Bishop Crean, Homily
during Holy Mass, St. Mary’s Church, Mallow
on the occasion of the Bicentenary of the St Mary’s Church and the 50th Anniversary of the Church of the Resurrection
28th September 2018
“Between 1780 and 1845 the Catholic Church in Ireland moved from being technically illegal to being an accepted part of the power and influence within Irish Society”.
That is a quote from a history of St. Colman’s Church in Cloyne parish which celebrated its Bicentenary in 2015. It includes historical and biographical notes of the various Bishops of the Diocese of Cloyne since Bishop John O’Brien in mid 1700’s.
It relates the context and life of Bishop William Coppinger, a Bishop for over 40 years, first as Co-Adjutor to Bishop McKenna, he died in 1830 – just a year after Catholic emancipation in 1829. He was not afraid of a scrap!
These were turbulent times with issues of land, tenancy and payment of tithes. Having emerged from the Penal period one had the gradual if reluctant acknowledgement of the rights of the Catholic population. This reflected itself in a growing self confidence and desire to give expression to their faith in the Churches in which they gathered and prayed.
This church of St. Mary’s here in Mallow, the Bicentenary of which we celebrate, is an eloquent witness to that new-found confidence and desire. Its location set back from the streetscape is a fortuitous fruit of that historical context. When designed and built it was on a side street as required by the regulations of the times. Only later would those houses be demolished to reveal its fine façade and structure.
As we mark this Bicentenary, we also mark, with no less gratitude and celebration, the Golden Jubilee of the Church of the Resurrection. Its planning and construction also marked a confidence and desire to have a house of prayer to serve the growing needs of the Mallow parish community.
My friends, both these houses of prayer make no sense without a community of faith, prayer and Christian living. The countryside has many ruins of once vibrant places of prayer – we revere and value these places as constant reminders of our roots in civilisation, culture and Christian heritage.
For all these places both old and new they have one thing in common, the foundation that is the person of Jesus, Son of God. Our Lord and Saviour, the Christ, the Anointed One of God. This divine presence has made and continues to make all these places temples of God through our shared presence.
“Where two or three are gathered I am there in the midst of them.
The Spirit of God is living among you!” (1Cor: 3:16)
My friends, there are many visitors who visit our Churches and are somewhat taken aback by the beauty and architectural quality of the buildings – they know they do not come cheap and maintenance is a constant cost – so why so much investment in bricks and mortar?
Every generation has its own challenges in the midst of them is the great desire of the human heart for hope – not to look into a pit of despair or darkness. Our Churches are a shelter from the storm when it rages and the serenity and calm that comes to us when we heed the advice “to be still and know that I am God”. This is the priceless pearl in an era of anxiety.
• Insecurity and fragility of old age
• The uncertainty of young people seeking to find an anchor in life
• The lack of confidence to make commitments in life or relationships
To-night this Church is aesthetically beautiful, refurbished and refreshed as is fitting – it makes for a comfortable sacred space for prayer, reflection and contemplation.
It would be a pity if things rest at that personal level – important as it is. A living Church has a beating heart. It requires our engagement beyond our personal spiritual quest and journey. A living Church needs to be a big umbrella. A living Church needs to reflect the wide embrace of God’s wings.
“Lord how precious is your unfailing love. All people find shelter under the shadow of Your wings ….Yes, with You is the fountain of life, by Your light we see light” (Ps. 36:7-8).
This is wonderful news for a fractious time. It is free, it comes without gimmicks. It may not be Politically Correct – that does not matter. What matters is that potentially tragic erosion of a sense of the transcendent – a sense of life lived under the providence and mercy of our Creator God – with an appreciation of its blessing and grace.
To-night, we celebrate both the 200 years of this Church and the half century of the Church of the Resurrection. You know better than I how richly the people of Mallow have been and continue to be served by these temples of hope. It has been possible over all the decades by the many priests, religious and people who nurtured this Christian Catholic faith community.
As we look to the future we pray for inspiration and courage to plough a new furrow as circumstances demand. Spare us from a false nostalgia that would keep us paralysed and frozen.
“God is spirit” St. John says
“And those who worship
Must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn: 4.24)
+Bishop William Crean