SILVER JUBILEE – HOLY FAMILY PARISH, DUNDALK
WEDNESDAY, 6 SEPTEMBER 2006
MOST REV. SEÁN BRADY
I welcome you as we gather to celebrate this twenty-fifth anniversary Eucharist here in Holy Family Parish, Dundalk. Welcome everybody, but in a special way the Marist Fathers who have all come back in such numbers to be here this evening.
We live in a time when care is very important. Health care, child care, customer care, care of the elderly. We talk of having a duty of care to one another. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. I will not leave you orphans. Behold I am with you all days, even to the end of time.” So in the Church there grew up this idea of Pastoral Care. It is the care of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, for his followers and the parish exists to deliver that pastoral care in all its shapes and sizes.
We are here this evening to celebrate twenty-five years of Jesus caring for his people. He is the splendour of the Father who shows us the way to the Father and helps us to travel that way. We are sorry for the times we refused.
When I spoke to Fr Harrington last week about the celebration here this evening there was definitely a lilt in his voice and an air of great excitement. Now remember, that was the week in which Dublin’s hopes of Sam Maguire had been dashed. We all know what a great Dublin man Fr John is, but nevertheless he was definitely upbeat. The parish history had been published, the Jubilee preparations were falling into place, it was all systems go.
I have to confess that I myself began to feel a flurry of excitement. I know one thing, this parish certainly knows how to celebrate, whether it is a School Jubilee or Confirmation ceremony, you pull out all the stops. The choir, the music, the readers, the processions, you really put your heart into it. And you do indeed live up to your name of Holy Family. Your celebrations bear the mark of a united family, a family that appreciates what it has received and gives thanks in a very happy and joyful way. This evening is no exception.
Twenty-five years ago this Parish of the Holy Family was set up, under the protection of the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This evening we welcome back, with great joy, all the Marist Fathers who have served you, the parishioners down through those twenty-five years. We congratulate you, the Parish of the Holy Family, on this, your Silver Jubilee, and on the production of your excellent history.
A parish is part of a diocese, in which it is set up as an individual unit. Every parish is set up so that its inhabitants can care for one another and be better cared for by the Church. This is the way God takes care of his people. This is the way God shows his people that He loves them. First of all he sent his son, Jesus Christ, originally so that people could get to know him and love him. Jesus said, “I am the way – the way to the Father.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads his own home to the Father. Jesus depends on us to show his love for others, by caring for them.
The great care that every parish tries to give to every one of its members comes from the firm conviction that they have been loved by God, continue to be loved by God and will never be very far away from the love of God. The handing on of that conviction is a task for the whole parish. It is up to you, the parishioners, to convince every single person that he or she has been loved by God. It is not a question of convincing them by arguing, or shouting at them, but by showing them, through their experience, that they are, in fact, loved by God. That the are taken care of by God. Looked after by God, at every moment of their existence, from the first moment of their birth to the moment when they breathe their last breath.
One of the Prayers of the Faithful is for your parish. It says exactly what I am trying to say. It prays that we will continue to build a community where people care for one another. That is what this parish is, a community that cares for one another. Because they care for one another they are not out to exploit one another or to entrap one another but to help one another. They want to heal, where healing is needed. In this respect the letter from St Paul seems to be talking great sense to me. Do not let your love be a pretence but sincerely prefer evil to good. Have a profound respect for each other. If anyone is in need you must share with them, you should make hospitality your special virtue. That way I think this parish will become a parish that is really modelled on and not just called after the Holy Family.
I wonder what was the atmosphere like in the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Well, we get some clues in the Gospels. First of all they were together and they went together to various functions. We hear of them going up to Jerusalem every year for the religious ceremonies and that would have taken them days. They obviously talked to each other, they got to know each other and they respected each other. I think that is what the episode of Jesus being lost for three days in the temple is all about. When they found him, his mother said, “Child why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in anxiety”. You see Joseph and Mary were anxious about the welfare and safety of the child, Jesus, but Jesus replies quite respectfully and quite honestly. “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s house?” It appears to me that he is there asserting that he is an individual in his own right. He has his own life to live, his own duties to fulfil. Despite the misunderstanding, Mary treasured what was done and said. She grew in knowing and understanding and loving her Son.
