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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.

Fr Dermot Burns Funeral Mass Homily

This is the text of the Homily preached by Fr Martin Convey, P.P, Straide at the Funeral Mass for Fr Dermot Burns in the Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Straide, Co. Mayo on Saturday April 1st 2017


Today, we gather to commend to the Lord the soul of Fr. Dermot - a brother priest who faithfully served the People of God here in the Diocese of Achonry for 42 years. To Father Dermot’s brothers, sister, in-laws, nieces and nephews, relatives and friends, we extend to you our deepest sympathies on the loss of your brother and uncle.

I don’t need to tell you, his family, or anyone who knew the man that Fr. Dermot was very much in love with life; so full of the zest of living, so brimming with joy, so full of banter, so full of fun and merriment. He exuded life and cherished it to the very last breath.

We all have our own particular fond memories of Fr. Dermot. They are usually very happy and very funny memories. Those memories abound today and they weave together a unique tapestry of a unique life.

One of my own fondest memories goes back a few years. I wasn’t too long in the parish at the time. I remember returning to the parochial house after saying the morning Mass. As I turned the key in the door I could swear I got the smell of freshly burnt toast. It didn’t take me long to discover a rather elderly man (a total stranger) sitting at the kitchen table having a leisurely breakfast. Before I could ask who he was and how he got in, the uninvited stranger managed to speak first. He demanded to know who I was, how I got in and what on earth was I doing in Fr. Dermot’s house. It quickly emerged that he was an elderly priest friend of Fr. Dermot. One of the many many friends he had made over the years. At some stage Fr. Dermot must has given him the loan of a key to the parochial house. He hadn’t known Fr. Dermot had retired and was merely availing of his hospitality (as he had done, on occasion, in the past) while waiting for him to return from the Church.

Fr. Dermot got a great laugh out of that when I told him! And that’s just one of the more sanitised events Fr. Dermot is remembered for.

The incident was funny but it really sums up Fr. Dermot’s life as a priest and as a human being.

The key to the front door, given freely and trustingly, was symbolic of the key to his soul (which he gave so generously to God in the priesthood) and the key to his life (which he gave to his family, friends and parishioners).

Fr. Dermot was, very much, an open book. What you saw is what you got. He wore his great big heart openly on his sleeve. This was a quality which endeared him to so many people whose lives he touched in his ministry as a priest.

He was great with people. In exchange for the keys to his inner spiritual self he received, in return, from others the keys to their lives. The bonds he forged, over the years, with people he encountered (as parishioners or as colleagues) were truly remarkable. Those bonds he held on to and never let break.

No matter where he might be, I would always notice people going out of their way to approach him and talk to him. He was a kind of a magnet for people. Even after the passage of time (often decades), he kept up ties and friendships. He was the only individual I knew whose Christmas Card list actually increased every year.

And it wasn’t just his friends from Straide parish who kept in contact with him. It was, also, his friends in all the other parishes he had served in - Bonniconlon, Achonry, Ballymote and Kilkelly. They all remembered him for the same reasons. They remembered his compassion, his kindness, his generosity, his sincerity, his wit and his humour.

He was a very people-centred person who generously gave the open door of his life to so many others: celebrating their successes, lamenting their failures, consoling their distress, and (when necessary) helping carry their crosses. In this, and in so many other regards, he was a priest to be admired and respected. He had learned his theology in Maynooth but had spent his days, ever since, living that theology.

He was also a man who, to his great credit, never hesitated to delegate responsibility within the parish. He realised something we priests all eventually learn - namely, that there are always people within every community who can do many things we do far better than we, ourselves, can.

It stands to reason, then, that we should build strong teams and allow the gifts and charisms of a community to flourish. This is exactly what Fr. Dermot did. In this respect, he left a great legacy behind. One has only to observe the pristine condition of this Church and grounds to see how much he achieved.

Family meant everything to Fr. Dermot: his twin brother Pat, his brother Frank, his sister Joan, his nephews and nieces and in-laws. Not to forget his beloved parents (Una & Paddy) and brother John who have already gone to their eternal reward. No family could have supported a brother any better than you have done.

As one might expect, Fr. Dermot was particularly close to his twin brother Pat who was especially good to him and looked after him above and beyond the call of even brotherly love and duty. 

This parish of Straide was, also, very very special to Fr. Dermot. It was here he spent the last 23 years of his life. He often confided how happy he was here - how kind and how good parishioners were to him.

Fr. Dermot worked in parish ministry for all of his 42 years of priesthood. His priesthood was founded on a deep unshakable faith and on a spiritual life that brought him ever closer to God. His priestly ministry was truly a beacon of hope for so many people. He exercised his ministry brightening so many lives, binding so many hearts, smoothing so many paths, calming so many souls, warming so many lives. And it is great to see so many of his former parishioners here today at his funeral Mass. Fr. Dermot just had that wonderful gift of connecting with the people he came in contact with.

