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Homily of Bishop William Crean – Closing Liturgy of Earth/Gaia Exhibition, St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh – June 26th 2022

Closing Liturgy of

Earth / Gaia Exhibition

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

26th June 2022

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

“Spiritual and/or Religious”

My friends,

Its not unusual for people to describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. While its helpful on one level its also rather vague and nebulous. What one can say is that it is an effort to put some words on the shift of experience in people’s inner life to-day. When people say they are religious they usually have a sense of God as personal – as one to whom they pray in thanksgiving or petition. They might equally pray in intercession to Our Lady or one of the Saints who is close to their hearts.

Not all who profess to be religious necessarily practice a shared faith in terms of regular attendance at Mass. At this point in our history this group represents a good percentage of people.

Those who profess to be spiritual but not religious are equally a significant group of society. They would seem to have a sense of the mystery of life without reference to God or the divine. For many of that persuasion nature, the environment and ecology represent a more tangible and inspiriting vision of life.

That’s not speaking of the agnostic or atheist.

My friends, I make these remarks tentatively in the context of this prayer time in which we draw to a close the Earth/Gaia Exhibition which has been on display since June 15th. It has been viewed by a very large number of people among whom were many who were/are religious, spiritual, agnostic and atheist. It has been for all a unique experience evoking varying reactions depending on their view of life at this time.

There were/are some who had difficulty with the decision to host the exhibition here in St. Colman’s Cathedral, a magnificent architectural jewel in its own right. It questioned – was this sacred space diminished or enhanced by this exhibition based on the best the science offers the artist?

These days of exhibition were not our normal pattern here in the Cathedral primarily because what was experienced over these days of awe, admiration and prayer was the fruit of a combination of elements that together proved to be immeasurably greater than the sum of its parts.

From the outset the request to host the exhibition came from a deep sense that the beauty and reverence of this sacred space would enhance the powerful message of the artwork by Luke Jerram. The earth as gift, huge but fragile, the common home of humanity and the need for commitment by all to a human ecology.

An essential component of life in the Cathedral is the variety of song and voice often with the accompaniment of the Telford organ which lifts up our hearts and renews our spirits. We’ve had many such occasions over these days.

A visit here over these days has been possible because a huge number of stewards gave freely of their time to facilitate people. To them we are immensely indebted. Its indicative of the deep faith and warm hospitality that is extended to all who come here.

As we reflect on this experience it is important that we value both our faith in God as Creator and the work and vocation of the scientist. Too many still see faith/belief in God and science as incompatible. Too many interpret Scripture in an incorrect manner, leading to unnecessary conflict and confusion. Faith and science are both focussed on truth but do so by their own methods. The fruits of the enquiry of the theologian and the scientist are complimentary rather than opposites – indeed both need each other to ensure that their searching is always at the service of humanity.

This evening we are filled with gratitude for the blessing of these days – for the wonder, awe and appreciation that have been awakened in the hearts of those who joined us over these days of the exhibition.


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