HOMILY FOR THE REDEDICATION OF THE CHURCH IN Clooney on Friday, 14thDecember, 2018.
(acknowledging with thanks, some of the images courtesy of Paschal Brooks)
Judeo Christian Search
From the early biblical timesof Genesis we have been a pilgrim people. We have been a people on the move. We have beenon the move, since Abraham set out from the Caldees to form a family of God, through the forty years wandering in the desert of that family in search of the promise land. The people of God were always wandering, either to take the word of God to other nations or to search for the presence of God in their own lives or in their own generation.
The Irish Context
Since the arrival of St. Patrick on these shores we too have been a restless people searching for God in the mists of the mountains or in places made holy by the prayers of our ancestors. In these days so full of contradictions and confusion, we still search for sense to oursuffering,purpose to our pain, courage for our challenges. We gather today to rejoice as we re-dedicate this place as a resting place on our endless journey.
This was an immediate scene of tranquilityand restsited here on the side of a busy thoroughfareand people aredrawn by its sense of the sacred.
A proud and illustrious History
I love the story of the history of the Church here in Clooney, so beautifully summarized and presented in your booklets from page 14 onwards. It’s a proud tradition going back to the original Church in 1820 and the great story of the emergence of the current Church opened and blessed in August of 1976.
Visible and current links to the past
It is fantastic and significant and so special to have so many links to the ancient history of the sacred past with the stain glass windows, the spiral staircase, the bell, the inscription stone, the chalice from 1725, the holy water font, the stations of the cross and many other sacred objects.
What a great patron you have in John 23rd, now saint John 23rd and because of his beatification a few short years ago along with John Paul II and following on from that we gather to re-dedicate this place of worship to one of the newest and most popular Saints in the Churches liturgical calendar.
So many people have great grá, devotion and dedication to John 23rd. Many households, including my own grandparents had pictures of the trio of the Sacred Heart, John F. Kennedy, Pope John adorning the walls of their house. That exciting time of the early 1960’s very much signalled a new era, a new world of freedeom, human rights and fresh beginnings.
In Church terms Pope John brought the international Catholic Church into the modern era by calling the Second Vatican Council. He was a quiet, devout and humble man and they say he had a great sense of humour. When asked how many people worked in the Vatican – he used to say in a droll manner – about half or 50%!
The inspiration of John 23rd
As a young first year seminarian – one of the spiritual books that I used for much spiritual sustenance was his classic work – Journal of a soul, a huge tome which traces much of his spiritual development. That particular book that I had was a well thumbed volume that I inherited from my Dad. He found this book a tower of spiritual inspiration and I too found it that. May the sanctity of Pope John, his humility, his love for fellow human beings, his sense of good humour and outreach to the modern world continue to be an inspiration to yourselves here in this beautiful Church in Clooney.
Church of John Xxiii, Clooney – Holy Ground
This place, that we rededicate in his honour, is holy ground and we tread gently on its earth as we come to give thanks and to praise the God of all our searching. We are acutely aware of the struggles of our ancestors who worshiped here in recent centuries and who held on to God in days far more challenging than our own. We are aware of their poverty as they scrapedharvests fromrelativelyungenerous land or braved ocean storms to harvest the seas. They watched as their sons and daughters left the beauty of this place to earn a living in a lonely exile. They found old age creeping up on them with its pain and sense of helplessness and moved towards their God with a rosary entwined around their fingers and their hearts. This is a holy place because they made pilgrimage to God to the very end. This is a holy place because of the un-named men who laid the stones to build this church and because of the sacrifice people made to make a dwelling place for God here in the mid-West of Irelandin the Parish of Quin, Clooney and Maghera.
Church of Clooney a Sacred Place of Sacrament
Down the years, this Church of Clooneyhas seen the children of its baptismal font grow in the grace of God, some to stay, some to go abroad, some to continue the family name at home, others to carry the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth. It has seen the promises of marriage honoured in the face of poverty, in days of tuberculosis and inevitable grief. This church has seen its people coming here to bring their pain and brokenness to their God.
