Homily at Lourdes Grotto
Pilgrimage of Diocese of Kerry Friday 4th September 2015
In our Gospel, the Magnificat, God’s Word to us today is Mary’s acknowledgement of God and her proclamation of trust in Him: “My soul rejoices in God my Saviour . . . the Almighty works marvels for me” .
Here at Lourdes many, many people, especially first time pilgrims, are deeply moved by all the plaques often completely covering the inside walls of the three churches that are beside us here. Also the many small silver plaques, many heart shaped, votive offerings. – All from individuals, families, parishes or whole cities, and often the first word is ‘Reconnaisance’ or ‘Merci’, ‘appreciative remembrance’, ‘thanks’. Many of them thanks for deliverance from wars.
Gathered at the grotto, we acknowledge God, we proclaim our trust in him, we count our blessings, we say thanks. We do so on our own behalf, and on behalf of our loved ones and those who asked us to pray for them and on behalf of the whole diocese of Kerry. We take a quiet moment to do so. We trust in God the Father, as Mary asks us to. We make our own her words: “My soul rejoices in God my Saviour . . . the Almighty works marvels for me”.
There are two things from home that I would especially ask us to give thanks for today. This is our first year to have Permanent Deacons, and one of them Conor is with us. Our second is Jean Yves. We have four more in preparation. It is a part-time permanent ministry. Central to it is to share the Gospel and to help people in their needs. The Acts of the Apostles speaks of having deacons because the poor and the needy were being neglected. Deacons will be a valuable addition to pastoral ministry and care in our diocese.
It is also good news that we now have five seminarians preparing for priesthood in our diocese. Sean Jones, the most senior one will be ordained a priest, hopefully, in about 18 months. The five vary in age from late teens to early forties. We continue to pray for vocations to priesthood. Our diocese is coping well with the scarcity of priests, when we realise the very high average age of our priests, (thank God for their great unselfish service) it brings home how great our need is.
In this Mass here at the Grotto, we give thanks and we entrust these two causes to Mary’s intercession, – our deacons and our need for priests.
At the 13thof the 18 Apparitions, on 2 March 1858, Bernadette reported that the Lady said: “Go to the priests and tell them that people should come in procession and that a chapel be built here”. Within 13 years, by 1871, the Upper Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, was built. In 1872, there was the great and famous pilgrimage of the Banners, 70 000 pilgrims gathered. Through processions and churches, so many pilgrims and so many Masses celebrated in wonderful churches have been at the heart of Life in Lourdes for the past 150 years and more. Almost 160 years later what is Mary asking of pilgrims who gather at Lourdes today? What does she ask of our diocesan pilgrimage?
Would she ask us to: Keep Sunday strong in your parishes, – as a day for God, and a day of rest; as a day to gather to celebrate Mass. In the Genesis account of creation God rested on the Sabbath and appreciated the goodness of his creation. On Sunday the first day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead. Is Mary at Lourdes saying to us: work six days, rest on Sunday, do not be a slave to work, let Sunday be for family, for neighbours, for recreation, for things of the heart, for things of the Spirit. On Sunday have time for God: if you do not keep a space for God in your Sunday – what space will God have in your week, your year? Do you want God to have a space in your week? Is it important?
Here at Lourdes I make this appeal: On Sunday have time for Mass. Try to join in the celebration of Mass every Sunday. At least be there more often, – what percentage of the time are you present, – be honest? Please keep your percentage high. Encourage others to celebrate Mass on Sundays. Tell them that it is something that helps in your life. We are better people for it, we are less vulnerable to loosing direction and purpose in our lives. We have a true sense of ourselves when we have an awareness of God present with us. Also let little children grow up with Mass as part of their Sunday.
At Mass every Sunday we pray the following four prayers. It does us good to speak these words from the heart every Sunday, – and God delights in hearing us address them to Him.
- Glory to God in the highest . . . We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you.
- Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
- Take and eat, this is my body, given up for you.
- Let us give thanks to the Lord Our God. It is right and just.
Here at the Grotto please join me in this third petition to Our Lady of Lourdes: may the people of all the parishes of our diocese always have time each Sunday, to turn to God in prayer at home and to join their own community in church celebrating Holy Mass.
Bishop Ray Browne.