On this Reek Sunday, this national day of pilgrimage we gather in the Shrine of Our Lady to be nourished by many different elements of the richness, beauty & diversity of our faith. Eucharistic. Marian. Patrician. Pilgrims, one & all we journey humbly in faith at the heart of Summer to be refreshed, replenished in Spirit during this time of recreation, vacation & holiday.
The Spirituality of St Patrick.
On this day of Patrician festival we are enlivened & renewed by the Christocentric & Trinitarian faith of St Patrick so evident in his breastplate & his letters. Críost liom. Críost romham.
The Spirituality of Knock
Moreover, here in this most sacred location we absorb the love & life of Mary, Mother of God, St Joseph her beloved spouse, the great apostle of love, St John. In reflecting on the magnificent image of the apparition of 1879 we renew our love & devotion to and for the Eucharist, the Cross of Jesus Christ, Jesus as Lamb of God & our belief in the angels as messengers from God to point us towards deep spiritual realities that link us to God on our pilgrim way.
Of course the eyes of our minds at this point are casting our sights ahead to the visit of Pope Francis who will be here to pray for the success of World Meeting of Families in less than a month. What more suitable place could have been chosen for the start of that preparation with the Holy Family at the centre of the Knock Apparition. The great journey of preparation began here during the Knock Novena last year with the anointing of the specially commissioned Icon that has been in every diocese of the country & we had the privilege of hosting in Kilkee, Ennis & Birr earlier this month.
Holy Land of Tuam!
In many ways we have entered the Holy Land here in Tuam Archdiocese that lays claim to the presence of Our Lady, St Jarlath, St Patrick, St. Colmcille & a whole host of the celtic & medieval saints. However as we journey and make pilgrimage from the ancient & venerable See of Killaloe we are conscious of our own great ecclesiastical tradition also & we journey here in communion with that:
Venerable Tradition of Killaloe
Senan of Scattery ; Flannan of Killaloe; Lua of Kyle; Brendan of Birr ; Imy of Killimer ; Caimin of Holy Island; Tola of Dysart ; Finnachta of Sixmilebridge; Cúmin of Shinrone;
Máile of Kilmaley; Iníon Buí of Kilnaboy; Odhran of Latteragh; Lughna of Kinnitty; Conaire of Rineanna; Mochualla of Tulla; Finín of Quin; Cronan of Roscrea & Crusheen; Colman of Coolderry; Rudhan of Lorrha; Brecan of Doora; Luctighern of Fenloe; Columba & Conall of Drumcliffe ; Kieran of Modereny; Lught & Augh of Terryglass; Céide of Tubber; Bláthmac of Ráth; Conlan of Nenagh; Leachtín Naofa of Miltown Malbay: Kee of Kilkee.
We are conscious of the richness of our spiritual heritage & pray that we bring the strength of faith & devotion of the giants, on whose shoulders we stand, with us into our daily lives whether that be in Killaloe or Knock or where ever you journey from on this occasion. I welcome two special pilgrims all the way from California who celebrate 55 years of marriage, may God continue to bless and enrich them and their family!
Perhaps you come here today with a sense that like 10,000 or so pilgrims on Croagh Patrick today and during the past weekend – you are climbing a steep mountain like Croagh Patrick. You may we weighed down by burdens of one kind or another & feel that you are on an upward slope. This may take a myriad of forms; sickness, old age, bereavement, addiction, disappointment in life, relationship difficulties, praying for good exam results. My prayer is that through your presence & prayer here in the Shrine of Our Lady you may have a sense of reaching the top of the mountain & that you can see clearly & uninhibited into the horizon.
Eucharist – John 6
A central part of the Apparition here in Knock is our belief, faith & devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist, with the Lamb of God on the altar glorified. For the next number of Sundays as always happens with Year B, St Marks Gospel, we switch to St John, Chapter 6 with the Eucharistic Bread of Life discourse. The Eucharist, The Mass, The Bread of Angels that has sustained us as a people from the time of St Patrick, through the era of Mass Rocks of Penal times & right down to this day.
In the Eucharist we experience the presence of God in a very real, tangible & definite way through the assembled body of Christ, the Word proclaimed, the bread broken & wine poured out, the sacrificial presence of Jesus Christ on the altar.
From humble beginnings – The Miracle of the Loaves & Fish
In recent times we might be conscious of how much our faith is struggling to have its voice heard with declining numbers of people practicing & less & less people going to Mass & Killaloe is no different to anywhere in the Western world. However I feel we should not lose courage. In our reduced size, in being a leaner & smaller Church, in being what Pope Benedict used to call a creative minority – perhaps we can be more authentic as Church.
I notice the miracle of the loaves & fishes of today’s Gospel was achieved through the smallness & tinynessof one small boy with 5 loaves & 2 fish & yet 1,000 people were fed with the bread of life & much left over – in abundance!
Courage, faith & hope from the Word of God
In being encouraged by this good news from the Word of God today we will not lose heart. Take for example the goodness & signs of hope from the 30 young people from our Killaloe Youth Choir today who gave up so much of their holiday time to practice & be here. Like the small boy in the Gospel – often great things can be achieved from humble or small & seemingly meagre beginnings. The second reading encourages us all to live lives worthy of the vocations that we are called to & if each one of us does that individually then the body of Christ that is present in Killaloe or Knock or where ever you come from will thrive & be as healthy as could be!
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 and we return to our homes from this sacred place this evening.