Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Ennis Cathedral, Monday, 29th of June, 2020
Today, the 29th of June is always a special day here in the Cathedral as Saints Peter and Paul are the Patrons of this holy place. For the past 60 plus years, the sitting bishop hasn’t beenpresent in the Cathedral for this day as several hundred pilgrims from the diocese would normally be in Lourdes for the main annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady and St. Bernadette. However, with great regret, one among many other things, this was not possible this year. Nonetheless, the silver lining in that cloud is the satisfaction of being here for this fresh beginning on this significant feast day.
The images of four pillars or inspirational figures behind me here surrounding the Cathedra are that of Peter and Paul in the centre and they are flanked by Flannan and Senan on the outside. The local. The diocesan. The international. The global. The universal. The Eternal. Four great models of courage, strength, persistence and fortitude to inspire and link us back to the roots, the purity, the raw freshness of our faith from the early days. In doing so we reflect on the enthusiastic spread and sharing of the faith, The Good News of the Gospel in those pre and post Patrician days.
Paul, the great missionary, energetic evangelist, the great letter writer. The man who put understandable, sensible and logical categories on our emerging faith in his writings.
Peter, the fiery, the impetuous, the fickle. So human, yet because and in spite of that, a solid leader that carried and passed on the keys of the kingdom for generations to come.
For the past three and a half months liturgies were celebrated here with congregations of just a handful present, a bare minimum of server, sacristan, music ministers, lector and priest! What an unusual, strange and lonely experience that has been. At the heart of our experience of Eucharist we gather as community and we so missed that. We really missed YOU!
Despite the necessary restrictions – Mass, Devotions, Rosaries, Holy Hours, the constancy of prayer, the light of candles of petition continued in this sacred location unabated and undimmed. We have longed with eager anticipation for this day. We waited patiently for this glimmer of light with the phased reopening of our Churches, all be it with a very limited and finite number for liturgies initially. It’s a joyful start on the way back to gradual full participation in our liturgies.
Losses, challenges and sadness on the Way
On this day we remember, acknowledge and pray for the many who have experienced losses and sadness, the many who have struggled during that time since we last met. We recall those who have got sick, those who have died, the many who have been bereaved, the many who have encountered loss, pain, sadness, fear, threat to livelihood, loss in a myriad of ways during this time. We remember especially those who were participants in the many funerals here during the past almost four months, God rest the faithful departed and consolation to the family and friends involved.
We salute and give thanks to the many who have worked heroically during this time to keep essential services going many on dangerous front lines. I particularly and give thanks to the diligent priests, religious, pastoral councils and laity who have worked so hard to keep the light of the spiritual alive, despite the challenges. Special thanks to the music ministers, who without fail adorned each and every one of the liturgies celebrated here each day.
Prudence and Patience
As you know well, the global pandemic is not over yet. We still need to be careful and continue the restrictive, but lifesaving measures. This will involve sacrifice, inconvenienceand coping with the guidance of volunteers and the restriction of numbers of people being present. Your patience and cooperation is appreciated in relation to that. Well done and thank you to so many volunteers, stewards, cleaners and many other workers who have helped and continue to help with the enormous project and task of reopening our Churches in a safe manner again.
Reflection on past, present and future
I would hope that this time might have been a reflective time for us all as individuals to reflect on what our faith means to us personally and more broadly how we do things as Church.
- Yes, we have come to deeper sense that perhaps we human beings are not as much in the driving seat as we might have thought.
- Yes, we have reflected on the importance of prioritising things, the use of our time, the importance of people, family, friends.
- Yes, we have come to a deeper realization that Church is not just the building in which we worship, but is much broader that that.
- Yes, we more deeply realise that Eucharist is not just reciting prayers in the Church but involves further outreach to the, poor, the marginalised, the vulnerable around us.
- Yes, we realise even more the importance of the domestic Church, with the faith being handed on and celebrated in the fundamental unit of our society, the home and family.
Gift of Technology
One of the positive things that has emerged from the time of challenge has been the appreciation of the benefits of technology as a way of doing business and as an aid to sharing and celebrating the faith. Many within the Church have embraced that willingly, enthusiastically and creatively and I think it is an area that has great potential for the future. As tactile human beings and as an incarnational sacramental Church, presence, touch, meeting and gathering and so much part of our way of relating, but when that is not possible it is a gift to have other means to supplement this.
I’ll finish these words with a story or short parable:
The Pilgrim was walking along a road when one day he passed what seemed to be a monk siting in a field. Nearby, men were working on a stone building.
“You look like a monk” the pilgrim said.
“I am that” said the monk.
“Who is that working on the Abbey?”
“My monks”, said the man. “I’m the Abbot”.
“It’s good to see the monastery going up”, said the pilgrim.
“They’re tearing it down”, said the Abbot.
“Whatever for?” asked the pilgrim.
“So that we can see the sun rise at dawn”, said the Abbot.
In some ways, perhaps, it’s only when the walls of our Church and world and personal and inner lives are torn down – that we can more clearly see the sun. Please God, this tearing down of the past four months will lead to a sharpening of that clarity and a deeper appreciation of what we have missed.
What an ideal today to kickstart things in this feast day.
You are so welcome back…!
Céad Míle Fáilte
In last Sunday’s gospel in the words of Jesus the word welcome was mentioned no fewer than 6 times. Today those words from Jesus in the scriptures echo and are magnified many times as we say welcome back. Céad mile fáilte romhaibh. Gura fada buan a bheas muid le beannacht Peadar agus Pól ar an lá suntasach seo.