When, unfortunately, in 2011 he had to retire due to ill health there was never a question of him living anywhere else except in Straide. He chose to spend his (all too short) final years with the people he knew and loved. That is certainly a great compliment to his former parishioners who are owed a great debt of gratitude for the manner in which they looked after and cared for Fr. Dermot.

Another thread in the tapestry of Memory I have of Fr. Dermot is chatting to him about how difficult it can be to find something new to preach on every weekend. He consoled me by saying that “It’s difficult to be profound every Sunday”. Then thought for a while and added “But it would, indeed, be nice to be profound the odd Sunday though!”

I’m sure there were days when he, too, stood at this lectern and looked to the heavens for divine inspiration. I’m sure from this spot he, also, must have focused his eyes on a particular design on the windows of the gallery – a design which catches my eye frequently.

There are, as you would expect, images of crosses on those stained glass windows. However, there is also a subtle detail that can easily be missed. If you look carefully you can see that there are little green shoots of growth emerging from the foot of each cross.

The Cross was something Fr. Dermot became all too familiar with in his later years following a life-threatening diagnosis just before Christmas 2010. But the cross he was given to carry never dampened his spirit or took from his wit and good humour. Even when given very bad news a few short weeks back, he never lost hope and he never gave up but, rather, fought bravely on.

I think he got great consolation from the green shoots of growth that are always there at the foot of even the heaviest of crosses we are sometimes given to bear. Fr. Dermot’s deep Christian faith led him to believe those green shoots would, ultimately, bring him New Life. Today, we pray that he has, already received, that reward.

After this, his funeral Mass, Fr. Dermot will be laid to rest in the Church grounds - facing East to greet the rising sun each morning. He will be under the shade of two oak trees planted last year by Bishop Brendan in honour of Ss. Peter and Paul to mark the centenary of this Church dedicated to the two giants of our faith. Those oak trees are young now. But, I’m told, they will spend the next 300 years growing and, then, another 300 years stagnant before they will spend a final 300 in decline.

Knowing Fr. Dermot as I do, I don’t think he will wait that long to visit St. Peter. No doubt, he has already entered the gates of heaven and is, by now, making his presence felt and catching up with old friends.

Hopefully, at some stage, he might get a hold of St. Peter’s Keys and have a few copies made for us, too, on the quiet so that when our time comes may let ourselves in to one of the many rooms that today’s Gospel assures us are already prepared for us.

In the meantime, until we meet our friend and brother again, may his gentle soul now Rest in Peace. Amen

Homily at Funeral Mass of Monsignor Joe Spelman

Monsignor Joe Spelman, R.I.P.

Monsignor Joe Spelman, R.I.P.

On Saturday June 25th, Bishop Brendan was Principal Celebrant at the Funeral of Monsignor Joe Spelman, retired Parish Priest of Collooney and former Vicar General of the Diocese of Achonry.  The following is the test of the Homily preached at the Funeral Mass in the Church of The Assumption, Collooney, Co. Sligo.


No sooner had the Apostles, his closest collaborators, experienced the First Eucharist with Jesus, we are told, than ‘A dispute arose also between them about which should be reckoned the greatest’. In spite of their closeness to Jesus, the Apostles were slow to understand what he was about and what he was showing them by his words, his gestures, his life. With extraordinary patience, he gently but firmly spells it all out… he is not about degrees of importance or status. Still less is he about controlling anyone or lording it over, but rather ‘Here am I among you as one who serves’.

At the heart of being Jesus’ follower or apostle is the simple matter of willingness to serve, getting down in the dust, washing feet…

After Joe Spelman’s mother died on the 29th of August 1982, an appreciation written by a past pupil appeared in one of the local newspapers. Mary Spelman had spent 30 years as teacher of the junior classes in Coolavin school in Monasteraden. These are some of the things written about her in that tribute:

‘For those of us venturing out to school for the first time, her hand had a comforting feel; once inside her classroom door, we were safe; she taught us all we were able to learn; above all she taught us to pray (followed by a wonderful description of how she instilled such love and devotion to the Blessed sacrament in her little charges as she prepared them for their first holy communion). The writer went on to say ‘she carved a niche in our hearts’. I think her son carved a good niche too in the hearts of many people…

I thought these things about his mother Mary were worth quoting today at Fr Joe’s Mass. They speak the rock out of which this good man was hewn.

People invariably have described Fr Joe Spelman as a ‘gentleman’. In every sense: a gentleman and a gentle man. Kind mother for it, as the old expression would put it. And father too, no doubt. The other word I heard most often these last few days: ‘he was gracious’. And he was. When I asked one colleague what he’d say about him, his first words were: ‘I liked him’- ‘A decent man’.

