During Mass celebrated in Church of Our Lady Conceived Without Sin, Mitchelstown
Celebrating 90 years since the foundation of Mitchelstown Pioneer Total Abstinence Association
Friday, 23rd June 2017
Celebrant / Homilist: Bishop Wm. Crean
The Pioneer Movement didn’t happen by accident – it was a response to a moment of crisis. Such were peoples experience of the abuse of alcohol that it was felt that something needed to be done to address it. Too often people witnessed the destruction of families due to the abuse of alcohol. The addiction to alcohol desensitised otherwise good men and women to the needs and concerns of those closest to them. From research, we now know that for every one person addicted to alcohol or another chemical dependency, on average the lives of seven or eight others are immediately impacted upon. This is the lived daily nightmare that addiction visits on families. Little wonder that people felt that something needed to be done about it.
While the roots of the Temperance Movement are well over a century old the circumstances that gave rise to it have not changed fundamentally. Frailty is part and parcel of the human condition. It makes us susceptible to poor choices and addictive thinking and behaviours. Despite our failures we still believe in the essential goodness of each person / human being. This is not a false naivety rather a mark of our faith and trust in our Creator God who has fashioned us in His own image and likeness. So, God’s love for us is never in question and in practice we come to know its depth in our experience of His mercy. Through the sacrifice of Jesus our Saviour especially expressed in the image of the Sacred Heart we come to know and experience grace and redemption.
It is this wonderful spiritual treasure that we bring to coping with the frailty and failure of our lives. In other words, we are not saved by our individual efforts alone but by both our desire for redemption strengthened always by the grace of God.
My friends, I recall these spiritual realities to remind ourselves of the foundation on which repentance and transformation are built. The feast of the Sacred Heart denotes the entire mystery of Christ: “Son of God, uncreated wisdom, infinite charity, principle of salvation and sanctification of mankind” Directory on Popular Piety.
It is this spiritual priceless treasure that we draw on in the Temperance Movement. It is first an appreciation of the gift of life itself and then of life’s gifts which we are invited to embrace with grace and prudence so that we may live in joy and freedom.
This evening we renew our gratitude for the blessing of the Pioneer Movement in Mitchelstown over these past 90 years – especially for the grace and blessing it has been for so many individuals and families over that time. By God’s grace and the support of one another many have been born anew.
In a spiritual sphere abstinence does not have a good press. Yet in the realm of sport and business people have no difficulty of speaking of the sacrifice that is necessary to achieve excellence. So, there is an evident disconnect between the messages a new generation are operating from in everyday living, and the spiritual dimension of their lives. The Temperance Movement needs to address this disconnect. Such is the power and influence of the drinks industry that it is imperative that we address young people at primary school level because secondary school is already too late.
We should, however, be in no doubt about the value and importance of our witness to living in a temperate way. It is a grace filled way to walk upon the earth – it is born of gratitude and appreciation. It is an attitude that engenders respect and dignity which is refined in the fire of daily living nurtured and inspired by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
May our gathering to-night lift up our hearts. May it engender a renewal of energy to share the grace and blessings we ourselves know in life.