7 November – Prize-giving St Joseph’s High School, Donaghmore

PRIZE-GIVING
ST JOSEPH’S HIGH SCHOOL, DONAGHMORE
ADDRESS GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEAN BRADY
FRIDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2008

I am very thankful for the invitation to come here tonight.  I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you on the occasion of Prize giving.  I congratulate, most warmly, all who are receiving prizes and certificates. I wish you well for the rest of your studies and indeed for the rest of your lives.  I wish you all, Principal, Staff and Students the very best for the rest of this academic year.  I pray God’s choicest blessings upon all of you at this vital stage of your life – and a blessing on the hugely important work of teaching and of education.

I have thought long and hard about what else I should say tonight.  I think about football and congratulate Tyrone on winning the All-Ireland championship for the third time.  But there are more people around who know a lot more about football than I do and I will leave the subject to them.

But I want to tell you a sad story.  In 1952 I went to Secondary School – St Patrick’s College, Cavan – it was the golden age of Cavan football – we were All-Ireland Champions and had also contested the minor final that year but unlike Tyrone, did not win it.  But we had won six Ulster titles in the previous ten years, contested five All-Ireland Finals and won three and then, horrors of horrors – we have not won another All-Ireland since.  I am sure that is not going to happen to Tyrone.  But I tell the story for a reason

Of course all through my Secondary School days I was indeed interested in football and I got a lot of enjoyment from both watching and playing football.  But it has gradually dawned on me that there are some people who do not share my passion for football or for sport for that matter, and they too deserve some consideration.

I was in Ennis, Co Clare on Monday night last.  There was a Mass in the Cathedral followed by a meet and greet in the Hall.  As you may know Clare is a mighty place for music – especially for Irish music.  So both the Mass and the Reception were flooded in outstanding music and song and dance.  It reminded me of one night when I was a student in St. Patrick’s College, Cavan and the Tulla Ceili Band from Co Clare came to play for us.  They have been All Ireland Champions on many occasions.  Their music that night was sheer magic.  It gave me a love for Irish traditional music ever since.

On Monday night I met a man who was a classmate of mine for five years in Secondary School.  I met him about once or twice in the past 51 years but our friendship has lasted all those years. 

So, as I racked my brain to discover something good and strong to say to you tonight I was looking for something that will last and something that will appeal to all and maybe something that will give hope to all, whether you are interested in football or not. Whether you are a student or a member of staff or a parent or whomever.

I realise I am in St. Joseph’s High School and that there are many people call Joseph or Josephine.  So I wondered what St. Joseph might want us to say on this important occasion in this illustrious institution that bears his name and is dedicated to his honour. 
St Joseph never speaks in the Gospel.  His life is dedicated totally to the care of Mary – his wife – and of her son, Jesus.  So I suspect that St. Joseph would want the attention turned away from himself and focussed on Jesus and to a lesser extent.  But I expect also that Joseph would not want us to forget the feast day which was yesterday.

What feast was that you may ask?  We are like that in Ireland – we celebrate some things well and others we let pass in a slipshod way.  Yesterday was the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland.

I lived for 20 years in Rome and this was, after St. Patrick’s Day, yesterday was the biggest feast of the year.  We used to have a big celebration – a big dinner and a play – in Irish.  Yesterday was the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland.  In other words, the feast of all our grandparents and great grandparents and of all our ancestors – who have gone forth from this world and, hopefully, safely to their true home with God.  One day, X number of years from now, 10, 20. 30, 40. 50, 100 years from now hopefully this will also be our feast when we too will have gone ar Sli na Firinne as they say in Irish – they have gone on the way of truth, the way of genuineness. 

The saints cannot speak to us directly – but indirectly they can, and do, inspire us and I hope that Blessed Patrick O’Loughlin speaks to you here in Donaghmore. 

If our deceased ancestors could speak to us I suspect they would be saying to us all that there is one thing – absolutely – which all of you and indeed all of us, should learn during our time and that is how to get to know this all-important Sli, that all important way which we must all travel if we are to reach our destination.  The fascinating thing which we will learn and which we must all discover is that the way is, in fact, a person – the person of Jesus Christ.

