OPENING MASS OF THE 2009
DUBLIN DIOCESAN PILGRIMAGE TO LOURDES
Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
8th September 2009
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland
8th September 2009
Sixty years ago the first Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes took place. As we look back it would be difficult to comprehend the grace which this pilgrimage has worked for so many individuals, and for the Diocese of Dublin.
Many people from the Archdiocese come to Lourdes each year, as individuals, with organized pilgrimages, perhaps just as curious tourists who find themselves in this area. None go away without at least something of the experience that Lourdes is different, that Lourdes is special. Lourdes is a place of unique holiness and the grace of the Lord is present here.
I greet every participant in this year’s pilgrimage on our 60th anniversary pilgrimage and I hope that from this holy place, the Grotto where the Blessed Virgin appeared to the humble girl, Bernadette Soubirous, we will all go away not just with the experience that Lourdes is different, but that we will go away as different, changed, better people, clearer about our lives and our purpose, renewed in our devotion, in our faith, and in Christian love.
Many people come to Lourdes on pilgrimage. A Diocesan Pilgrimage is a special event. We gather this morning as a pilgrim family representative of the entire Church of Jesus Christ in the diocese of Dublin. The entire diocese takes part with us and benefits from this pilgrimage. Many are praying with us and for us. We know that many have joined as associate pilgrims and we remember their prayers and intentions in this Mass.
There is a sense in which this representative group in Lourdes is not just a sample of our diocesan family but a model of what the Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin should be like.
We come here in prayer. We step aside and outside our daily routine, away from the increasing pressures of our lives, our work or our suffering study, we come away from our fears, loneliness and suffering, and we experience in the silence of this holy place something of what prayer is and what prayer is about.
Away from the pressures and the complexities and the noise of modern life we are privileged to have a moment simply to sit or stand or kneel quietly in the presence of God and to recognise our own limitations. In quiet prayer and trust we place our lives and our future in the powerful and protective hand of God. When we recognise the Lordship of God then so many other aspects of life are relativised and can be evaluated in a different light.
When we thank God for all that he has done for us we realise more deeply than normally that the good things of all of creation belong not to us but to God; we have no right to abuse or exploit the gifts of creation for our own interest; they are given to us to be used according to his plan.
In the Gospel reading we have just heard Mary through her acceptance of God’s word – even though she could not have fully understood what this might mean and would mean – permitted God’s saving work in Jesus Christ to enter into human history and into human reality not just for that moment, not just for the moments of Jesus’ earthly life, but for all of human history right up to our day.
Prayer is above all placing ourselves humbly in God’s presence. It is as much or even more about listening to God than talking to God; it is about opening our minds and our hearts so that God’s thoughts can fill us and lift the burden of our illness or of our self-centeredness or of our just being busy with the less important things. Lourdes is different because it is a school of prayer.
Lourdes is a model of the Church for our diocese because we have present here a praying and worshipping community: Christians young and old, rich and poor, sick and healthy, convinced and doubting, are brought together in one by the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist to become the body of Christ in which we become a people called by God. In these days we will celebrate the Sacraments of the Sick and of Reconciliation. We will join in Eucharistic Adoration. We will show our trust in the intercession of Mary.
In Lourdes differences melt away. In Lourdes relationships are changed. The sick become not the forgotten but those who are the special recipients of God’s love and of human care inspired by that love of which became visible in Jesus Christ.
I greet the sick pilgrims from so many parts of the diocese. I know that you come here bringing with you your sufferings and your anxieties, and of course your faith and your hopes for the future. Know that you are embraced by the faith and the love of every pilgrim here and that we make your intentions ours.
But know also that you are at the real centre of this pilgrimage. One of the great miracles of Lourdes is the way in which the lives and the faith of so many, young and old, are transformed by their encounter with the sick. You bring a new type of faith to us. You remind us of the many things that we take for granted. You remind us that the real values of life are not in having and possessing, not in popularity or celebrity. As sick people you come to experience a special sense of God’s love for you, but know that you also bring a deep sense of God’s love to all of us.
One of the experiences of Lourdes for our diocese is to see how Lourdes establishes different forms of relationships between people, young and elderly, sick and healthy. How is it that this can happen in Lourdes and yet when we return to our homes we can slip back very easily into our old ways, our old types of relationships our old lack of care and concern for others? Watch and observe the interaction and love and affection that develops between sick and helpers here in Lourdes and ask how the Church in Dublin might becomes a real force for changing the heartlessness and self-centeredness of many aspects of our society.
The change in our economic situation will make a climate of generosity and solidarity essential in many ways in the weeks and months ahead. May we bring back home with us something of that Spirit of Lourdes.
Over these sixty years of the Diocesan Pilgrimage, so many priests have come with pilgrims, not as tour guides, but as real spiritual guides for their parishioners. No priest can come to Lourdes without himself going away renewed and strengthened in his own vocation and ministry.
I would ask you all in a special way to pray for the priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin who minister so well and who are fulfilled in their ministry to their people. It is not an easy time for the Archdiocese of Dublin. There are trials, there is a real shortage of priests, and there are so many tasks to be attended to. Pray for each of the priests here with us. Pray that the Lord will encourage us in our ministry and that the Lord will give us, beginning with me as Archbishop, the strength we need to preach the Gospel effectively and ourselves to become men of the Gospel, our entire lives inspired by the word of God.
Let us remember in our prayers those priests who were associated with this pilgrimage over the past sixty years and who have gone to their rest, especially those who have died in this past year. May the Lord grant them their reward.
We have a great presence of young people here. It is one of the characteristics of the Dublin pilgrimage. They have come to be of service, to place their youth and their strength at the service of others. We can be justly proud of our young people here in Lourdes. May you return home with the experience that Lourdes is different, not in a superficial sense, but in really deep sense that Lourdes and it message can free you from much of the conformity that as young people can be forced upon you. Let the difference you experience here in Lourdes make you different in whatever path of life you chose. You want a different and a better and a more just and a more caring world. Do not leave that to others. In whatever path you follow standout as persons who are yourselves good, and just and truthful and caring.
In the Archdiocese of Dublin we are celebrating a Year of Evangelisation. The task of Evangelization is a task of the entire Church. It is about proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, through the proclamation of the word and through the witness of authentic Christian living.
May the experience of God’s healing presence here in Lourdes heal the wounds of the life of our Archdiocese; may the willingness of Mary to life according to God’s word be an inspiration for us in whatever our calling. We entrust to Mary our individual cares and prayers; we entrust the success of our Year of Evangelisation to her. To her and to Saint Bernadette we entrust all your intentions prayers and concerns and for the renewal of our Archdiocese.