10TH ANNIVERSARY OF MONASTERY CHAPEL, SIENA CONVENT, DROGHEDA
HOMILY GIVEN BY
ARCHBISHOP SEÁN BRADY
FRIDAY 19 OCTOBER 2007
There is a story told that things were not going for the devil in hell and they called a summit meeting. They wanted to find a better marketing slogan. One proposed was that ‘we will tell them there is no Heaven’. That was debated up and down for quite a while and eventually rejected. Somebody else proposed: ‘We will tell them there is no Hell’. Again this was debated at length but finally rejected. Finally they agreed that the winning slogan would be: ‘We will tell them there is no hurry’.
The people gathered in their thousands to hear Jesus. They were in danger of trampling on each other but they risked the danger because they knew that he had the words of eternal life.
He began talking to his disciples. He tells them to be on their guard against hypocrisy. We must beware of saying one thing and doing another; proclaiming one set of values and actually living out, in the privacy of our own lives, a totally different set. It is an appeal for consistency between our eternal lives and our inner thoughts. Remember, he once said: “This people honours me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”.
One great way we have of guarding against hypocrisy is to examine, not just our conscience, but our consciousness, in order to see how we feel at the different moments of the day about the events of our life. We take a look back to see how our prayer life impacts on these feelings.
There is one very good reason for us to try to eliminate the inconsistencies and contradictions that may be creeping into our lives. It is all going to come out eventually. All will be revealed. We may as well reveal it ourselves, to ourselves, and not be fooling ourselves. We need to face the facts and then he says: “do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more”.
Today the Church celebrates the memory of the American martyrs – eight brave Jesuit Missionaries. They certainly had no fear of those who can kill the body and do no more. Listen to the words of one of them – St John de Brébeuf, he said: “For two days I have felt a great desire for martyrdom and have been eager to endure all the torments which the martyrs endured”. “My God” he says, “I will take, from your hand, to cup of your sufferings. I take a vow never to fail, on my side, in the grace of martyrdom if you offer it to me some day”.
On Wednesday last we had St Ignatius of Antrio saying to the Romans: “I am trying in earnest about dying for God”. Please let me be a meal for the beasts. It is they who can provide my way to God. I am like wheat ground fine by the lion’s teeth. It is they who can provide my way to God”. It is a fantastic saying.
But, just in case all of this too daunting, especially at this early hour, we also celebrate today St. Paul of the Cross who says: “It is an excellent and holy practice to call to mind and meditate on our Lord’s Passion since it is by this path that we shall arrive at a sanctifying union with God”. So, there is an Honours Course and a Pass Course. By meditating on our Lord’s Passion, we shall arrive at a sanctifying union with God.
We must not worry too much about those who threaten to murder us – and can do no more. But we must fear and beware of the Evil One – Satan – the Devil who, after he has killed the body, has the power to us cast into Hell by luring us into temptation and sin. That, and that alone, namely, unrepentant shameless ones, can lure us and send us to Hell and nothing else. That is the one thing we must fear and avoid.
Yet we must not be overcome by that fear but remember that the Evil One has been defeated, once and for all on Calvary. At times his power and his reign can appear daunting but it is only swish of the tail of the fish, doomed to die.
We take confidence from the power and the love of Jesus of God to look after and protect us. We are all precious in his sight. Not alone that, but every living thing is precious in His sight. The sparrow is worth less than a halfpenny, but in the eyes of God, the sparrow is precious. Yet not even one sparrow is forgotten. The Lord cares for his creations. Jesus says, “Why every hair on your head has been counted”. Well, he would have less counting to do on some heads than others. There is no need to be afraid, “each one of you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows”. How much more precious is each one of us in the sight of God?
Since we are talking about the one who has power to cast us into Hell, we must recognise the presence and activity of the Evil One in the world. We must remind ourselves, and those dear to us, of the importance of the Guardian Angels and of the saints and especially of the Holy Spirit in this regard.
I was in Fatima at a meeting of bishops from all over Europe. We were discussing marriage and the family and its state of health, and it is a depressing picture. We need to mobilise in its defence.
I am sure that this community of Siena is well aware of what happened in Siena on Shrove Tuesday 1366. Catherine was praying in her room. Jesus appeared to her. He was accompanied by Mary, his mother and a crowd of the Heavenly Host of angels and saints. Taking Catherine’s hand, Our Lady held it up to her Son. She placed the ring on her hand and espoused Catherine to himself. The scene is often depicted in paintings. Jesus said to her to be of good courage for she was now armed with faith to go out and fight and overcome the assaults of the Evil One.
The world would wish us to believe hat there is no such thing as the Evil One. But Jesus warns us to fear the one who can kill both body and soul.
You know the story of Catherine of Siena better than I do. She was summoned before the General Chapter of the Order but the charges, if any, were dropped. Her reputation for holiness and wondrous grew. Three Dominican priests were deputed to hear the confessions of those whom she persuaded to amend their lives. She had great success in healing feuds. I reckon there are many feuds to be healed in our country; our homes; in our parishes. How many feuds cause the breakdown of marriages? She had at least two secretaries. Her spiritual betrothal marked the end of the years of solicitude and preparation. It was revealed to her that she was to go out and promote the salvation of her neighbour.
You too are contemplatives. One definition of preaching is to hand on what we have contemplated to others. Sometimes we preachers don’t get time to contemplate enough. We depend on people like you to share with us the fruits of your contemplation.
Catherine came to Rome to help the Pope with her prayers, her exhalations and her letters. She came to win fresh support for the Pontiff. You too, with your prayers and your letters to your families and friends, can exalt and encourage them to become more active in the Church. ACCORD for example is looking for new volunteers, that is, the Catholic Marriage Advisory Service. We need healing of feuds. I ask your prayers and your help in all of this.