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Homily of Bishop William Crean – 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – 21st Jan 2024

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Glanworth, Ballindangan and Curraghagalla Parish

20th/21st January 2024

My friends,

Those of you who watched the recent documentaries on vocations will have noted that the titles of the “Last Priests in Ireland” and “The Last Nuns in Ireland” respectively. In human terms it was a narrative of loss but in another way ironically both programmes were testimony to the faith and commitment of so many good, sincere and generous women and men. It was heartening to hear so many who having given their all are serene in their twilight years. In saying that not deflecting from the sins and failures of the past.

Inevitably, the programmes were begging the question about what the future holds for the Christian faith in Ireland. About priests and religious there will be both in the future but not so many. Even now the reducing number of priests is being felt acutely in some dioceses. We feel it to a lesser degree in Cloyne right now but don’t doubt it will affect us in the not-too-distant future. So it is important for all of us as diocese and parishes to think through together and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit how we, as committed intentional Catholics, can sustain one another and our families in living with the Joy and Hope the message that Christ Jesus brings.

When thinking through these issues we need to prioritise the core and essential element for a faith community anywhere which is our bonds of communion in gathering for Mass. Sadly, some unhealthy elements/habits have reduced our appreciation of our attendance at Mass. The blessing of technology was great during Covid for keeping us in touch. But its downside is that many saw it and see as attendance at Mass which strictly speaking it isn’t. The Real Presence of Christ at Mass requires our personal presence and prayer for a true and authentic celebration. That’s not to take away from the benefit live streaming is for the genuinely sick and housebound and for families divided at funeral times.

Another spiritually unhealthy way of thinking is to see Mass attendance as akin to a kind of spiritual service station for oneself. In this frame of thinking I will go if its on at a time that suits me. The flaw in this is that we forget how important my presence can be for those around me especially for someone who is wavering.

What the future holds for our parishes is difficult to know precisely. But we do know that unless individuals, parents, communities give personal and financial support to their parishes they cannot but become places of memory rather than places of living faith and prayer.

It comes down to the question of “Does it matter?” Does it matter to you and your family that faith in God is valued and nurtured among you? It’s a stark question but a necessary one for all in society.

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