Bishop Cullinan: 1.5m people attended Mass in Lisbon for World Youth Day.  The Church is alive and well!  Let us ‘Take the risk for Christ’

18 Aug 2023

  • Homily of Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan in Knock as part of the Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood 

I love being a priest and now a bishop.  I can’t say I am a good one but I am hugely proud of my Church, the Catholic Church – founded by the Lord Jesus himself. 
Last weekend, along with 630 young people, I attended the ‘Youth 2000 Summer Festival’ hosted in Clongowes Wood College SJ in Clane, Co Kildare.  It was a marvellous retreat.  Many among the delegates had been at World Youth Day in Portugal the week before where approximately 1.5 million young people travelled to Lisbon at the invitation of Pope Francis to celebrate their faith.  We know that young people do not go where they don’t want to and yet 1.5 plus million of them from all over the world travelled to Lisbon.  After the Pope’s last Mass on the Sunday I climbed up to the top of the stage where the altar was and looked out over the vast crowd, trying to take it all in.  The Church is alive and well! 
From my earliest days I have seen with my own eyes priests and religious looking after the sick, feeding the poor, visiting the lonely, comforting the sorrowful, educating children and young people, running hospitals and hospices.
Indeed the history of our education, health and social services all began within the Church.  
We know the image of the Church has been tarnished and we are ashamed of and sorry for the pain and suffering inflicted on the innocent by a small minority of Church personnel but that must not take away from the great efforts of the vast majority to ease the suffering of humankind and give hope and the promise of eternal salvation.  Jesus Christ is our Saviour. 
As one US priest wrote on his calling card: “Jesus Christ offers you happiness in this life, not without the cross and eternal happiness in the next, and if you get a better offer, take it.”
Ireland needs God and we need God in Ireland now.  We can see that in some, maybe many, places around Ireland, as the influence of Christ wanes the influence of other forces rise.  We can see more violence, more family break-up, more social break-up.  The destruction of values that we hold dear: faith, family, marriage.  We are confused with a plethora of voices.
Is Ireland too full of those who are crying down with God?

  • Down with the family
  • Down with the Church
  • Down with unborn life
  • Down with out-dated social norms

But how can we build a future on that?  Can you build anything down? 
Jesus Christ calls us to build up his Kingdom:

  • Up for life,
  • Up for family values
  • Up for faith
  • Up for Christ’s Church.

Follow me, He says.  “I am the Way the Truth and the Life.”  Jesus is calling us all to follow Him.
As Pope Francis said so forcefully two weeks ago in Lisbon “Jesus calls everyone”.
And so, let us build, let us rebuild and keep building.  It is great to see all of you delegates here in this special place of pilgrimage and prayer from every diocese on the island of Ireland, and, you are here to build. 
Christ’s Church, which is always the soul of society, giving the true vision of the person, of the family, of society: a society of justice, love and peace.  For all this we need, among other things, good and holy priests.
Pope Francis stood in this very place, in this Apparition Chapel during his visit to the World Meeting of Families in 2018.   I wrote him a letter last November requesting that he might send a message for this Year of Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood.  I have the letter here.  The Bishops’ Vocations Council, and I, took some of the words of the Holy Father and wove them into the prayer for this special year. 
As Pope Francis wrote in his letter to us, we now pray to God for priests to,
“accompany your people with the ministry of priests in which Jesus himself, sanctifies, embraces, feeds, heals, teaches and leads His people.  When the priest joyfully proclaims the Word of God, faithfully celebrates the Sacraments and humbly serves those in need”
And so, dear friends, as we gather here, I wish to sincerely thank all the delegates who have travelled from the four corners of Ireland.  You bring with you the prayers of the people and priests of your respective dioceses.  We are here to build, not walls but bridges, bridges to people’s hearts because only Christ can heal human hearts, only the truth can satisfy in the end.
Let us ‘Take the risk for Christ’.
And build up.
Up to God.  Amen.

  • Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is Bishop of Waterford & Lismore and chair of the Bishops’ Council for Vocations.  This homily was preached yesterday, 17 August 2023, in the Apparition Chapel at the International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine in Knock, Co Mayo, in the Archdiocese of Tuam, to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Knock.