faith is God’s gift and not the result of proselytizing; rather it grows thanks to the faith and charity of evangelizers who witness to Christ. As they travel through the streets of the world, the disciples of Jesus need to have a love without limits, the same measure of love that our Lord has for all people. We proclaim the most beautiful and greatest gifts that he has given us: his life and his love.

All peoples and cultures have the right to receive the message of salvation which is God’s gift to every person. This is all the more necessary when we consider how many injustices, wars, and humanitarian crises still need resolution. Missionaries know from experience that the Gospel of forgiveness and mercy can bring joy and reconciliation, justice and peace. The mandate of the Gospel to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20) has not ceased; rather this command commits all of us, in the current landscape with all its challenges, to hear the call to a renewed missionary “impulse”, as I noted in my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (20).

This Jubilee year marks the 90th anniversary of World Missionary Day, first approved by Pope Pius XI in 1926 and organized by the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. It is appropriate then to recall the wise instructions of my Predecessors who ordered that to this Society be destined all the offerings collected in every diocese, parish, religious community, association and ecclesial movement throughout the world for the care of Christian communities in need and for supporting the proclamation of the Gospel even to the ends of the earth. Today too we believe in this sign of missionary ecclesial communion. Let us not close our hearts within our own particular concerns, but let us open them to all of humanity.

May Holy Mary, sublime icon of redeemed humanity, model of missionaries for the Church, teach all men, women and families, to foster and safeguard the living and mysterious presence of the Risen Lord in every place, he who renews personal relationships, cultures and peoples, and who fills all with joyful mercy.

From the Vatican, 15 May 2016, Solemnity of Pentecost

FRANCIS

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

Brendan McCarrick S.A.C.

Fr Brendan McCarrick, S.A.C. was ordained to the priesthood on Sunday July 24th.  The Ordination was celebrated in Brendan’s home parish of Mullinabreena and the Ordaining Bishop was Bishop Brendan Kelly.

Accompanied in prayer by his family, neighbours, friends, priests of the Pallottine Order (S.A.C.) as well as many of our own diocesan priests and religious, Brendan answered “Yes” to God’s call to Service.  We wish him every happiness and blessing in his ministry.

Fr Brendan’s first assignment will be in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.

Below is the text of Bishop Brendan’s homily.

HOMILY

“‘Samuel, Samuel’, the Lord called. And Samuel answered, ‘Here I am’!”

‘Brendan, Brendan’, the Lord called.

 ‘Let Brendan McCarrick who is to be ordained priest come forward’, we just heard.

And you answered ‘Present’ – Here I am!

Samuel heard the call. So did Brendan

But it took Samuel three attempts before he knew how to answer.

As you yourself know, Brendan, it’s one thing to hear the call, but how exactly to answer can take time (and a number of attempts!)

Discernment takes time and persistence…and the help of the wisdom of an Eli.

So now you know how you must answer.

And it hasn’t changed over the centuries and two testaments, for those called to priesthood:

Its fundamentally a matter of attitude, an attitude lived obediently:

The attitude in the response given by the old priest Eli:

‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’.

This first reading is the one you wanted yourself today, Brendan. It’s a wonderful, challenging and appropriate reading, for today and surely for the rest of your life.

‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’…surely the motto to guide any man who would wish to serve as a priest of God, and to bind himself forever as a servant of God and of God’s people, and specifically within the society of the Catholic Apostolate of St Vincent Pallotti.

In the Collect of this Ordination Mass, we prayed: ‘Lord our God, grant a persevering obedience to your will to this deacon, (Brendan,) so that by his ministry and life, he may gain glory for you in Christ’.

But no glory for yourself. That’s the call. Fundamentally to humility, which is acquired only in the furnace of humiliation,  and in the obedience which you solemnly promise today, not just to God and his Word, but also, in a few moments, to your human superiors.

