11TH FEBRUARY 2007
Homily by Bishop Anthony Farquhar – Sunday 11 February 2007 –
for 15th World Day of the Sick and 35th anniversary celebratory Mass for the IHCPT, The Irish Pilgrimage Trust.
Throughout the year, but especially at Easter and during the summer people go to Lourdes from all corners of the world. But this weekend is very special. People go there to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It’s a bit like Lourdes’ birthday. Lourdes couldn’t hold all the people that might want to go on one particular weekend but on this particular weekend some people go to get things ready for all the pilgrimages from all the places in the world during that year – booking chapels, arranging processions and so on.
But during the rest of the year each group has its own dates to go to Lourdes – Armagh in May; Down and Connor 11-16 July; the IHCPT Easter week. Lourdes couldn’t hold them all on Lourdes’ birthday so we have birthday parties for Our Lady of Lourdes in different parts of the world and that is why we are here today.
People here have many great memories of Lourdes – people who went as children and are older now; people who went as helpers, chaplains, organisers, leaders, the officers of IHCPT, Bishop Dermot O’Mahony and myself – we all look back to very special days – great memories and we thank God for that. Happy Birthday Lourdes and Happy Birthday IHCPT.
But today’s not just about Lourdes. Today is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Last evening and this morning I celebrated Mass in hospitals. And there are people around the world who, through their suffering, join their prayers with Jesus who certainly knew what suffering was all about, and with the prayers of Mary who also knew what suffering was all about.
To all the young people who are here, representatives of so many others who have gone over the years, well done for showing us what real love is all about. To all the helpers and to all the chaplains, thank you for the example of kindness that you show. We remember anyone who has helped in any way who has died. I remember very closely today a Father Michael Cosgrove, a great friend of my own whom I ordained a priest. Father Michael went as chaplain to fifteen IHCPT pilgrimages in a row and we ask that God will welcome him now that he has come to the end of his earthly pilgrimage.
So, on this birthday of Lourdes, on this very special birthday of IHCPT, let’s wish each other a happy birthday, a happy anniversary, a happy feast day all rolled into one; and let’s pray for all those who will, please God continue to go to Lourdes on IHCPT pilgrimages at Easter for many years to come.
Notes for Editors
* Dr Anthony Farquhar is Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Down & Connor.
* The Irish Pilgrimage Trust (IHCPT) is a registered charity in Ireland. Each year, at Easter, it travels on pilgrimage to Lourdes with young people with special needs. There is an annual pilgrimage to Hosanna House in Bartres, close to the town of Lourdes. In 1997 the IHCPT opened a house in Clarenbridge Co Galway and welcomes groups there all year round. Every two years a group of cyclists travel through France to Lourdes – a different kind of pilgrimage – to the Grotto.