Homily for Killaloe Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock, Sunday, 23rd of June, 2019
Feast of Corpus Christi
Today with the feast of Corpus Christiall over the world our profound reverence for the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is demonstrated at Masses, in Eucharistic Processions, periods of worship and Adoration, along with many different other events.
We remember back with great fondness memories to the international Eucharistic Congress in Dublin 7 years ago in 2012 and the National Eucharistic Congress here in Knock that helped to renew our faith and appreciation of the Mass or the Eucharist.
Processions, parades, marchesdemonstrate in a serious way, in ritual terms the reverence, esteem and regard we have for something.
- The parade of the Artane Boys Band before the all-Ireland final.
- The Tulla Pipe Band in Cusack park for county final day.
- Patrick’s day parades in every town and village around the country.
- Protest marches for various different heart felt causes, political, social or ideological.
- Just yesterday in Ennis hundreds of people marched in the fair green on a rally for life procession in aid of The Irish Cancer Society.
- It may be a long way from Clare to here and the fair day may be in full swing in Spancil Hill today, but many have taken the long journey, the procession to venture in pilgrimage to show our devotion to the Eucharist on this feast day.
Corpus Christi processions with those that have just received their first Holy Communion are still for some a part and parcel of our social fabric and life in the Ireland we live in. These rituals can demonstrate the interest, the passion, the emotion and depth of feeling we have for something.
On social media yesterday I saw a video of Fr. Richard welcoming two groups who had cycled from Lourdes to Knock and were due to arrive in the Shrine yesterday.
140th anniversary of the Apparition
One very special procession this year from our own diocese is a pilgrimage walk from Killaloe diocese to this Shrine to mark the 140th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady here. Last year pilgrims walked from Nenagh to the Phoenix Park for World Meeting of Families. This year they plan to walk 175km from Nenagh to Knock from August 11th to August 21st the anniversary of the Apparition. May God bless these hardy souls from our diocese in the great faith adventure!
Eucharistic Procession – Norm
Every time we gather for Eucharist we process or march -maybe not always in such a formalised way as in a procession or march – but in a real way, to a sacred place – to leave the mundaness, routine of life to enter in prayer into a Holy Space of that Sacred Covenant spoken of earlier in the Scriptures – in the Holy Sacramnet of the Eucharist. Generations before us have done this so often, to Churches, Mass Rocks, Station Houses, Pilgrimage Sites, especially here at Our Lady’s Shrine in Knock.
Today, on this Corpus Christi Sunday, in this Holy Shrine of Our Lady we make our pilgrimage to be part of this Holy Eucharist to pray and experience the nourishing presence of Christ in the body and blood of Jesus, the bread of life.
Mass in a Connemara Cabin
There is painting in the National Gallery on loan from the Trustees of Edinburgh diocese called Mass in a Connemara Cabinby an artist called Aloysius O’Kelly. The painting is dated from 1883 and it seems to situated in Ballinakill or Letterfrack parish in Connemara in this diocese. The painting captures so much of the theology, spirituality, devotion, essence of what we celebrate in the Eucharist.
In the painting :
There is a young priest, probably newly ordained just after celebrating a house station in a small cabin emparting a reverential gesture of blessing.
There is a young bearded man, full of strength in his prime, dressed in his Sunday best of the time – genuflecting respectfully on one knee.
There is an old woman almost totally prostrate on the ground in humble worship.
A young girl looks up in wonder and amazement.
An elderly woman in a traditional red shawl has her head bent in reverence and prayer.
A wild looking man in the background with a fiery red head seems to be tamed and calmed by the reflected glow of the presence of of what he has witnessed in the sacredness of the occasion.
The lighted candles on the altar of God – the kitchen table – point to the source of nourishment and food for body and soul. I am the bread of Life… He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live for ever.
A picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is very much a focal point, not dominating, but gently drawing us, hinting at Love of God made real in the incarnation, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the body and blood of Jesus poured out for us.
Special Sacred Moment Captured
The small community of people are utterly united in a sacred moment or locket of time, a snapshot of the faith of people in profound worship to God in the Eucharist. The simplicity and basic-ness of the dwelling, the poverty of the people at a difficult time in Irish history somehow evaporates momentarily in the richness of what their faith gifts them with – a sense of the presence of the Divine.
