Bishop focuses on strengthening faith within family life

As the diocese journeys towards the World Meeting of Families helped by the visit of the Holy Family Icon, Bishop Ray encourages a focus on ‘strengthening faith within family life’’

Bishop Ray Browne’s Homily notes from the Chrism Mass 2018:

Many images are used to describe the Church. One image is the Church as a Family. It is similar to the image of the People of God. We are a family under God our Father: we are brothers and sisters of Jesus. We see Mary as our Mother. We are a family created through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

All are full members of this family through Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. For generations we have been blessed to have among us male and female religious. This year marks 300 years since the birth of Nano Nagle, founder of the Presentation Sisters. In the 50 years around 1800 Ignatius Rice and Catherine Mc Auley founded their Congregations. Think of the service in education and health these Congregations have given in our diocese.

Priests in communion with their bishop have a central role serving this family. Service in the ordained priesthood is honoured and renewed each year in this Mass of Chrism. The Mass of Chrism is linked to Holy Thursday and the Last Supper. In instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper Christ conferred the priesthood on the Apostles. At this Eucharist priests renew their commitment to priesthood. The text of that renewal calls on priests to resolve:

  • To be united with the Lord Jesus
  • To be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites
  • To discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, moved only by zeal for souls.

The laity are asked:

  • To pray for their priests that they may lead them to Christ who is the source of salvation.
  • To pray for me, your bishop, that I may be made day by day a living and more perfect image of Christ, the Priest, the Good Shepherd, the Teacher and the Servant of all.

Let us do all this, this evening, in a spirit of gratitude to God; grateful for the good lay people at the heart of every one of our fifty three parishes; grateful for all the religious among us; grateful for all the priests in fulltime ministry that give such tireless service. Also the many retired priests whose good health allows them to assist us (our own retired priests and those retired from dioceses abroad). Gathered around the Cathedral altar this evening, let us entrust to God the whole diocesan family, laity, religious and priests.

This year of WMF 2018 I want to focus on all the homes and families of our diocese. We estimate that there are 20,000 children under twelve years of age in our diocese. That gives you some idea of the extent of family life. Ireland is a very good country for family life, but at the same time it is far from perfect. I particularly am sad that there are many families where their income is very low. The minimum wage is €9.55 per hour. Often it is accompanied by   conditions of employment that are unfair and unjust. I support a move to what is referred to as a ‘Living Wage’. It is about 20% above the minimum wage. This is based on the estimated minimum needed by a couple to support themselves and their family. The problem is made so much worse by our current housing crisis.

Many other aspects of home and family could be mentioned. Consider this one: the strength of faith in the home, living your faith in family life. This is a prime responsibility and concern for me as bishop and for us all as a diocese. In recent times you may often have heard the phrase the ’domestic Church’. What does it mean? Has it a reality?

Just as every parish is a full unit of the Church, is each family too in some real sense a Church, i.e. the ‘domestic Church’? The following four elements sum up what a parish community is :

  • A people who believe that God is present among them
  • A people who strive to live ‘love of God and love of neighbour’
  • A people who pray, both together and individually
  • A people who seek to keep their faith strong and hand it on to the next generation

Are these four elements relevant in the lives of the people in every family? Are they present in every home? If so, does that give us a sense of the meaning of ‘domestic Church’?  Every home is a mini-Church.

Many interesting thoughts come to mind:

  • Are parents the teachers and the shepherds in their family?
  • Where the Sacred Heart picture hangs, where the Bible is placed, are they the sacred space in the home?
  • Just as the parish church is a visible reminder of an invisible presence, the presence of God in our communities, are these religious images the visible reminders of God’s presence in the home?

Pope Francis asks us to be faithful to the prayer of grace before and after meals, a simple witness to our belief that all is gift from God.    The Rosary is a convenient way of turning to God for ten minutes, be it alone or as a family. Night prayer is an opportunity to recall the blessings of the day and also to ask forgiveness for failings.   You are encouraged to have your own prayer book that you use regularly containing many prayers you like to pray. Each Sunday we gather in church as neighbours to celebrate the Risen Christ, offering Mass together gathered around the altar.

The challenge of our time is to hand on the faith to the next generation. Your belief in God; your love of Jesus; your conviction as to the beauty of a life lived loving God and the neighbour; are you sharing it with your children? Family is the first and most important source of faith in a young person’s life. I invite you to see your family as a ‘domestic Church’.

In handing on the faith, the family is supported by the parish and the school. The new programme in our Primary Schools, Grow in Love, has prioritised strengthening the links between family, parish and school.

In the months leading up to WMF2018 and as a follow on, I propose that we give priority to exploring how we can support families to be true ‘domestic Churches’, living the faith and handing it on to the next generation.

On Monday April 9th the icon of the Family begins an eleven day visit to four venues in our diocese. I encourage as many as possible to make the journey to pray before the icon. I encourage all parishes to have a focus on the icon and the WMF at all parish Masses during those days.

Bishop Ray Browne