Tag Archives: bishop brendan

Evening Prayer with Religious

On Sunday, February 4th, Bishop Brendan gathered with the Religious of the Diocese and a number of our diocesan priests and laity to pray with and for all who have given their lives in service of the Religious Life.  This was Bishop Brendan’s last official engagement in the diocese before he takes up his new role as Bishop of Galway on Sunday next.

He spoke of the absolute need for faith and trust in the future; “We can’t go back”, he said “like Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel, we need to go elsewhere …. in prayer, Jesus received and found what he needed to carry on”.  He reflected on his own move to Galway and that the future is totally in God’s hands – as is all of the future.  “Religious life is always about encountering people, encountering where they are.”  “Churches”, he said “were built so that people could gather together and be alone in the encountering of Jesus.”

His encouragement to all gathered was to keep engaging with people – meeting and being with them for that is the core of the Religious calling.

He used the occasion to thank all the Religious of the diocese for the wonderful support they had been to him over the past ten years.  He asked them to continue to keep him in prayer as he will keep them.

Fr Steve Gibson, CSC, spoke on behalf of all the Religious gathered and wished Bishop Brendan every success in his new role and concluded with a prayer of blessing.

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.


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.

Celebrating Consecrated Life


Evening Prayer Ballaghaderreen, February 7th celebrating the conclusion of Year of Consecrated Life

Evening Prayer, celebrating Consecrated Life, was offered this Sunday Evening in Ballaghaderreen. Bishop Brendan, Religious of the Diocese and a number of our diocesan priests were present. Speaking on the gospel of the call by Jesus to “launch out into the deep”, Bishop Brendan encouraged all to have joy in God’s call. This evening’s gathering marked the closing of the Year of Consecrated LIfe

Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock

The third Sunday of May has been traditionally the day for our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock Shrine.  Earlier today Bishop Brendan led people from the Diocese of Achonry and the Archdiocese of Dublin in the celebration of Eucharist.  A large congregation was in attendance.  Admiring the work done on the Basilica and noting that at the same time Mass was beginning in Longford to mark the re-dedication of St Mel’s Cathedral, Bishop Brendan told us that these buildings and the work done on them are a sign of hope for our church at this time.



‘Go out to the whole world. Proclaim the Good News to all creation….and they, going out, preached everywhere’

I mentioned the striking re-ordering and renewal of this Basilica at the beginning. And today in Longford the beautifully restored Cathedral is being rededicated. These two major projects fill us with hope and confirm us in faith. We have a future and so does our catholic faith….

The great Feast day on which we gather, the Ascension of the Lord, focusses our minds and hearts too on the future. Where Jesus has gone, we will follow. And in the meantime, we are tasked with leading and inviting the whole world to follow that same path of Jesus into the fullness of life now…

St Mark tells us in the Gospel:

‘Jesus showed himself to the eleven’ It was not 12 anymore. Betrayal and tragic death had depleted them. The arrest, condemnation as criminal, the torture and execution of Jesus had left them in shock, & on top of all that there was their own cowardice and denial of him…

Nevertheless, the Risen Lord has only one message for this shattered and fearful group: ‘Go out to the whole world’…no less!…and ‘proclaim the good news to all creation’.

This is not the world’s way of doing things. Then or now. It is not our way either. We seek out the best, the qualified, the experts. Nothing wrong with that. Only it’s not seemingly the whole story, as the world is inclined to make it.

Mysteriously, Jesus tasks the weak, the sinners, the depleted….with continuing his own work.

St Paul remained awestruck all his life that he himself, a sinner, a persecutor and collaborator in the murder of Stephen the first martyr, was chosen by Jesus to continue his work. ‘Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world…God’s foolishness is wiser that human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger that human strength’.(1 Cor 1, 20, 25) ‘God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’. (1 Cor 1, 27)

This is as true today as it was on the day of the ascension or the day Saul was knocked off his high horse… And he leaves the weak weak.