We live in a world that doesn’t always understand the value that is obedience, but we follow Jesus, whose path was one of ‘humbling himself and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross’. That path was prefigured in the life of Samuel, whose call, like yours, Brendan was primarily one of listening to God and his word ‘Speak Lord…’

I would like to think therefore that it is providential for you that you come to ordination on this Sunday when the Church gives us all the Gospel we have just heard. This moment when, touched by the example he was witnessing, one  of Jesus’ disciples asked him ‘Lord teach us to pray…’  The disciple of Jesus is a person who longs to pray, a person who sees that somewhere somehow prayer is the foundation of all that Jesus was, all he did, all he spoke. Prayer is the wellspring of all Christian life, this was the example Jesus showed, and those who wish to exercise the apostolate of Jesus Christ, particularly as priests, cannot do so unless their every day, their whole being and every word they utter is founded on prayer. The people of God expect this of us and deserve it, and prayer is the first service we render to them and for them. It’s why you will live in community as a Pallotine, so that you will be encouraged and called into prayer, the only foundation on which Christian communion can be built, by your brothers.

The word priest means ‘mediator’…one who speaks on behalf of others, who in our case as ministerial priests speak to God for our people, our world, ourselves. So that all may be one as Jesus pleaded before his death. Our example is crucial, as was Jesus’ example for his disciples, so that they in their turn might embrace that common priestly baptismal call to be men and women of prayer.

But prayer is also, and primarily what Eli the old priest knew, about listening to God, time with the one who loves us first, pondering his word with Mary. ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’

So, Brendan, from now on your life will not be your own. It will be given… as indeed others give themselves in marriage, for example. And in so far as it is fully given, your example will be the most powerful and effective way that you will inspire, support and serve others…as with Jesus in today’s Gospel.

In this context of the given life, I’d like to recall the Testament of Christian de Chergé, the extraordinary abbot of the Monastery of Tibherine in Algeria who was kidnapped and assassinated along with six of his Cistercian brothers in March 1996. The Testament, written in a letter to be opened after his death, begins as follows:

  ‘If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.’ [Christian de Chergé]

As priests, all our lives are given. To God and to the people we are sent to serve. It is a way of great personal fulfilment…not without struggle and pain…and it is a call from Jesus, worthwhile and entirely necessary in the world of today.

We are told that from the moment he gave the answer ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening’, Samuel ‘let no word of the Lord’s fall to the ground’.

May that be so for you, Brendan, and you will be a happy priest, given to God and to his people, as Samuel was, – and Jesus – and Vincent Pallotti.

Centenary of Straide Parish Church

Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Straide, Co. Mayo 1916-2016

Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Straide, Co. Mayo
1916-2016

The centenary of the opening of the Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Straide, is being celebrated this year. On Sunday June 26th, the Parish Community of Straide joined in a Mass of Thanksgiving.  Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at this special gathering and the text of his homily is printed here.


First of all, I just want to say how good it is to be here with you on this very special occasion for the parish and for this community of Faith. Thank you for inviting me.

‘As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the Road for Jerusalem’.

The road for Jerusalem. The meaning of the name Jerusalem is ‘City of Peace’. So, for the people of Israel, Jerusalem was no ordinary city. It was much more. The city of Jerusalem symbolised that place of peace every human person longs for in ‘the deep heart’s core’. This is why their religion demanded of them that they make the journey regularly.  We all know, for example, that Mary and Joseph brought their new baby Jesus up to the Temple to present him to the Lord. The Jewish religion, like our own Christian Faith is all about enabling men and women fulfil that deepest longing for peace that’s planted in our human hearts and psyche.

