Over the years I hope our diocese can more and more celebrate St Brendan on this day. So many parishes and specific places have a link to St Brendan: the name of a school, a stained-glass window, or a piece of sculpture, or a copy of the icon. A mid-May celebration offers so much potential: the Gift of Life – summer growth, heat and light; Easter and Pentecost; and our young people experiencing the vulnerability of preparing for exams. This year I will be celebrating St Brendan with an outdoor Mass at the restored Grotto of Our Lady at Faha on the path to Mount Brandon from Cloghane.
The icon of St Brendan shows him stepping from the solid rock shore onto a floating boat with an oar in hand. The incomplete step suggests vulnerability and risk, the oar speaks of a journey ahead. Overall it speaks of his Christian hope: hope in God, God’s Will be done.
This year the 12th of May marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Donal Walsh, aged 16, RIP. It is good this year to remember him. His life speaks inspiringly to young people. His parents and sister so courageously and successfully continue to give him voice. In his final months Donal was an inspiration to all youth and indeed to people of all ages.
- Amid his terminal illness his concern was not centred on himself but on how his death would affect others, “I am here with no choice, trying as best I can to prepare my family and friends for what’s about to come and leave as little mess as possible”. (Donal’s Live Life Letter)
- In his final months he remained close to his four friends. With them and his family he lived every day to the full, “The last thing he always said to us (his friends) was, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, lads’, so there was never going to be a final goodbye.” (Donal’s Mountain, Fionnbar Walsh 207 )
- His trust was in God, “God will be there with His arms open and I’ll walk into them”, that’s what Donal told us (his friends) shortly before he died. (p. 230)
- He issued his great plea to those who might be considering ‘dying by their own hands’: “So please, as a 16-year-old who has no say in his death sentence, who has no choice in the pain he is about to cause and who would take any chance at even a few more months on this planet, appreciate what you have, know that there are always other options and help is always there.” (Donal’s Live Life Letter)
As we celebrate the Feast of St Brendan, may Donal’s life be God’s loving, life-giving Word for our young people and for us all. Remember Donal, pray for him and pray to him. Ponder the challenges facing our young people. This October there will be a Synod in Rome focused on young people and their discerning their true calling in life.
St Brendan, pray for our diocese, for our young people doing exams, and for us all.
Bishop Ray Browne
Wednesday 16th May 2018
Feast of St Brendan 2018