Homily of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for the opening Mass of the Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes

10 Sep 2018

These have been eventful weeks for the Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin.  We had the joy of the visit of Pope Francis and the other events of the World Meeting of Families.

The people of Dublin responded with generosity and enthusiasm to that occasion.  I will always remember the crowds that thronged the streets of Dublin as the Pope journeyed across our city.  I remember the faces of men, women and especially of families and their children at the various events. 

I remember the warmth of the people of the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes as the Pope made a short stop at their parish and the shrine of Matt Talbot.  I remember the simplicity of the meeting at the Franciscan Food Centre and the remarkable gathering of almost four hundred young couples preparing for or who had recently celebrated the sacrament of marriage.  There were the great events in Croke Park and in the Phoenix Park and of course the three-day Conference in the RDS.  Looking back, we have every reason to be proud.

Today it is no longer the moment just to look back but to begin to look forward.  It is not just a time to remember what we have done so well, but to reflect with a sense of urgency on the future.

Over the past few weeks, I reflected on what the future must be.    My answer was simple: My hope is that Pope Francis “will challenge the Church in Ireland to be more authentically the Church of Jesus Christ in a culture that is different.” 

Our gathering here this morning is an important moment along that path.  After all the excitement and the challenge of organization, this morning we gather in the remarkable atmosphere of peace and serenity that is the mark of Lourdes.  It is a time for each of us to reflect on what is deepest in our hearts as believers.  We can stand back from our everyday concerns and reflect on the special protection that Mary, Mother of the Church, offers our Church and us.

We all have our problems and challenges, our doubts and hopes.   I know that you bring here before the Grotto of Lourdes the intentions of your own hearts, your personal joys and sorrows and challenges and of those dear to you.   Throughout her life, Mary pondered the message of her Son, especially at the dark moments in which her Son, the one who had gone about doing good was led to the ignominious death on a Cross. 

Jesus went to death giving himself up out of love for us.  Mary was the one who remained faithful to Jesus in those moments and Jesus gave her to us as our Mother at those dramatic moments in her life and in the life of the human family.

We look towards the future of the Church in Dublin and in Ireland.  There were those who could only see in the visit of Pope Francis what they considered the end of the Church as they saw it.  The problem is that many of those commentators had really lost the understanding of what the Church is. 

I am not necessarily blaming them.  Sadly, many have lost an understanding of the Church because of the way we as Church have lived and failed.

The Church had too often become closed in on itself and became marked at times with what Pope Francis called “attitudes of aloofness and clericalism that at times in your history have given the real image of an authoritarian, harsh and autocratic Church”.

The Church is not just an institution of a cluster of social institutions  It is above all the place where we learn to know Jesus as the one who revealed to us who God is, a God of mercy and compassion, a God not just of judgment but a God who offers us forgiveness and new beginnings. In the Church we experience hope and renewal.

This morning each of us brings the intentions of our own hearts though Mary to Jesus.  Together we join the prayers that fill the hearts of our sick pilgrims, who are the very heart of our pilgrimage. 

We join with the renewed generosity of all our helpers.  We owe a debt of gratitude especially to those who have been coming back to Lourdes year after year.  We recognize the idealism of our young people who learn here in Lourdes the rewards of caring.  It is not easy for young people today to grow in faith and generosity. We pray for them as they grow the human and spiritual renewal in a complex world.

We pray for our priests that they can be daily renewed in the joy and generosity of their great calling of being ministers of the Word and the Eucharist and of prayer in today’s world.

Let us pray for one another. Let us remain in prayer and in love for one another in these privileged days.  May we experience the powerful intercession of Mary and of Saint Bernadette.”