Jesus continues to rely on those who know their weakness and sin to continue his work. That is something the world never understands. But it is the truth of our Christian faith. It was so from the moment Jesus ascended, and consigned his own work and mission, lock stock and barrel, into the hands of this reduced, fearful and broken remnant of his disciples.

St Mark goes on to tell us – so matter-of-factly- you could miss it – that while Jesus was being taken up to heaven, ‘they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it’ . On Sunday next we will celebrate with Pentecost the Lord’s ‘working with them’ and in them – the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The extraordinary fact is we matter to God. Each and every one of us. Our weakness, difference or inability is no barrier to us doing his work. His Kingdom is founded on forgiven sinners and built by them, beginning with Peter and Paul…and all the rest of them.

The Confessional Chapel here in Knock isn’t underground for nothing. It is foundational to all that happens up here at ground level and everywhere else in this holy place. Without repentance – and the joy of the prodigal’s return – Jesus’ task cannot continue, God’s Kingdom cannot come. And our celebrations in this Basilica will lack all substance. It is from the joy of forgiveness and reconciliation that we become messengers of the Good News…men and women who are capable of communicating the love of God.

Today is also the 49th World Communications Day. Pope Francis has issued a Message for this day in which he invites us all to reflect on the theme: Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love.  He reminds us that the Family is the subject of profound reflection at the moment by the church, in a process involving two synods over two years.

The family deserves profound reflection at this time, not least in our own country. The stability of our whole society depends upon it, as does the welfare of all people. ‘It is in the context of the family that we first learn to communicate’, the Holy Father tells us, and that is so true.

He then goes on to ponder the passage in St Luke’s account of the Visitation which tells us that ‘When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant in her womb leaped for joy’… Pope Francis says:

‘The womb which hosts us is the first school of communication, a place of listening and physical contact where we begin to familiarise ourselves with the outside world within a protected environment, with the reassuring sound of our mother’s heartbeat. This encounter between two persons, so intimately related while still distinct from each other, an encounter so full of promise, is our first experience of communication. It is an experience which we all share, since each of us is born of a mother’.

Pope Francis then goes on to say that we move from the mother’s womb to the womb of the family, made up of interrelated persons, ‘where we learn to live with others despite our differences’. And the Church is a further family to which we belong and in which we hear God’s word and become ourselves communicators of his Good News to the world …

The decisions we make around life in the womb and family life are crucial– more critical probably than we can even imagine at this point. That is why we must pray in a particular way today for our own Irish people and the decision our votes will make on Friday next. Family does matter, mothers matter, fathers matter, supporting the best possible environment for the upbringing of children matters. Marriage as the complementary, self-sacrificing union of man and woman matters. It matters for the whole welfare of society, not to mention the future of our race.

Knock is a place where a very profound communication took place 136 years ago.[Like many of the most effective communications we experience,] it was a silent communication. No words, but the picture, the scene that people witnessed on the gable wall of the parish Church on the miserable wet August evening speaks volumes: the entire mystery of our faith is present in the vision. Mary along with St Joseph, her husband, and St John, the Beloved Disciple, stand silently in prayer and contemplation before the Lamb on the altar, their child Jesus, very much at the centre of the vision. Jesus, the Lamb of God ‘who takes away the sins of the world’, the lamb of sacrifice and of Salvation, is all – for Mary and for Joseph… AND for the beloved disciple holding the Book of God’s Word, which is each and every one who is simple and humble enough to believe and accept the Word with joy. John stands for us all.

 ‘You will be my witnesses’ Jesus said to his disciples in the first reading we had today, ‘indeed to the ends of the earth’. This place was in a way ‘the ends of the earth’ back in 1879. And like at that moment of the Ascension with the eleven, he appeared this time with his family to 15  ordinary parishioners, and it is because of their word, their going out and telling what they saw and experienced, their witness in other words, that we are here today, and countless thousands keep coming here to be reconciled to God and to be built up and made stronger in faith and as family of God.

Work with us too, Lord, that we may be your witnesses today, bringing your Good news to our own world. For the sake of all who are crying out for compassion and love.

Our Lady of Knock pray for us today. Pray with us always. Amen