No wonder Jesus set his face for Jerusalem. He preaches and teaches primarily by example. He shows you and I the road to peace. That’s the deeper meaning of these words today. Jesus took the Road to Jerusalem resolutely: regardless of personal cost…which we know could not have been higher, for Jerusalem became the place where he will be rejected, crucified and was put to death

When we gather to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, what we are doing is remembering and celebrating that cost: Passion and death – and the Resurrection, the new life that passion and death bought for us all. ‘He made peace by the blood of the Cross’ St Paul tells us. That’s the mystery on which our Christian faith is founded

When we Christian Catholic people build a church we do so primarily in order to provide a suitable place in which to celebrate the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, which is the great Memorial that brings that pivotal Paschal moment of Jesus’ life in Jerusalem alive. It was for us that Jesus went through the passion and death that brought him to Resurrection in Jerusalem, for our sake, to show us the way to peace

For a community of men and women who profess Christian Faith therefore, a church is essential. It is our little Jerusalem, our place for the Eucharist, place of peace and of prayer, the place where we become our best selves because we come and worship… The place where we remember we are one with Jesus and with each other, where we become a holy communion.

‘As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the Road for Jerusalem’.

Heaven and Jerusalem are closely connected. Both places speak of peace. I remember years ago in France, entering an old church in the centre of a town and being struck by the words written in large letters on the door: ‘This is the house of God, this is the Gate of heaven’. These are the words exclaimed by Jacob in the Book of Genesis when he woke from the dream in which he saw a ladder linking earth to heaven.  Now I realise these are words written often at the entrance of churches.

Because this is the reality. This is the house of God, this is the gate of heaven the place where we connect consciously with God, in the Eucharist and in prayer, and with others. Here we receive the food that gives us strength for the journey that is our lives…Lives that are often so full of threats and challenges,

I can’t help but think of the challenge (or is it threat?) many feel with the triumph the other day of Brexit. We live in a world of constant turmoil, of seemingly endless challenge and threat…at the big level: witness the unending catastrophe of Syria, the hunger and famine, the challenge of climate change, the tragedy of displaced millions…thousands on the move …refugees…seeking a new homeland…peace, an opportunity to live and flourish.. And similarly at the ‘smaller’ level of our own lives: sudden deaths, bad news from the doctor, break-up of relationships, loss of employment etc. Peace is so elusive…

But I can’t help thinking either of the context in which this beautiful church was opened 100 years ago…an Ireland in the grip of change, filled with uncertainty, convulsed by the recent Rising at Easter and the subsequent summary executions of its young leaders; I think of a Europe which on the 27th of August 1916 when this church was being opened and blessed with great celebration and hope for the future and all that this new church would mean for the people, Europe was in the throes of an unprecedented War, and specifically of the horrible and futile conflagration that was the Battle of the Somme: hundreds of thousands of men slaughtered hopelessly, stupidly.

The world doesn’t change. War and inhumanity thrives. The ugly face of evil wreaking destruction…the innocent the first victims of our fear and our folly.

And yet there is Jerusalem: The place built for peace, named for peace, the City of God. And there is this church of St Peter and Paul, in this little parish of Straide! Why? Because there is so much more to humankind than war and hatred. In 1916 your ancestors choose the way of peace, the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus, resolutely, when they built this sanctuary of peace in their midst. And it wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of courage and faith. And they weren’t the first. Their ancestors before them had done the same thing a thousand years and more ago when they built the Teampall Mór, that gives its ancient name to this parish, and when they supported the Franciscans first and then the Dominicans in building the Priory of the Holy Cross, Straide Abbey, from its foundation in 1240 to the death of its last friar in the middle of the 19th century. And then they built the penal church, which this Church replaced a hundred years ago.

And today, on this Sunday that is nearest the feast of Sts Peter and Paul in 2016, you celebrate the centenary of this Holy Place, dedicated as it is to the same Sts Peter and Paul.  You have the church in pristine condition…as is fitting for what is always the House of God and the Gate of heaven for us… lest we forget, in the midst of all the threat and fear of our day, lest we forget…our God who loves us and waits for us, and that we are ourselves, first and foremost, his children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, destined by his grace for the glory of heaven, and already, please God, on our way there….

Congratulations! This celebration does you proud as people and as a parish! And May God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul, keep you strong in faith, in hope and in love so as to live always, and no matter what comes, in peace.  Amen.

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