Homily by Bishop Larry Duffy for the Clogher Pilgrimage at the Knock Novena

25 Aug 2022

  • “You are the Church – you are the present and future of our Church.  We can adopt two contrasting attitudes.  One, where we become discouraged and lament the present situation and fail to have hope and complain.  Or we can be filled with hope because God is ultimately in charge” – Bishop Duffy


The Diocese of Clogher has one student preparing for priesthood – Stephen Sherry.  Last week, Stephen and I met to reflect on vocation to priesthood.  We were preparing for a programme on Radio Maria.  Interestingly we both spoke of the influence of priests, family and teachers.  Stephen is about to begin his pastoral year when he will experience parish life in its various form.  I ask you to keep Stephen and his classmates in your prayers this year.  As seminarians they have responded to Christ’s invitation to “come and see” just as Nathanael did in today’s Gospel account from John.  “Come” – walk and spend time with Jesus; “See” – who He is and what He offers.  Yes, we are all invited.

Isn’t it surprising, even amazing, how God calls ordinary people to support him in his work.  We see it in the Old Testament with Abraham and the prophets.  In the New Testament we note the call of the Apostles.

Today we gather to worship at the Shrine of Mary, Mother of God.  At first Mary seemed puzzled by God’s call but then came the wonderful response “I am the handmaid of the Lord.”  When Mary said “Yes” to God, she meant it.  There was no: “I’ll try it” or “Let’s see how it goes.”  No, Mary’s “Yes” is total and final.

She is not afraid of responsibility.  When Mary says “Yes” her life’s plans change.  She becomes the first person to hear the Word of God and take it to heart.

Interestingly, almost every time we meet her in the Gospels, there is difficulty or trouble –

No room at the inn.

Flight in Egypt.

Jesus lost in the temple.

Wine shortage at a wedding.

At the foot of the cross.

Mary, full of grace remains calm.  She ponders all these things in her heart.

As I have noted, today’s Gospel speaks about the call of Nathanael.  What is significant is that he is brought and introduced to Jesus by another person – Philip.  Never doubt how in prayer and encouragement we can influence people’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

We live in changing times.  As a Church, we are facing significant changes, considering what we have been used to.  The numbers going for priesthood and the religious life are much reduced on 30-50 years ago. That challenges all of us to respond.

We thank God for the numbers presenting themselves to prepare for Permanent Diaconate.

I have to say I read with interest the submission of returned missionaries to the Synodal Pathway documents: “We had no option but to trust and train lay leaders who gladly undertook the various ministries.  In retrospect it is clear that it was the actual shortage of ordained ministers that enabled the laity to take their God-given role.”  I think that is an important observation.

My dear friends it is good to see you here.  It is good for us to be here at Knock.  You are the Church – you are the present and future of our Church.  We can adopt two contrasting attitudes.

One, where we become discouraged and lament the present situation and fail to have hope and complain.  Or we can be filled with hope because God is ultimately in charge.

This is the outlook of the Word of God.

In spite of persecution, they rejoice because God is in charge.

My final thought –  it is God who calls us and leads us. Rejoice!

May this pilgrimage bring blessings to all.


Notes for Editors

  • Bishop Larry Duffy is Bishop of Clogher. This homily will be delivered today at 3.00pm Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, Knock, as part of the Clogher Pilgrimage to Knock.
  • The Diocese of Clogher encompasses all of Co Monaghan, almost all of Co Fermanagh, together with portions of Counties Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan.  The diocese has 37 parishes, 85 churches and is served by 50 priests and 2 deacons.  It has a Catholic population of 83,882.  The patron saint is Saint Macartan and the Cathedral church is in Monaghan town.
  • Annual Knock Novena: The National Public Novena to Our Lady takes place annually, over nine days, at Knock Shrine in the Archdiocese of Tuam.  The novena coincides with the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Apparition of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist in Knock in August 1879.  The novena offers pilgrims time and space to reflect, pray and an opportunity to reconnect with their faith in the unique and sacred space of Knock Shrine.  Two liturgical sessions are held daily, at 3.00pm and 8.00pm, commencing with concelebrated Mass in the Basilica followed by a procession to the Apparition Gable.  A procession of the Blessed Sacrament is held in the afternoon, and a beautiful candlelight procession takes place at night.  Prayer leaflets are available in the Shrine Offices and all are welcome!
  • The Story of Knock: At about eight o’clock on the evening of Thursday 21 August 1879, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of the Church at Knock, Co Mayo.  Beside them, and a little to the right, was an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb, around which angels hovered.  Fifteen official witnesses – young and old – experienced this silent and miraculous apparition for two hours in pouring rain and recited the Rosary.  In 1879 and in 1936 two Commissions of Inquiry accepted their testimony as trustworthy and satisfactory.  Today, Knock is an internationally recognised Marian Shrine and has been visited by Saint Pope John Paul II during his 1979 apostolic pilgrimage, and in 2018 by Pope Francis as part of the celebrations for the IX World Meeting of Families in Ireland.  On 19 March 2021, Pope Francis officially recognised Knock as an International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine through the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation.  Archbishop Francis Duffy, Archbishop of Tuam, is the custodian of the Marian Shrine and Father Richard Gibbons is parish priest of Knock and rector of the shrine.  See www.knockshrine.ie to view the Novena 2022 Brochure                                        

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