We gather here in this historic place on a special day, the feast of Saint Macartan. This church served as the pro-cathedral of our diocese for a number of years in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, also, we have with us the icon of Saint Macartan, normally kept in our cathedral in Monaghan. But it is here today, reminding us of the local roots of the faith which we as families nourish, live and pass on. The icon of Saint Macartan and the World Meeting of Families icon too, together with our own presence here today – all of these reinforce for us that the church is, as Pope Francis often reminds us, ‘a family of families’, a community of love and compassion.
Over the last few months, people from every parish in our Diocese have been given the opportunity to write prayer petitions for their families and place them in boxes which have travelled around the Diocese. All have been gathered together and brought to this church of our diocesan patron, Saint Macartan, to be entrusted to the care of the religious congregations in the Diocese.
We have brought to the church today five simple boxes. All they contain is thousands of pieces of paper, and yet each box is a treasure chest. For on these simple scraps of paper are written the hopes, the fears, the joys, the sadnesses, the thanks, the regrets and the deepest desires which form the fabric of the lives of our families.
Each of these pieces of paper is a message of love. Each one too is a unique expression of Christian faith and hope. Some will speak of the longing for healing for a sick family member or the liberation of one captive in the grip of addiction. Others may pray for the safety of loved ones far from home or the future success and happiness of the next generations. Others still may yearn for the gift of forgiveness and the mending of broken relationships. What all will speak of is the love and compassion which is at the heart of the families which make up our Christian community.
Each of these petitions is a prayer, and every prayer is a gift of time and thought. Although these prayers are made for the benefit of others, they bring blessings also to those who have written them. For in taking time and giving thought, we nurture the gift of love within ourselves. These simple acts of kindness and compassion make us more truly God’s chosen race, his saints. They make us better people. They also remind us of the real needs of those whom we love, and so allow the love of God to touch them through us.
In the Gospel story of the wedding at Cana, we see all this happen – a potentially embarrassing predicament averted by the sensitivity of a mother, her confidence in her son and the loving honour he gives to her and to the young bride and groom. It is a reminder to us of the power of the love we experience in our families and the importance of celebrating it with joy and thanks. We will have the privilege of doing this in a special way at the World Meeting of Families in August in Dublin. There these prayer petitions will end their journey at the celebration of the Closing Mass in the Phoenix Park. In the company of Pope Francis, kind and compassionate Father to our family of believers, we will, as they did at Cana, gather around the table of the Lord and celebrate with thanks the joy he brings.
I want to say a very special word of thanks to the religious congregations in our Diocese who are represented here today – the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Saint Louis, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Passionists and the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. Thank you for accepting from the people of our Diocese these prayers, which express their deepest longings and hopes. You will take them from their homes to your homes, from their families to your faith-families. Over the coming months you will make their prayers your prayers. For this service of love to the families of Clogher, we are deeply grateful.
We are now barely five months away from the great celebration which is the World Meeting of Families. As we continue our preparations in eager anticipation, may I wish every blessing on the work being done by all who are organising this wonderful event. May I also express our thanks in particular to all in our own Diocese who have taken up this work with such commitment and enthusiasm. And may I urge as many people from our Diocese, and families in particular, to seize the opportunity to experience this unique happening in our country – do register and take part!
Saint Paul speaks to us of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are the hallmarks of true Christian families and vibrant religious communities. May these qualities be ever-present in all our homes and religious houses and may the peace of Christ reign in all our hearts.
Notes for Editors
- This homily was preached on Saturday 24 March, the Feast of Saint Macartan, in Saint Macartan’s Church, Parish of Clogher, Co Tyrone.
- The Diocese of Clogher encompasses all of Co Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and portions of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. It has a Catholic population of 88,000, across 37 parishes, which are served by 63 priests and 1 deacon. There are 85 churches in the diocese. Monsignor Joseph McGuinness is the Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Clogher, pending the appointment of a new bishop. He is also the Administrator of the Parish of Tyholland, Co Monaghan.
- The Family Petitions initiative is one of the many features of the preparatory period for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin next August. Families in parishes and communities across Ireland have been invited to submit prayer petitions, to be prayed for before and during the World Meeting of Families. Since late last November, two petitions boxes have been on tour around the various parishes of the Diocese of Clogher. People have been invited to write prayer petitions for their families and place them in these boxes. All of the petitions were brought to Saint Macartan’s (The Forth Chapel) in Augher, Co Tyrone, today, the feastday of Saint Macartan (patron of the Diocese of Clogher), where they were entrusted to 5 religious orders and communities who reside in the diocese, namely the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Saint Louis, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Passionist Order and the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. They will be included in the daily prayer of the Church within those communities until the World Meeting of Families itself next August. The petitions will then be brought to one of the liturgies presided over by Pope Francis during the WMOF18.
- The Parish of Clogher is located in south Tyrone and encompasses both Clogher and Augher. There are two churches in the parish – Saint Patrick’s in Clogher (1979) and Saint Macartan’s. Father Noel McGahan is the Parish Priest of Clogher and also of the adjoining parish of Eskra. Saint Macartan’s Church (also known as ‘The Forth Chapel’) dates from 1846. It features in the writings of the William Carleton (1794-1869), it being the setting for his story ‘The Midnight Mass’. Saint Macartan’s was also the pro-Cathedral for the diocese for a time before the episcopal see was transferred to Monaghan in 1851. A Clogher native, Archbishop John Hughes, first Archbishop of New York and founder of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue, preached at Saint Macartan’s in January 1846.
For media contact: Gary Carville, Clogher Diocesan Communications & Media Officer, Bishop’s House, Monaghan. Tel. 00353 47-81019 / 00353 87 1767226. Email: [email protected]