28 APRIL 2011

“I have thought long and hard to discover the common chord, the bond that unites the three big events of the week: this pilgrimage; the Royal wedding; and, the Papal Beatification.  They all have in common … the bond of love.  The love in our hearts that responds to God’s love that is given to us”- Cardinal Brady

Cardinal Seán Brady and the Irish Pilgrimage Trust are on pilgrimage this week to the Marian Shrine of Lourdes in France.  The 1,100 Irish pilgrims consist of 450 young people with special needs and carers, priest chaplains, nurses and doctors.  2011 is the 40th anniversary of the Irish Pilgrimage Trust (IHCPT).  This year 48 IHCPT groups from all over Ireland are taking part in this week long pilgrimage to Lourdes.  The pilgrimage involves daily Mass, prayer and social activities.  

Today Cardinal Brady celebrated a special anniversary Mass for the Irish Pilgrimage Trust in the underground Basilica of Saint Pius X in Lourdes. The two hour Mass was attended by 5,000 pilgrims from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, United States of America, Croatia, the West Indies and Romania and involved music and Irish dancing.  Please see Cardinal Brady’s homily below:

My dear friends,

I left Armagh in Ireland last Monday morning very excited – all excited in fact at the thought of coming once again on this great pilgrimage:

•    a pilgrimage which gathers thousands of very special young people to Lourdes every Easter;
•    a pilgrimage which invites us to come to this special place in answer to Mary’s invitation – an invitation given to Saint Bernadette herself – then a child who had not yet made her First Communion – but a child whose heart was filled with love.  That invitation has been heard by so many other children down through the years, whose hearts are filled with love and who have inspired so much love in the hearts of their parents and families and friends.
I have to be honest and admit I was also excited about the wedding of Prince William and Miss Kate Middleton.  For it is always a great moment when a man and a woman pledge the love that is in their hearts for each other and ask to remain strong in that love.

I am also excited that this Sunday, 1 May, Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church is going to formally declare that Pope John Paul II is in Heaven.  That is the same Pope John Paul who simply loved to travel the world to meet millions of young people and to tell them, as he said during the Youth Mass in Galway in 1979:

Young people of Ireland, I love you!
Young people of Ireland, I bless you!
I bless you in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Críost liom, Críost romham, Críost i mo dhiaidh!

Pope John Paul came to Lourdes twice.  He said Lourdes has a special gift, the gift of prayer, here in Lourdes people pray.  Here in Lourdes people love to pray.  Here we love to lean into the love of God – as we heard last night – and be reconciled.  Here we love to honour Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament.  Here in Lourdes first place always is given to the sick and the old and the weak – for that is the way I think Mary would want things done.

So, young people of the Irish Pilgrimage Trust, what a joy to see you here today.  Thank you for coming and thank you for helping the Lord to teach us how to pray today.  

You know, we adults can sometimes be just a little bit shy about showing our faith, and a little bit hesitant about saying our prayers in public.  Well, thankfully you have no such hesitations.  Right from the concert on Monday night – you stated loud and clear for all to hear – “I’m a believer”.  You danced and you clapped and you sang – “give praise and glory to God” – reminding us all that we are here on earth to do exactly that – to thank God and praise God.  You have done exactly that and you did it magnificently.  How lovely this Easter week to celebrate so wonderfully and so joyfully the Risen Christ.

Dear singers and musicians – dancers and mimers: Thank you for helping us to pray so joyfully and so beautifully here in Lourdes this week.  Thank you for taking the time to prepare and rehearse so carefully so that your great talents of music and song and dance may honour God so gloriously.  Long may you continue to do so.

Dear organisers and helpers of HCPT and IHCPT: to you we owe the privilege of being here once more in this Holy Place – at Mary’s Shrine.  Today I want to thank God for the love which is in the heart of each one of you.  The source and origin of that love is, of course, in the Heart of God – a God who is at once our Mamma and our Papa.  But the response to that love is to be found – not only in the prayers that we say with our lips – but in the way we treat people.  Thank you for the respect and the patience and concern which you show to each and everyone in your care this week and always.

I have thought long and hard to discover the common chord, the bond that unites the three big events of the week: this pilgrimage; the Royal wedding; and, the Papal Beatification.  They have a lot in common: all are big celebrations in a religious place which bring together big crowds and attract lots of publicity.  But the real common bond they share is the bond of love.  The love in our hearts that responds to God’s love that is given to us.

May these wonderful days deepen that love for all of us – our love of Saint Bernadette, for the Virgin Mary and for Jesus.  But above all may it strengthen our love for each other and may the experience of this pilgrimage send us home determined to show that love to others – may Jesus, the Son of Mary, teach each one of us to pray in some new way this day.