22 September – Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the Retirement of Mr Patrick McAleavey as Principal of St Patrick’s High School, Keady

HOMILY DELIVERED BY
CARDINAL SEAN BRADY
AT MASS OF THANKSGIVING
TO MARK THE RETIREMENT, AS PRINCIPAL,
OF MR PATRICK McALEAVEY
ST. PATRICK’S HIGH SCHOOL, KEADY
WEDNESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2010

This I command – to love one another.  This Gospel and these words were spoken by Jesus.  He spoke them at the Last Supper.  On the night before He died He spoke them to his nearest and dearest.  They are precious.  They are a gift to all of us.  They have inspired me.  He just did not speak to them and leave it at that.  He accompanied with these other gifts.  Jesus gave them examples of what he was talking about.  He commanded them to love one another. He got up from the table, put on an apron and stooped down and washed their feet.  He knew that this was going to be a hard act to follow especially as he was going to lay down life for them, his friends, the next day on the cross on Calvary.

But Jesus is not unreasonable.  Because he knew that his command was going to be tough.  He was not going to ask something and not supply the wherewithal with which to deliver.  So he gave us two more gifts – His Body and Blood to be our food and drink, the priesthood, the sacrament of Holy Order to guarantee His Eucharistic presence.

It is my great privilege and joy to have been with Pope Benedict XVI in Scotland and England last weekend.   When I got back to Armagh yesterday evening, I remembered that this Mass of Thanksgiving, to mark the retirement of Mr Patrick McAleavey, was taking place here this morning.  I was also very pleased to find that Mr McCoy had kindly sent on the text – contained in this lovely booklet.   I was even more pleased when I discovered how carefully chosen, and so very appropriate, the texts which have been selected are for this very special occasion.

Mr McAleavey is retiring after forty (40) years outstanding service to this school – St. Patrick’s High School, Keady.  We are here to thank God for all those years but especially for the thirty (30) years as Principal.

I met someone of Mr McAleavey’s age – who is also retiring from teaching this year.  I wished him well on the new chapter of his life now beginning.  “Ah yes” he said, “Sure it is only a turning of the page in the Book of Life”.

So Mr McAleavey – whether you see it as a turning of the page or the beginning of a new chapter – we are here today to thank God for all that has been and to implore from God, graces and favours for all that will be.

We thank God for all that has been given to you and through you – to what Pope Benedict called ‘the noble task of education’.

It is a noble task because every pupil and every teacher and every parent is, in the words of the First Reading, ‘precious to God’.  God loves each one of us and give us honour.  For that reason we must not be afraid.  God is with all of you.  

In the words of Pope Benedict to young people in St. Mary’s Twickenham last Friday, ‘A good school provides a rounded education for the person and a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints’.  And, dare I suggest that we are celebrating the efforts of Mr McAleavey, over forty years, here in St Patrick’s High School, Keady to make this not only a good school but to make it a good Catholic school – providing a rounded education for the whole person and for every pupil.

I read with great interest the comments on the gifts which Brian Watters, Deputy Head Boy will deliver in a few minutes.  Philip Nugent will carry a candle – a symbol of our Baptism.

Then we give thanks for Mr McAleavey’s parents – Patrick and Kathleen – who handed on their faith to their son.  We will pray for all parents that they will have strong faith to pass on, lasting values, courage to have boundaries for their children and compassionate hearts with which to love their children.

I have to confess that, for me, one of the joys of the Easter vigil in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh is to hear Mr McAleavey sing the famous responsorial psalm:  
Like the Dear that yearns for running streams,
So my soil is yearning for you my God.  

His years of service to the Cathedral Choir are even longer than those dedicated to St. Patrick’s High School as he has been a member of this choir for 50 years!  Those years show his keen appreciation of why we are here on this earth:
•    To give praise and glory to God in word and song,
•    In what we think and what we do

It was a great delight to read that he has untiringly endeavoured to instil in the student this spirit of being involved in your local community – and not just involvement in sporting activities but in every activity.  You see the God who saves us – will save us as members of a community.

Last Friday Pope Benedict inaugurated a Sports Foundation in St Mary’s University College, Twickenham.  Perhaps we have some graduates of St. Mary’s here.  He prays that all who would come there would give glory to God through their sporting activities as well as bringing enjoyment to themselves and others.

Then he addressed the students directly and said:  “It is not often that a Pope or indeed anyone else has the opportunity to speak to the students of all the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time.  And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you.  

I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the 21st century.  What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy.  He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you.  And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.

Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before.  Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you.  Let me explain what I mean.  When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like.  It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem.  Or it could be someone famous.  We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment.  My question for you is this:
•    What are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves?  
•    What kind of person would you really like to be?

When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best.  I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others.  Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy.  Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still.  It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy.  Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places.  The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God.  We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God.  Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.
This I command – to love one another.  This Gospel and these words were spoken by Jesus.  He spoke them at the Last Supper.  On the night before He died He spoke them to his nearest and dearest.  They are precious.  They are a gift to all of us.  They have inspired me.  He just did not speak to them and leave it at that.  He accompanied with these other gifts.  Jesus gave them examples of what he was talking about.  He commanded them to love one another. He got up from the table, put on an apron and stooped down and washed their feet.  He knew that this was going to be a hard act to follow especially as he was going to lay down life for them, his friends, the next day on the cross on Calvary.

But Jesus is not unreasonable.  Because he knew that his command was going to be tough.  He was not going to ask something and not supply the wherewithal with which to deliver.  So he gave us two more gifts – His Body and Blood to be our food and drink, the priesthood, the sacrament of Holy Order to guarantee His Eucharistic presence.

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