Contrast with today
Life today is not as austereas it has been in times past, yet in many ways it remains just as difficult, if not more soto cling to God. There are many strident voices declaring that if Jesus is the way that he claimed, then the path is overgrown and the way perilous, and signposts are few and far between. There are many who hold out to us a shortcut to joy and a bypass to sufficiency in an uncertain age. There are many who follow Messiah of mayhem who would lead us to believe that violence is the only gateway to the future and yet Jesus Christ declares to all of us here on this Winterday that he is stillTheWay, The Truth and The Life.
In the urgency and bustle of every day, we need time to pause, time to reflect. This church reordered, rebuiltand made beautiful by all of youand rededicated todayis such a place to pause, to rest by the wayside on our pilgrim path to God. Its doors will be open to all who would respond to Christ’s gentle invitation to come aside and rest awhile. In this pilgrim setting it will welcome the tourist and the traveller, the school bagged child, the hard-pressed parent, the returned exile, the sinner and the saint. Here they may all experience the warmth, love and hospitality of God. Here they will discover that what God did in the past, he can do now, what God did in the Holy Land he can do here in Cong, what God did to others, he can do to us today.
The People’s House
By happy coincident the term for Church in Irish is not so much séipéal but teach an phobail. The pople’s house. The house of the community. A church is a people before it is a building.
Teach an Phobail.
An téarma is coitianta a úsáidtear le haghaidh séipéal sa Ghaeilge ná Teach an Phobail. Cuir síos feiliúnach, oiriúnach. Teach le haghaidh an phobal tagaithe le chéile. Bailiú le chéile, cruinniú, Pobal Dé, Corp Chríost mar a dúirt Naomh Pól. Tagann muid anseo le haghaidh na ócáidi móra inár saoil. Na Sacraiminti. Ócáidi cheiliúrtha ó bhreith go bás, ón gcliabhán go dtí an gcónra.
We, a pilgrimage people, rest here where God will be neighbour to so many. From the long history of this parish I know that He will feel at home here. May this Church here in Clooneybe a beacon of hope when any gloom descends. May it be a sacramentof Christ’s joy, consolation and lightfor our suffering earth.
Congratulation and well done!
I want to congratulate very warmly the Parish Priest, Fr. Tom O’Gormanfor his leadership in this project. Congratulations to Pastoral Counciland the industrious committee for the way they combined vision, imagination, courage and creativity in undertaking this work of renovationback in the 1970s, the upkeeping work and today’s ceremony of rededication.
Fond remembrance of former pastors
I know you remember with great fondness the memory of Fr. Jim Power who served here as PP from 1995-2005 who went to God in January of 2007. We remember also Michael McInerney a native of the parish who retired here and died in January of 2013 and Michael Collins, PP from 2005-2015 who died in February, 2015. All three lived here in the parish at one time, so you are used to a good service here in the parish!
Preparations, focus and excitement
I know you have been preparing for a long time for this special day. I was out for lunch in Ennis about one month ago. One of the ladies who works in the restaurant was hoarse with a bad dose of laryingitus. She and her colleagues told me that the reason she had no voice was that she was worn our practicing in the choir here for weeks in preparation for this big day!
I hope and pray that generations to come will acknowledge and applaud your generosity, perseverance, faith, loyalty and love for your local Church.
Finally well done to all involved. I hope you enjoy the remainder of the evening and the upcoming festivities and may the Lord enrich you with the choicest of blessings for the remainder of Advent, Christmas and the new years.
There is a beautiful prayer that many people say praying for God’s blessing as they leave the Church, the place of God’s presence. It runs:
Beannacht leat, a Mhuire,,
Beannacht leat, a Chriost,
Go gcumhdaí sibh ár n-anam,
Go dtige sinn arís, Amen.