Homily preached by Bishop Wm. Crean as part of the celebrations of the Holy Mass to welcome the “Servants of the Home of the Mother”
Vigil Mass in the Church of Our Lady, Mitchelstown September 22nd 2018
St. Mary’s Church, Mallow September 23rd 2018.
A journalist writing in the aftermath of the visit of Pope Francis ventured the view that the Pope’s visit shone a spotlight on our divisions. By division he meant the very different world view that now exists in Ireland. Represented by the pre-eminence of the State and its secular nature and world view that encompasses a religious and faith dimension.
This division is not new it has been in the making for many decades now. As a Christian people we face new challenges to ensure that the light and truth of the Gospel can shine in people’s lives.
In our recent history – apostolic religious congregations played a hugely significance role in raising a poverty-stricken people to a sense of their identity and worth. They did so through education and pastoral care. We continue to owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Sadly, because of misguided efforts mistakes were made and hurt caused. That hurt they have humbly acknowledged. Their charism and spirit focused on work with the poor and providing education. Their task accomplished they have graciously handed on the task to lay people. Their charism and gift carries on in poor and vulnerable communities in many parts of the world.
Thirty years ago, in various dioceses in Spain beginning in Toledo the story of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother took root. Fr. Rafael Alonso Reymundo with a group of young women who sought to dedicate their lives to God and our Lady sowed a seed which has been nurtured by many over the decades. This will be the second Community of Servant Sisters to be established in Ireland.
Along with the Servant Brothers and Priests this association marks a new movement of the Holy Spirit in the life of Church globally and in Cloyne. To-night we rejoice and are glad that your faith and generosity have entered our lives and the Diocese.
From the outset the Servant sisters have had three missions in the Church:
– The defence of the Eucharist
– The defence of the Honour of our Mother (especially in the privilege of her virginity)
– The conquest of youth for Jesus Christ
It is inspired by a Carmelite spirituality – a search for union with God on the summit of the mount where only the glory of God reigns.
Fr. Rafael, I know from reading your reflections that you have been continually surprised by where the Spirit has led to new initiatives. So too with this beginning in the Diocese of Cloyne. Too often we hear people speak of decline and irrelevance in relation to the Church and do so in a downbeat and despairing tone. What they forget is the dynamic of the Christian paradox – which is that unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains but a single grain – but if it dies it can yield a rich harvest. It is this faith filled vision that nurtures our hope and joy for this new beginning. The Church of the future will be different precisely in what way it is not ours to know. Like the sower we place the seed into the darkness of the soil knowing that if we care for it and aided by God’s providence – it will produce a rich harvest.
The division in our midst is real – the vision of giving, of sacrifice without counting the cost has been pushed to the margins in favour of individual accumulation and accomplishment – “because I am worth it”. So many of our young people are paying a high price for pursuit of this world view which does not satisfy the hungers of the human heart. So, there is an urgent need for good spiritual guidance for families and individuals – young and not so young. A new evangelisation is required. We all have our part to play. You in the context of your own family can be a powerful witness to one another and an immense example and support to one another’s families.
In a climate of negativity, it is easy to become downcast – it is understandable but not helpful. Beneath the ashes of recent events lie the embers of what was once a blazing fire. As you have often done in your own fireplace we have to separate the ashes from the embers and with sacrifice and commitment fan the flame of Christian hope and charity among us.
Let us however not be under any illusions about the challenge facing Christian disciples in a “new” Ireland.
“Let us be in wait for the virtuous man
Since he annoys us and opposes our way of life
Reproaches us for our breaches of the law
And accuses us of playing false to our upbringing”
(Bk. of Wisdom – 1st Reading)
There will be those in power who will wish that we go away and disappear – that all traces of our Christian heritage be privatized or put as artifacts in museums.
On the contrary we seek and desire to be a living Church for the 21st century and beyond. We respect the freedom of belief for others but in justice we seek to vindicate the religious freedom of Christians – we also pay taxes!
The inspiring words of the Second Reading from the letter of St James serve to remind us of our Christian calling to walk gracefully among people
“Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness”. Amen.