The image in Mass in a Connemara Cabin captures in an almost as attractive a way as this magnificent icon of the apparition of Knock – the holy exchange that is possible because of the Word being made flesh.
The incarnation is in effect the domestication of the word of God. The Eucharist takes this to yet an even deeper level. God’s tremendous glory being brought down to our level, being made present in bread and wine, the bread of angels in our homes and hearts, our communities, our churches our chapels.
As they hymn in yesterday’s evening prayer intones:
Come, adore this wondrous presence:
Bow to Christ, the source of grace!
Here is kept the ancient promise
Of God’s earthly dwelling place!
On Pentecost Sunday, in Mount St. Joseph’s, Roscrea I had the most happy duty of ordaining Bro Malachy Thompson, a cistercian monk to the priesthood, may God bless him. I was so conscious that from that day forward he would have the privilege of being a minister and guardian of the sacred ritual of the Eucharist, the summit and source of our worship and faith. As a Priest of Jesus Christ he now can make real the sacred ritual, to “Do this in Memory of Me” – that wonderful exchange from heaven to earth that he will have the delight of celebrating on a daily and weekly basis with and for the faithful whom he will serve.
At the heart of Eucharist is thanksgiving. Worship and thanksgiving to God who has provided and given so generously to us. Ag Críost an síol. Ag Críost an Fómhar! Along with our prayers of petition and intentions and intercessions we bring here today, we give thanks to God for all we have in so many ways in this sacred Shrine.
The Bishop of the abandoned Tabernacle
A priest friend recently recommended an inspirational book that is based centred devotion to the Eucharist. It is a small and simple little book called The Bishop of the abandoned Tabernacle. It’s an account of the testimony and spirituality of a man who was canonized by Saint John Paul some years ago, St. Manuel Gonzaalez Garcaia. The crucial turning point in his life goes back to the time when he was first ordained and arrived into a parish in Spain where Church practice had hit rock bottom in the late 20th century. One evening he went into the chapel to say his prayers and there was almost a foot of dust in the sanctuary and tabernacle area. It struck him like a tonne of bricks that the Lord Jesus was literally abandoned there, due to lack of prayer and care and presence. From that moment onwards he began to spend his life campaigning for people to pray and engage in Eucharisitic Adoration and obtain all the graces that follow from that.
Today, we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ in the feast of Corpus Christi. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the whole Christian life. It is the centre of all that the Church is and does, because we celebrate the real presence of the crucified, risen Lord who continues to work among us. In this life we have nothing greater than the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Vietnamese Jesuit, Joseph Nguyen-Cong Doan, who spent 9 years in labour camps in Vietnam, tells how he was finally able to say Mass when a fellow priest-prisoner shared some of his own smuggled supplies. “That night, when the other prisoners were asleep, lying on the floor of my cell, I celebrated Mass with tears of joy. My altar was my blanket, my prison clothes my vestments. But I felt myself at the heart of humanity and of the whole of creation”. Through Holy Communion, we become a community. The unifying factor is Christ himself. By the body of Christ, we are made the body of Christ. St. Augustine was very clear on this quality of the Eucharist. ‘You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me’ (Confessions). In the Eucharist, Christ gives the Church His body and blood and this is what He makes us into also. By consuming the sacramental body of Christ, we are formed into the body of Christ. When we hear the words ‘Body of Christ’, and we reply ‘Amen’, we assent to what we are, Augustine says, ‘Be what you see and receive what you are.’
In this Holy Shrine on the gable of the wall of the parish Church in which the image of the lamb, the Lamb of God on the Eucharistic Altar, glorified is at the centre of the apparition, on the right of Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John, we pray for an increased devotion to the presence and blessing of God in the Eucharist. May God bless with the grace of the bread of Angels as we journey from this Holy Place in faith, hope and love.
Final Blessing and Greeting
May the blessing of Our Lady of Knock, St. Joseph, St. John, the Holy Angles, along with the Lamb of God, Jesus in this Holy Eucharist go with us as we return to our homes from this sacred place this evening.