1 July 2011
Homily of Bishop Denis Brennan at the Re-Opening of the Ballagh Church
I love occasions such as this. I love them because they are so real. They are about people making a contribution, making a difference. This is what the church seeks to be about.
It is often said that all politics are local, the same can be said of Christianity, all Christianity is local too.
A diocese is nothing without its parishes, that’s where the life is, that’s where the energy is. If the gospel doesn’t happen in the parishes, if it doesn’t take root and grow there, it doesn’t happen anywhere.
It is a great privilege for me to be here this evening to acknowledge what you have done and to share your sense of celebration and community.
When a community embarks on an enterprise such as this great things can be achieved. Every Christian community is blessed with many talented and generous people, when these talents are harnessed the results can be amazing.
We can see that this evening, the results of your efforts here in the Ballagh are beautifully evident and you can be very proud of what you have accomplished.
You have chosen to refurbish your church but you have done more, you have made a statement to yourselves and to all who pass through your village.
In undertaking this refurbishment you are saying, the church is important in our lives, it is the meeting place of the believing community, it is important that it be attractive, inviting and well maintained.
The work which has been carried out here is a reminder that this building is not only concerned with the past, it is also concerned with the future.
You value it because you want it to be a part of your future, not just a reminder of your past.
This building is where individuals become community, it calls people out of their isolation and into community.
This is a great grace, it is something that cannot be bought, it only happens when people come together, when people feel the need to reach beyond themselves.
This adds great value to what you have done, you set out to work on a building but you ended up building community.
Of course the church is more than a building, it is the visible expression of our faith and hope, the place where we celebrate our joys and sorrows, the place where we confront the ultimate mystery, the mystery of life and death.
This is what the church is about, calling us together, reminding us that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, inviting us to celebrate the gift of life, and in doing so, to give glory to God.
One of the Responsorial Psalms puts it well…….’’ I will bless the Lord at all times.’’
It is easy to bless the Lord in good times, when everything is going well and life is good. It is not so easy when things are going badly but it is what we try to do as believers.
Your work on your church is your way of endorsing the words of the psalm, of making them real in your place and in your lives.
You have in your church many works of art, Stained Glass Windows, the Stations of the Cross, Paintings, Murals and Statues. We admire these items as works of art but they serve another purpose as well, they are part of what we call ‘’ the Poor Man’s Bible.’’
These items, in addition to being beautiful and decorative, also tell and illustrate the Christian story. The most common theme for the Poor Man’s Bible is the Life of Christ, his Birth, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Another form of the Biblical narrative that is sometimes illustrated is the Life of the Virgin Mary. Common Old Testament themes are Creation and the Fall, centred around the actions of Adam and Eve.
Another popular genre revolves around the Lives of the Saints, especially if they are associated with the church or the area. Then we have the whole area of Salvation History, the message of Redemption, Faith, Hope and Love.
All these topics are explored in the Poor Man’s Bible, which in addition to being beautiful and decorative, serve a useful purpose, we often say that a picture paints a thousand words!
So the furnishings we see in church are not just works of art, they also tell the Christian story and are in effect another Bible. This also applies to religious objects in the home, they too remind us of the spiritual, and help foster an atmosphere of belief.
The Poor Man’s Bible is always finding new ways of expression. For example in the parish of Kilmore there is a custom when a person dies of placing crosses on a tree near the deceased person’s home.
A few years ago when the people of Kilmore were renovating their church the late Fr Pat Furlong came up with the idea of depicting this local custom in a window and there is now a lovely stained glass window at the back of the church showing a tree festooned with crosses, a good example of how the Poor Man’s Bible lives on.
In conclusion I would like to thank and compliment all involved in this beautiful work of restoration, you have not just done something for the present, you have done something for the future as well.
In the words of Mother Teresa you have done ‘’ something beautiful for God.’’
Thank you and May God Bless you.
Fr John Carroll, Communications Officer, Diocese of Ferns, 053 9122177
Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678