 Joseph Spelman was an extraordinarily bright student, he became an extraordinary scholar and first class student in Mathematics and Physics. But he was learned in many other fields as well – history, for example, which he loved. (He researched and wrote, for example, the definitive account of why Ballaghaderreen play their football in Mayo). He loved his native place.

He became a superb teacher in St Nathy’s and in Maynooth College, invariably going way beyond the call of duty in serving and helping his students. He was quiet spoken and reserved, laconic and witty, discreet but welcoming, very attentive to people, and kind, always kind. These are the sort of things people have said about him these last couple of days.

One of the really good and lovely things that happens often around death, particularly when it is natural and the person is full of years, it’s as if the goodness and gift that the person was emerges more strongly than ever before. So the tears and sorrow are mixed with gratitude and fuller appreciation. We want to thank God. We become thank-full. A sense that we have been touched by grace in the one who is no longer with us in the flesh…and his passing leaves a gap…

‘A dispute arose between them about who should be reckoned the greatest’. Mrs Spelman’s son had no interest in being the greatest. But he did seek to serve. That emerged strongly too after he retired from his academic life and returned to the diocese, here to Collooney. He never regarded becoming a parish priest as opportunity to relax and put up the feet, but rather he humbly asked his colleagues for help and advice, as he sought now to be a good shepherd to his people. He was all of that. Fr Joe liked people. And he knew that to serve God meant in practice to serve people. He was particularly attentive to those who were not well or not well-off. Visiting those in hospitals or homes was a big priority, a weekly pilgrimage.

‘Here am I among you as one who serves’, Jesus said to his friends and collaborators. ‘In the end of life, we will be judged on love’ the great St John of the Cross so rightly said. The love that is service is what he’s talking about. Jesus and the Father he revealed know no other way:  the way of self-giving, of self-sacrifice, of always putting the other first, especially the least and poorest.

On November 20, 2007, I arrived into the diocese for the first time. It was the day I was announced as bishop. At 4 in the afternoon I met all the priests in Ballaghaderreen. Mgr Joe as Vicar General was the one who welcomed me to the diocese. In the course of his brief speech, he cut straight to the heart of the matter. He told me I came here and was welcomed as successor of the Apostles. That this was what I would be expected to be. At least that is what I heard. And it was what I needed to hear. Up to then it had been a somewhat euphoric and mostly emotional day, full of congratulations and good wishes, but this was a coming down to earth, the essential, the truth of the situation. He rendered me a service that was necessary and brought me into balance and the real. The man who is a true servant never seeks popularity. And it is a grace of God to work alongside a person of that integrity. For this we are thankful to God today.

It wasn’t long after that that Parkinson’s disease came to Joe. He wasn’t a man to speak of his ailment at all, apart from saying his walk wasn’t good. There was no self-pity. He retired on coming to the age, and as his disability affected him more, withdrew graciously from committees on which he served. A loss, because his interventions were wise, and his advice was invariably sound. Eventually he did his own research and chose to enter the Sacred Heart Residence in 2013. He knew he could not manage anymore without assistance. And he wanted to be close to Marie and her family, as he always had been. And it was the right decision, taken in his own time, though not without a certain struggle.

He accepted his decline without complaint and with little comment. He was a good patient. He was blessed that you his family were extraordinarily attentive to him. And he was well-cared for by the nursing home staff, who liked him very much.

Yes. Joe Spelman ‘fought the good fight to the end, finished the course God gave him, kept the faith’.

It was a grace given this man who for others was so often full of grace.

In this year of mercy, though, he would want us today to implore God to be merciful to him. He had no false notions about himself, and knew his limits and failings. That is our purpose in celebrating this holy Eucharist.

May Father Joe, by your mercy Lord, be conferred with your kingdom, and may this man of the Eucharist ‘eat and drink now at the table in your kingdom’, according to your promise.

Words at the Icon

The following are the words shared by Bishop Brendan at the Gathering Eucharist to welcome the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to the Diocese of Achonry.

Bishop Brendan at prayer before the Icon of Mother of Perpetual Help

Bishop Brendan at prayer before the Icon of Mother of Perpetual Help

‘Then to the disciple Jesus said ‘This is your mother’. 

And from that moment, the disciple made a place for her in his home’

The disciple is you, the disciple is me. John at the foot of the Cross stands for every person, man or woman, who would be a disciple of Jesus. We are all here this evening because we are disciples of Jesus. We are people who as individuals or as a community (be that parish or diocese) we make a place for Mary in our homes and in the home of our hearts. She is our mother, my mother and yours, from the moment we become a disciple. It’s part of the package, as it were.

