Homily for Mass – Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes – Final day of Novena – Ennis Cathedral – 11th of February – 2022
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36).
Standing beside those who suffer on a path of charity
The week before last I celebrated Mass in Clarecastle, our neighbouring parish here in Ennis. Even though we rotate Mass venues regularly in the Abbey Pastoral Area I hadn’t been there in a long time because of the Covid restrictions. It was good to be there again and see some familiar faces. Many, of course, following normal routine, in the same pew they have occupied for years when they come to Mass to pray.
An Empty Pew
All through the Mass I was very conscious of an empty space on my right hand side, where a lady called Ada Power used to sit. She was always there at Mass in Clarecastle. In that she was intently caught up in the whole drama of the liturgy, the people, the music, the celebration, the prayer of Holy Mass. She was obviously very at home it that setting. If she didn’t get to meet me after Mass she would send a text of greeting and good wishes after.
Fear of Covid
Ada had a terrible fear of Covid and dreaded the possibility of getting it. Very sadly she fell ill about a year into the pandemic and even though she didn’t have Covid she died suddenly enough in the end in Limerick hospital. If anyone is in heaven, there is certainly a prime spot for Ada there. The light of heaven to her gentle soul.
With the advent of webcams and ipads, Mass online was one of Ada’s occupations and staple diets from early morning to evening. Her day started by tuning into the 7.40 am Mass here in the Cathedral. Very often she woud send a text after Mass, full of appreciation for the gift of the Eucharist being transmitted to her home.
Living Life to the Full
Ada was a remarkable person. Disabled from birth, she struggled in so many ways with prosthetic limbs and multiple other ailments. None of these however prevented her from living life to the full in so many ways. She was organist in Church, taught speech and drama, was an important organiser in the Legion of Mary, the Pioneers along with other community and Church activities. Every year in the month of May she coordinated a special Mass for the Sick, disabled and chronically ill here in the Cathedral. The ceremony would have the anointing of the sick and that was so appreciated and loved by many.
Devotion to Lourdes
Pilgrimage to Lourdes was central to Ada’s life. She had been on almost all the Killaloe pilgrimages since they began well over 60 years ago and in latter years, she had the iPad geared up and ready, way before the designated starting time for the Killaloe Mass at the grotto every year. Lourdes, devotion to the sick at Lourdes, the Feast of Our of Lourdes and World day of Prayer for the sick were close to Ada’s heart.
Our Lady of Lourdes – Prayer for the Sick
Today on this feast of Our Lady of Lourdes we celebrate the 30th anniversary of World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Just 13 years after visiting us here in Ireland and praying at the Shrine of Our Lady in Knock – Pope, (now Saint) John Paul II added to this special feast day, designating it World day of Prayer for the Sick. John Paul himself was a great witness through his life and ministry in his twilight years to the mystery and redemptive power of suffering. He demonstrated this in the dignified way he bore his illness in his final years.
Consolation from the Feast
So many people over the past 30 years have drawn great consolation from the meaning of both this new focus of prayer and it’s obvious link with the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It’s is so remarkable that the sick are treated in such a special and unique way in Lourdes. At the Shrine the sick, those suffering are centre stage and treated like royalty. Prayer for and around the sick is at the heart of what Lourdes is about.
Message of Pope Francis
I like very much the words of Pope Francis in his message today for World day of Prayer for the sick:
“I would like to remind everyone that closeness to the sick and their pastoral care is not only the task of certain specifically designated ministers; visiting the sick is an invitation that Christ addresses to all his disciples. How many sick and elderly people are living at home and waiting for a visit! The ministry of consolation is a task for every baptized person, mindful of the word of Jesus: “I was sick and you visited me” ( Mt 25:36).
Dear brothers and sisters (Pope Francis continues), to the intercession of Mary, Health of the Infirm, I entrust all the sick and their families. United with Christ, who bears the pain of the world, may they find meaning, consolation and trust. I pray for healthcare workers everywhere, that, rich in mercy, they may offer patients, together with suitable care, their fraternal closeness.”
Just before I wind down – very much in tune with the Feast of the Day – we have a special celebration in Ireland also as it is the feast of St. Gobnait. Native of this county, Clare, she is also associated with Inis Oirr, Baile Bhuirne and Muscraí. Images of St. Gobnait, notably the Harry Clarke window in the Honan Chapel in Cork have bees all round her. She is the patron saint of beekeepers because of her promotion of the healing qualities of honey as part of her healing ministry. That was way before the Manuka industry was even invented!!! We thank God for the healing qualities of the natural world around us and saints and enlightened people that remind us of that on this feast day of Gobnait.
As we conclude these special days of grace, this Novena in honour of Our Lady, praying for those who are sick, may the fruits of the passion and Cross of Jesus Christ fall upon us and be in our hearts always.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
St. Bernadette, pray for us.
Saint John Paul II, pray for us.
St. Gobnait, pray for us.