The Future of the Church in Ireland


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ABSTRACTHomily of Archbishop Charles Brown at the closing Mass in Knock | Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference Welcome About Us Contact Us Home News Headlines ICBC General Meetings News archive 2012 News archive 2011 News archive 2010 News archive 2009 News archive 2008 News archive 2007 News archive 2006 News archive 2005 News archive 2004 News archive 2003 News archive 2002 News archive 2001 Features Year of Faith Eucharistic Congress 2012 Share the Good News Towards Healing Future of Catholic Schools Day for Life New Missal Publications Publications 2011 Publications 2010 Publications 2009 Publications 2008 Multimedia Audio Video Calendar eZine Search for: News archive 2012 Homily of Archbishop Charles Brown at the closing Mass in Knock 22. Aug, 2012 Homily of His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, at the closing Mass of the National Novena, Knock “The Future of the Church in Ireland” [Your Excellencies… Father Richard Gibbons, Parish Priest of Knock], my fellow priests, dear men and women religious, beloved brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. It is truly an honour and a joy for me to be here with you today on the final day of the National Novena at Our Lady’s Shrine in Knock. When Blessed John Paul II came here on September 30, 1979, to celebrate Holy Mass, he began with the words: “Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland: the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock” and, in a certain sense, his words are true for all of us here today, as we celebrate the conclusion of the National Novena; we too have come to the goal of our journey. We come as pilgrims to pray at the feet of Mary, the humble girl of Nazareth, the glorious Mother of God, the “Woman clothed with the sun” who appeared here in 1879 to comfort and console the Catholic people of Ireland. The passage of time tends to make us forget what things were like in Ireland when Mary appeared. Ireland was not yet a free and independent nation; close to a million people had suffered and died during the Great Famine thirty years previously, and in the year 1879 when Mary appeared, hunger had returned to the West of Ireland. Huge numbers of Irish people had been forced to leave as emigrants, never to return, so much so that the population of Ireland plummeted by something like 25 per cent. And so it was that, in those very bad times, Mary appeared, to comfort and to console and – although she never spoke a word – to lead her people, to direct her children to the Lamb on the altar, the Lamb who was slain but who now is alive, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. Yes, the times in which Mary appeared here in Knock were very bad, and yet it bears noting that the century which followed the apparition would be marked by an extraordinary flourishing of the Catholic Church in Ireland, with huge numbers of vocations to the priesthood and religious life and a deep Christianisation of all aspects of society. Such a flourishing would have seemed impossible in 1879. But the night is often darkest before the dawn. When we reflect on Our Lady’s apparition at Knock and the historical circumstances in which it occurred, we cannot help thinking about our times and our own future. Certainly, there are reasons for discouragement. It seems as if every few months, a new survey is released showing, or purporting to show, that the Catholic faith is disappearing in Ireland. We have had two decades of scandals, crimes and failures. ‘The Church is finished!’ seems to be the cry heard everywhere. But, my brothers and sisters, let me tell you what I have seen and heard (cf. 1 John 1:3). Two months ago, I saw the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin exceed everyone’s expectations, with tens of thousands of people coming to learn more about the central mystery of our faith – the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. One month ago today, I was in Ballyvourney in County Cork, where I had the joy of ordaining a young man to the priesthood. The small country church was filled with people young and old; the liturgy was celebrated in a beautiful way, with music and hymns in the Irish language. The sanctuary was packed with more than eighty good and faithful priests, many very young, some quite old, all of them there to welcome and to support their newest brother in the priesthood. Three weeks ago, in County Mayo, I saw thousands of pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday. Many young people. Many men. Some climbing in bare feet. I saw hundreds of people that day going to confession to the priests on the top of the mountain. Ten days ago, I was at Clonmacnoise and I saw literally hundreds of young people kneeling in adoration in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Rosary, confessing their sins, rejoicing in the liberating love of God, and sharing the joy and excitement of being Catholic with their peers. That, my brothers and sisters, is the future of the Church in Ireland. So what is this future going to be.......