Homily of Bishop Michael Smith at Mass for the Meath Diocesan Eucharistic Congress, Navan, Co Meath
“The experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus has a strong Eucharistic tone, centred as it was on the explanation of the Scriptures and the Breaking of Bread, the two focal points of the Mass … Truth is not what you would like it to be – it is nowadays so often absent from public discourse and comment. We believe that the truth about life, its meaning and destiny, is to be found in Jesus Christ. It is that truth which we seek to affirm in this Congress” – Bishop Smith
Welcome to all who have come here this morning and who are preparing in these days of reflection and learning. I want to especially express my thanks to John Howard and the organising committee. In particular I am so grateful for the immense effort that they have made in preparation for this special event. Today I welcome all from throughout the Diocese of Meath and beyond who have come to Navan to participate in this wonderful Meath Diocesan Eucharistic Congress.
We are following in a noble tradition of local, national and international Congresses and our Meath Congress takes its place in the preparatory phase of the International Congress http://www.iec2012.ie to be held in Dublin next year. This tradition stretches back to the first such Congress, the outcome of a ten year campaign by a determined and devout French woman Emilie-Marie Tamisier, and this took place in the French city of Lille in 1881.
At the Last Supper, having taken and blessed the bread and the cup, Jesus said simply to His disciples ‘”do this in memory of me.” From the very beginning, as our second reading makes clear, those words of Christ found expression in the life of the infant Church as the early disciples gathered in prayer. The experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus has a strong Eucharistic tone, centred as it was on the explanation of the Scriptures and the Breaking of Bread, the two focal points of the Mass.
These days are an invitation to pray, to ponder and reflect, echoing the image of Mary we find so often in the Gospels. It is interesting that Pope Benedict in his annual message for next year’s World Social Communications Day has asked that reflecting on silence be central to that celebration. These days are centred on faith, on belief in God, on the transcendent impacting on how we live and how we understand life, all nourished and sustained by Christ, particularly his abiding presence in the Eucharist. “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another” is the theme for next year’s 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin and this centres on the same: communion with Christ and through our faith in Christ, communion with one another.
Recently Pope Benedict gathered with an enormous number of young adults in Madrid. The estimates of those attending vary but the lower estimate was 1.5million makes it the largest ever gathering in Spain. You won’t have read or seen much about it in our media.
I mention it not to make a comment on our media and its balance, or lack of it, but to put in context a striking comment in a reflective article that Mario Vargas Llosa, from Peru (last year’s Nobel Prize winner for literature) wrote in the major Spanish newspaper El Pais on 28 August last regarding World Youth Day in Madrid. He too is searching for faith, as he freely admits this. I would like to quote in full one of his many quotable comments in this article as I feel it sets a context for what we are experiencing over these days:
“For a long time it was believed that religion…would disappear with progress in knowledge and democratic culture and that science and culture would amply substitute it. This we now know is another superstition which reality has gradually demolished. Moreover we also know that culture, especially today, is incapable of carrying out this function which the free thinker of the 19th century attributed to it with such great generosity and an equal amount of ingenuity….This is because in our day culture has ceased to be a serious and deep response to the great questions about life, death, destiny and history as it sought to be in the past. On the one hand it has become an inconsequential light entertainment and on the other, a cabal of incomprehensible and arrogant experts who have taken refuge in unintelligible jargon, light years from common mortals.”
There is much more written in the same vein throughout his article. It is a cogent and relevant analysis of present day reality. Faith must always be a call to reflect and ponder on those questions that are central to life and death: its meaning, its purpose, its destiny.
Truth we believe is not to be found in Pilate’s cynical answer to the claim of Jesus that all who are on the side of truth listen to His voice. Truth is not what you would like it to be – it is nowadays so often absent from public discourse and comment. We believe that the truth about life, its meaning and destiny, is to be found in Jesus Christ. it is that truth which we seek to affirm in this Congress.
The title given to our Meath Congress over these three days “Come and See” is taken from the words of Jesus with which He answered the two disciples of John who followed Him and asked ‘Master, where do you live?’ He answered simply ‘Come and See.’ They were searching, seeking answers. No matter how much we trivialise life, with its celebrity and ephemeral culture, no one can avoid, at some stage along life’s journey, confronting these fundamental questions about life and death.
So often in our day we succumb to the illusion that we can make stones become bread, leaving God and faith to one side and putting our trust in the material. All we have done is turn bread into stones, depriving life of meaning and purpose.
It is this belief about life finding its ultimate destiny in God that we seek to affirm and witness to over these days of reflection and prayer here in Navan. They are meant to challenge us. Finding the courage and faith to walk in the way of Him who is our way, our truth and our life is an ever-present challenge. Elijah found that courage in the bread given Him, enabling him to reach the mountain of God. It is in the Eucharist that we seek the courage and faith that sustains life’s journey.
Bishop of Meath
Notes for Editors
(1) A Eucharistic Congress is an international gathering of people which aims to:
- promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Catholic Church
- improve our understanding and celebration of the liturgy
- draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist (i.e., the responsibility which we have to live in the spirit of communion and self-gift that we celebrate).
The Congress normally takes place every four years. The daily celebration of the Eucharist is at the very heart of the Congress. The wider programme of the Congress includes other liturgical events, cultural events, catechesis and testimonies, and workshops during the week of the Congress.
(2) About 1,600 pilgrims – including 200 young people – attended “Come and See” the Meath Diocesan Eucharistic Congress over the 14, 15 and
16 October 2011. Among the speakers were Fr Kevin Doran, Secretary General of the International Eucharistic Congress 2012; Fr John Harris OP; Fr Declan Hurley Administrator of St Mary’s Parish Navan; Fr Kevin Heery; Sister Consilio Rock; Footballer Ger Brennan; Baroness Nuala O’Loan; GAA Tyrone Manager Mr Mickey Harte; Dr Andrew O’Connell and Pat Reynolds. Net Ministries and Elation Ministries guided young people in prayer and discussion in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).
(3) The Diocese of Meath has 108 priests in active ministry along with eight seminarians studying for the priesthood. The diocese includes the greater portion of the counties of Meath, Westmeath and Offaly and a portion of counties Longford, Dublin and Cavan. The Patron Saint of the Diocese of Meath is Saint Finian (Feast day 12 December).
(4) The main organiser of the Meath Diocesan Eucharistic Congress ‘Come and See’ was John Howard. He can be contacted on 0469021029 or 0872478519, email [email protected], also [email protected] or [email protected] The full programme for the Meath Diocesan Eucharistic Congress is on www.dioceseofmeath.ie /iec2012 and on Facebook: Diocese of meathiec• Information on the 50th International Eucharistic Congress 2012 in Ireland is now available on www.iec2012.ie •
(5) The first International Eucharistic Congress was held in France in 1881. The person responsible for organising it was a lay woman, Emile-Marie Tamisier, following her 10 year campaign to persuade the Church authorities, including Pope Leo XIII. This first Congress gathered 300 people at the head of Eucharistic movements in European countries. During the following 125 years, the format of Congresses strongly evolved and they now attract some 12,000 to 15,000 participants for a full week of celebrations, adoration, catechesis, cultural events, fraternal gatherings, and commitments to aid the poor. Ireland last hosted the International Eucharistic Congress in 1932. Since 1881, the Pope had always been represented by a special Delegate at the celebration of Eucharistic Congresses. In 1964, Pope Paul VI took part in the last two days of the Congress held in Bombay, an initiative followed by his successor, John Paul II.
For further information and photographs please contact Fr Robert McCabe of the Diocese of Meath 00 353 (87) 924 2024. Also the Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth, Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 1727678