I welcome the opportunity to celebrate this Mass with you on the Feast of St. Brigid, here in the parish church of St. Brigid, patroness of this parish. A couple of week ago I was in the Holy Land and I had the great privilege of celebrating Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place in the world. I offered that Mass for all of you, for all my families – my Laragh family; my Kilmore family; my Armagh family.

I know that each one of you felt very proud when I was made a Cardinal. But we must be careful. We must beware. Our neighbours call us “proud Laragh”.. Pride is a very dangerous vice, the root of all evil. But the treasure of which we must all be proud is not that we have a Cardinal in our midst, a Cardinal from our parish, a Cardinal from our family but that we have our faith.

Jesus tells us that we are to rejoice that our names are written in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is the source of our joy. By our Baptism we are called to share in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are to share in His victory over death and over sin and so enter into the glory of Heaven. The Lord has made us for himself. He has made us for friendship with Him. We are to be His friends.

One of the important ways of nourishing the friendship is by praying. In this chapel of St. Brigid, here in Laragh, I remember so many great people of prayer. I called here one afternoon, after Christmas. I met a lady coming in to visit the Blessed Sacrament. I remember her mother in turn who, years and years ago, came so often to this Church and I rejoice that the spirit of prayer is being passed on.

When I became a bishop I chose a motto. My motto is: To know Jesus Christ. This evening I want to thank you for all you have done to show me how to get to know Jesus Christ. I thank you for what you have done to help me to get to know the love of Jesus Christ. This parish nourished me, supported me in many ways. You rejoiced when I was ordained a priest. You were delighted when I was made a bishop and now, once again, you are almost delirious at the news about my being made a Cardinal.

We are to know Jesus Christ – Jesus Christ foretold by the prophet Isaiah in the First Reading. The prophet spoke of a servant. Jesus said he came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. God the Father delights in his son, Jesus Christ. He delights in each one of us in so far as we become like Jesus Christ. Jesus came into the world to bring true justice – to put things right. But true justice has not yet been established.

St Augustine once said: “With you I am a Christian, for you I am a bishop”. A bishop is a successor of the apostles. There was a wonderful procession and carrying in of the symbols of the bishop’s office at the beginning of this liturgy. An excellent explanation was given by Father Enda.

Jesus said to his apostles: “Go, make disciples of all nations. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. A disciple is one who learns from the Master. The first of the Masters is Jesus Christ. His apostles died of course, but before they died, they chose others who would continue their work. That work is continued by our preaching of the Word of God and in our teaching the things of God in the school and in the home. I still use the prayers which I learned at my mother’s knee in Drumcalpin and in Caulfiield school, from Annie Donohoe, nee Gallagher. But every baptised person shares in this work of teaching and preaching. Some of it may be done by words, but perhaps not so much by words as by example. St Francis said: “Preach the Gospel by every means, sometimes use words if necessary”.

“Baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Jesus said. In other words, celebrate the sacraments with them, pray for them and with them. I pray for you, all of you and I ask you to please pray for me. A commemoration card is being distributed and I ask you, I beg you, to take it and to pray for me. If there are people whom you know to be good people of prayer, please take one for them also.

You saw the crozier being carried in by Donal Donohoe. It is the staff or symbol of the office of the shepherd. The shepherd uses his staff, his stick, to direct the sheep and to keep them from turning the wrong way. It is used to prevent them from turning into dangerous territory where they might slip over a ledge or down a ravine and be lost. There are many pitfalls and ravines which confront all of us on the journey of life. The bishop, the clergy, the parents, the grannies, we are all called to follow the good shepherd and to try and persuade others to listen to His voice and so to enter into eternal life.

I make my own for you tonight the wonderful prayer of St. Paul to the Ephesians which we heard in the Second Reading. I offer it for you and for those who are dear to you:
Out of God’s infinite glory, may He give you the power through his Holy Spirit for your inner self to grow strong. May you also grow strong in character.
One way of growing in bodily strength is to lift weights. You can grow strong in character by helping to lift the weights of the shoulders of your neighbours, especially of those more heavily burdened than yourself. They could be burdened with death and grief and sorrow. May Christ live in the heart of each one of you through faith. May you get to know the breadth and the length, the height and the depth of love which Christ has for each one of us.
This parish has played a big role in my life. I count on your prayers. I ask your prayers. I am the successor of Patrick. Near the end of his life, Patrick gave thanks to God for, through him, bringing the Good News about Jesus Christ to the Irish people. Patrick was very grateful to God for that marvellous privilege but then he wrote: ‘God forbid that I should lose any of the people given to me”. I rely on your prayers that I, myself, may not lose my way and that I may not lose my head and get puffed up with pride but that I may continue to serve my Lord and Master and so make sure that the people entrusted to my care are not lost.