When I was made Archbishop of Armagh I chose as my motto To Know Jesus Christ. I chose this to be the inspiration of my own life first of all, and then secondly that it might become the inspiration of the lives of those I serve.  That is the ambition of my life – to know Jesus Christ and to imitate Jesus in my life.

So my dear friends, my dear young friends in particular, whatever else you do during your time here, try and build a friendship with Jesus Christ because friendships built during your teenage years last, and they last a life-time as witnessed by my friend of over 50 years in Ennis the other night.

It is not enough however to know about Jesus, the challenge is to know Him – and if we really know Him, we will love him and we will try to make our lives like his – built on the same values – holding the same attitudes as Jesus held; showing the same sort of qualities as Jesus showed in his life. 
Mickey Harte is a very successful Team Manager and has managed the Tyrone County team now for several very successful years and I would say that there are certain qualities he expects to find in his team members.

Firstly, I reckon he is looking for someone who really knows and loves his football.  He does not want to have to be dragging people along against their will.
Secondly, he is probably looking for people who are ready to make sacrifices, ready to put themselves out and to give up their own comfort for the sake of a great dream.
Thirdly, I imagine he looks for someone who is a team person – who puts the team first and who turns up faithfully.  I would say turning up now and then would hardly do.

Building that all-important friendship with Christ will require much the same qualities.
•    That we know Him in order to love Him.
•    That we are prepared to face the rough as well as the smooth.
•    That we make the effort to be part of the community of the Friends of Jesus Christ.

I have just come back from Rome where I attended the Synod of Bishops.  It is a gathering of many bishops from all over the world.  We were discussing the Word of God in our own lives and in the life of the Church.

It came home to me that in reading and listening to the Word of God, we really do meet Jesus Christ.  I saw that by really listening and responding to what God is saying to us in our own words and in our prayers – we get the kind of strength we need to travel our sli na firinne – in other words, to follow Jesus Christ. 
That is why the Synod recommended to the Pope that he should ask every Catholic to have his or her own Bible and to read it often.  There is an idea for a Christmas gift with a difference!
•    It would certainly be a gift for life.
•    We get ourselves phones in order to put us in contact with our friends and our parents when and if we want to contact them.
•    Getting in contact with the One who can really help, in every situation, namely Jesus Christ, seems to me to be also important.

I found the Synod a great experience.  It was amazing to hear how poor people and persecuted people got the strength and courage from hearing the Word of God and praying with it.  It became clear to me that what each one of us has got to do is to open our hearts and minds to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the Bible.  If we do that we will begin to glimpse the real questions of life:
•    What is the purpose of my life?
•    What is the centre of my world?
•    What is my No. 1 priority?
•    What is my most precious gift?
•    What is my main problem?
•    What does the Holy Spirit mean anyway?
And if you keep on reading and thinking you will get the answers.
It has been my privilege to confirm many of you when the Holy Spirit came to make us and help us to understand what the Word of God is saying to us.  One of the things which the Word of God is saying, loud and clear, is that it is the task of all who have been baptised to announce the Good News brought by Jesus Christ. 

I know the strong faith of your parents and grandparents from the various times we have met down through the years.  My dear young friends, Jesus Christ needs you now, more than ever, to stand up for your faith.  You can do so in many ways

By your faithfulness to prayer
By your good conduct, and
By your being loyal to the Sunday Mass

I appeal to you to make Jesus Christ present in our world.  In that way, we can all be champions, not just for one year but forever.

This year has been dedicated the Year of St. Paul.  Paul wrote two letters to a young person called Timothy who later became his assistant.  There is one marvellous passage in which he compares life to a race and I would like to read it to you all:

The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear.  They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends.  But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News and perform your whole duty as a servant of God.

As for me, the hour has come for me to be sacrificed; the time is here for me to leave this life.  I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith.  And now there is, waiting for me, the victory prize of being put right with God, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day – and not only me, but to all those who wait with love for Him to appear.

My dear young friends may the prize you are given tonight be the first of many.  May you receive and recognise all the prizes you will be given in life.  May this prize be a promise of the victory prize of Heaven and may the joy you feel tonight be a foretaste of the heavenly joy.

Thank you

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