St. Flannan’s Day 2023 – Homily

Homily for St. Flannan’s Day, December 18th, 2023

Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, Ennis

On this day, December 18th every year, we commemorate and celebrate our diocesan patron, St. Flannan.

This very day, 50 years ago the Cathedral was rededicated by Bishop Michael Harty following extensive renovations and what a joy it is to be in a similar position today following the great work on the original tiles in this honoured place of worship as a parish Church, pro-Cathedral and later Cathedral from the 1990’s.

In looking back to our roots, we hope to be reinvigorated in the vision that inspired Flannan to be a loyal and dedicated follower and disciple of Jesus Christ.  The details of his life and characteristics are well known to us.  As we look back on those and the journey since – at this critical juncture in our diocesan history, moving forward in Pastoral Planning and addressing the critical needs of the future it helps to ponder the outline of where we have come from to more clearly see where we are going.

We acknowledge in post-patrician days:

  • the early Celtic Church of colourful saints women and men many of whom are our patrons today,
  • the monastic system that sprung up and the renowned educational establishments associated,
  • the influence of the new religious orders in the Middle Ages,
  • the parish and diocesan system that firmly took root from around the same time,
  • the strong influence of the new congregations and religious orders, male and female in the run into the 20th century
  • the age of the rediscovery of the vocation of all the baptised, courtesy of the Second Vatican Council

all of this leading up to the challenging times we live at present in which much of the old way of doing things seems to be gradually expiring.

Behold, I am doing a new thing!

In the current edition of the The Furrow there is an account of a recent address that our own lay historian from Moneygall, Prof Salvador Ryan gave to to group of priests in the West.  It’s entitled: “BEHOLD I AM DOING A NEW THING”.

Some of it runs:

And when we dare to explore the history of Christianity more fully, we find a very different Church. And, in fact, we don’t have to go back far at all. When we talk about renewal, or defending a particular model of Church, which model are we defending? What are we trying to preserve? Moreover, we might ask: what other periods of history tried to preserve what they had? And if they had succeeded in preserving what they had at any one particular point in time, what sort of Church would we have now? What kinds of church structures would we have now? What sort of spirituality would we have now? At what point in time would you want to freeze that ecclesiastical model? When would have been the optimum moment in our Church’s history for us to have cryogenically frozen our structures, our spiritualities, our liturgies, our catechetics, our understanding of doctrine, and our moral priorities?


You know, my children often ask me, “Daddy, if there was such a thing as a time machine, and you could go back to any period in history, which one would you go back to?” And we could ask the same question. If we look back at the Church’s past, particularly if we look back at the church’s past with rose-tinted glasses, what period in the past would we go back to? What stage of ecclesial development would we identify as being in the “Goldilocks zone”

– not too hot, not too cold? Just right.

While perhaps not providing us with a blueprint for the future, it, in a thoughtful manner gives perspective and legitimacy to the reality that change, and adaption is necessary in order to survive and thrive.

On mission Sunday, this year Pope Francis chose the theme “Hearts on Fire, Feet on the Move” for the occasion and the year ahead.  That very day, Mission Sunday was the day the Council of Priests advised to launch the current pastoral plan “Going forward in Faith, Hope and Love”.  In those short couple of months, since that – already, due to some recent events in some pastoral areas, the reality around us has even further evolved and this is set to continue in a more accelerated way in the days and years to to come.

Intercession of St. Flannan

My prayer today on the feast of our patron, Flannan of Killaloe, we might have the courage, enthusiasm, and energy to like Flannan have Hearts on Fire and Feet on the Moveas we move forward in Faith, Hope and Love in the Diocese of Killaloe.  Happy feast day to you all on this special day!