On Sunday 24th of June, a beautiful June summer’s day, like all summer days in West Cork, people from all over the diocese of Cloyne gathered at the shrine of St Gobnait for a Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Cloyne, Bishop William Crean, as part of the preparations in the diocese for the World Meeting of Families.
The Mass was celebrated in the shadow of the statue of St Gobnait, the work of the famous Cork sculptor, Seamus Murphy.
In his homily Bishop Crean said ‘we celebrate the Eucharist at the shrine of St Gobnait where generations of people of faith have gathered and on the day when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, we are reminded that in the time of Jesus the passing on of the faith was entrusted to very ordinary people and so it is today that the privilege of passing on the faith is entrusted to ordinary families.’
The Homily was followed by the anointing of the sick, reminding us all that we are all in need of healing and the importance of our faith as part of that healing.
Many people all over Munster and beyond have a great devotion to St Gobnait and a version of the Saint’s life tells us that she lived during the 6th century and was born in Co Clare and due to a family feud, fled to the island of Inisheer where she founded a church which still stands on the north side of the island near the shore. One day an angel appeared to her and told her to head inland and to find the place of her resurrection. She was told she would know this spot as it would be marked by the presence of 9 white deer.
When she reached Ballyvourney that she found the nine deer grazing on a rise overlooking the River Sullane and looking towards the Derrynasaggart hills. This is where she settled, died and was buried “to await her resurrection”.
Gobnait is said to have added beekeeping to her life’s work, developing a lifelong affinity with them. She started a religious order and dedicated her days to helping the sick. It has been speculated that she used honey as a healing aid. St Gobnait is known as the patron saint of beekeepers.
It is this legend that inspired the Harry Clarke stained glass window in the Honan Chapel at University College Cork, where her face is surrounded by bees, at her feet she is shown carrying a honeycomb and bees are depicted chasing away the thieves who threaten to rob her church.
Our gratitude to Parish Priest Fr. Donal O’Brien and the people of Ballyvourney for the great west Cork welcome we received. We thank the Ballyvourney Parish Choir who sang mostly ‘as gaeilge’ reminding us that we were gathered in a West Cork Gaeltacht area, the local organising committee for the efficient way the day was organised, Fr. Damien Lynch MC and all the priest who concelebrated.