Our own Irish people referred to Mary invariably as ‘Muire Máthair’. The title is intimate, the most intimate. One of ourselves. Close to us, very close. During the centuries of persecution and poverty for most Catholics, the Rosary, pondering the mysteries of Jesus life death and Resurrection with Mary, became the mainstay of our ancestors’ faith. The sense of Mary’s closeness and presence sustained and carried us through those often harsh and penal times. Just as her presence, standing, at Calvary – and all through his life –  sustained Jesus himself. Now, there’s a mystery…

No wonder then that our people took to the devotion of our Lady of Perpetual Succour/Help naturally and readily, when the Redemptorist Fathers introduced the image, the icon we have before us here tonight, in the second half of the 19th century, faithful to the mission entrusted to them by the Holy Father, Blessed Pope Pius IX. It was precisely as one who is with us in all the ups and especially downs of life that Irish people had already taken to the Mother of God.

If I may be personal for a moment. It is thirty years ago today that my own mother died. She was very fond of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. We lived fairly close the Redemptorist Monastery at Esker in Co Galway, where the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is celebrated every Saturday. Once we got a car, and she learned to drive, my mother took to going to the early morning devotions on Saturdays in Esker. She always had people and any troubles there were to bring to Mary. She’d have some of us up and out shortly after six in the mornings. Though we didn’t always thank her then for the early morning call, the memories of those lovely May mornings especially are all golden now.  I find it extraordinary that this pilgrimage now coincides with her anniversary. And a call somewhere to be renewed in taking Mary into the home of my own heart – and all our hearts-anew.  No helper is more powerful, no friend better. As she stood with Jesus to the end, so she will stand with you or I, with the parish, the diocese, with our beloved, bruised and battered Irish church.  Her strong and motherly presence will carry us through these bewildering times. She is the one who will show us the way, the truth and the light…as she does  gently and peacefully, clearly and firmly, in the lovely and sacred icon we have come to venerate this evening.

So I’m glad we have the Icon and are included in this 150th Anniversary  Pilgrimage, providentially happening in the Year of Mercy. And I thank the Redemptorists and their team who have brought it to us this evening.

‘Our Lady is always close to us’, Pope Francis says, ‘especially when we feel the weight of life with all its problems’.

Mary, Mother of the Church,  Mother of Mercy, Mother of Perpetual Help…pray for us.

 

AMEN.

But if you say so … (Homily for Close of Year of Consecrated Life)

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Bishop Brendan speaking at Evening Prayer to celebrate close of Year of Consecrated Life

“Master”, Simon replied, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will pay out the nets”.

This is a very powerful Gospel story. Every word and phrase is worth reflecting on.

What strikes me most today is the moment Jesus asked Peter to “put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch”. Peter had spent the whole night fishing to no avail, not a sprat. He is no doubt exhausted, weary, disheartened. It is at this very moment when futility is staring him in the face and he must have been close to rock bottom that Jesus invites him to “put out into the deep water…”

And look what happens. “They netted such a large number of fish that their nets began to tear,” and they cry out to their companions and the two boats are filled to sinking point with fish.

Abundance beyond imagining. The same thing as happened at Cana, at the beginning of the Gospel of St. John.

Obedience is everything, it seems. Obedience in the original and true sense of the word: willingness at all times to listen to Jesus’ word, his invitation, his call. Jesus’ word is always one of encouragement, of trust in us and of challenge. And invariably when we take it deep into our hearts and act upon it, it bears fruit in abundance, filling us with hope.

There are so many other attractive and alluring voices all around in the times we live in. Today is Temperance Sunday, a day that reminds us that we have to be discerning, careful, and moderate in what we receive and consume and take into ourselves. Prophets of Doom abound today, for example. We can easily find ourselves among them.

When the times seem lean and unpromising, as they do for vocations today, to priesthood and religious life, the Gospel we have just heard, holds out a great promise. Like Peter on the lakeshore, worn out by the seeming futility of his labours, to take Jesus’ word to heart is critical. He will not deceive nor let us down. Abundance, it seems, will always follow our putting our trust completely in him. This especially we must do when things are at their bleakest.

Mary knew this at Cana. Quietly, peacefully, but with supreme confidence and faith, she spoke to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”. That is exactly what you and I committed ourselves to long ago in our youth. He is incapable of letting us down or deceiving us, no matter what the appearances.

So, what better way to conclude this Year for Consecrated Life than by renewing our commitment to him, and our determination to listen to him in his word every day and indeed every moment of our lives. If we must talk of work and mission, this is always our first work and our primary mission.

Together then let us renew our vows and our commitment to Jesus Christ and to his Body, the Church:

With gratitude for all that has been, and led by the Spirit, I come today

  • To renew my commitment to live my vow of chastity with love and compassion
  • To renew my vow of poverty aware of the abundance of God that calls us to generous sharing
  • To renew my vow of obedience, to be available for God’s mission and purpose in our world

For this and all your gifts, Father of Mercy, I give thanks,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

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