Sometimes I think parents treat their children as if they were their property. I am not saying Mary and Joseph did that but they certainly didn’t understand what he was saying to them. He seems to me to be saying that he was obliged, I suppose, to be in his father’s house. So there can be misunderstandings but they can be resolved, provided people are talking to each other, listening to each other, respecting each other, and not jumping to conclusions. And then we hear that he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them, and he increased in wisdom, and in years, and in divine and human favour. So the family is a place where growth takes place, where people grow and see each other grow, where they rejoice in seeing each other grow, physically, educationally, morally.
Another Prayer of the Faithful is one for the parents of the parish who strive daily to love, care for and support their children. The prayer is that they may find God in the difficult times and in the good times. That while the family grows they will always be aware of the presence of God in their midst – through the good times and the hard times.
Another Prayer of the Faithful is for the sick and the lonely. May they be restored to health and may we comfort and care for them. Once again that is spot on, because that is what a parish is about. It is about people caring for each other. People should be aware of their neighbours, especially elderly neighbours who, unless someone is watching out for them, could become invisible and lonely. It is at times like this that people become vulnerable. But, if they have a friendly neighbour who discreetly keeps an eye on them, they will feel wanted and valued.
We pray also for all those who give of their time and talents to build up the parish and who, along with the priests, ensure that the community continues to grow and be inclusive. I think this is very important at this time especially as we welcome our new neighbours who bring with them their many different ideas and cultures. It is by being all inclusive that we welcome them into our community and so ease their transition into living here in Ireland.
We pray too for all who have died and especially for the Marist Fathers who, over the last twenty-five years have served this parish well. They should be rightly proud of their achievements. I believe that this parish, under the current leadership, will continue to grow and become a community where God will continue to play a very important part of the life of the parish.
Yesterday was the Feast of Blessed Therese of Calcutta. Forty years ago, this week, as she travelled by train from Calcutta to Darjeeling she got an inspiration. The suggestion was to leave the Loretto Order, of which she was a member, and to found another Order to care for the poorest of the poor. It definitely was a challenge to put out into the deep water and pay out the nets for a catch. Well the inspiration came from God and so did the courage and the generosity to respond. By their fruits you shall know them. The catch was magnificent. Less than 60 years later the Missionaries of Charity had spread to 130 countries in five continents of the world with over 700 Convents. I suppose we could have a certain amount of sympathy for Peter when he said, “Master, we worked all night and have caught nothing.” After all he was the fisherman and Jesus the carpenter and what would a carpenter know about fishing. They were already washing their nets and getting ready to go home to their beds but Peter had faith in Jesus and if Jesus even hinted that something should be done, Peter would do it, and his faith was rewarded.
I suppose we all have the experience of working long and hard and catching nothing. Like Peter, Mother Theresa had unshakeable faith in Jesus. This unshakeable faith finds its roots in deep and continuous prayer. A priest who was working in the home for the dying rushed up, all agitated, to Mother Theresa to say that a certain man was dying. The first question she asked was, “Have you prayed for him?” For her the first thing to be done, even before considering what is needed from a medical point of view, was to pray.
Well, we are here tonight praying in thanksgiving for the past 25 years of Pastoral Care in this parish. We rejoice in the many ways that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, continues to lead his people into pastures that are fresh and green. We look forward and we pray for the future. We pray that we all may have the wisdom to recognise the inspirations from above, when they come to us, and have the courage and generosity to respond as God would wish us to respond. Sometimes it will seem like going against all that human wisdom suggests but if we pray about it we will know what God is asking and hopefully get the resources to respond.
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is to be our model. The Marist Fathers, with their loving devotion to Mary our Mother, will not let us forget that. Mary is the seat of wisdom, Joseph is the protector of the family of God, protector of the Church. One of my favourite prayers is,
Jesus Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul,
Jesus Mary and Joseph, assist me now in my last agony,
Jesus Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you. Amen.
I am sure it is a prayer much used in this parish and that it will continue to be used and bear much fruit.
Yesterday I met a man who suffers from extreme feelings of cold in his hands and his feet. No amount of gloves or socks help very much but if he gets the sun it helps a lot. So, he is off next week to the South of Spain to take the sun. God has often been compared to the sun in our life. The sun is the source of the light of wisdom and the warmth of love. A parish can be compared to a sun-trap, where we bask and soak up the sunshine of God’s love. Each one of us is called to reflect, like a mirror, the love of God and the wisdom of God onto others. Think about it.