Mass of Blessing and Thanksgiving
22 September 2011
St. Joseph’s Church, Ederney
My dear friends, brother priests and parishioners of Cúl Máine,
A man from the East decided to go on a trek into the desert. He summoned his camel men and told them to load the camels for the journey. The day of departure arrived and they all set out with great energy and excitement. They journeyed until sunset and then settled down to rest for the night under the desert sky. The next morning they set off again with much energy and excitement. After another day’s journey they settled down for their second night. The third morning they set off with depleted energy. After resting a third night they struggled to begin their journey on the fourth morning. Energy was low and they were dragging their heels. By the fifth morning, the camel men sat on the desert sand and refused to move. They had no energy or will to go on. The Master came to them and said, “I don’t understand. Everything was going so well. What is going on?” The camel men replied, “We have come so far, so fast. We now have to sit and give our spirits time to catch up.”
The pace of change has been rapid during the lifetime of this Church. We all have a lot more possessions, facilities and aids to living than people had half a century ago. They all take their toll on our time and energy. The house has to be maintained and looked after, the garden has to be cut and trimmed, the car has to be insured and taxed, the mortgage honoured and all bills paid. We feel under pressure, busy, full of things to do. We have little time to ‘stop and stare.’
The voices of the children and our wife or husband remind us that they need time and care but our spirits may be tired, weary, cranky, empty. We may even feel disillusioned and our lives lacking in meaning. Thomas Moore in his book “Care of the Soul” tells us that when the soul is neglected it does not go away. The neglect can appear symptomatically in addictions, obsessions, violence and loss of meaning. We may feel like either running away from these symptoms or embracing them but it really is only in caring for the soul that we are able to reclaim the depth and meaning of the life we are invited to live.
An ancient Sufi tale tells of a stream which was working its way across the country, experiencing little difficulty. It ran around the rocks and through the mountains. Then it arrived at the desert. It had crossed every other barrier so the stream tried to cross this one too, but it found as soon as it ran into the sand its waters disappeared. After many attempts it became very discouraged. It appeared there was no way it could continue the journey.
Then a voice came in the wind, “If you stay the way you are you cannot cross the sands; you cannot become more than a quagmire. To go further you will have to lose yourself.” “But if I lose myself,” the stream cried, “I will never know what I am supposed to be.” “On the contrary,” said the voice, “if you lose yourself you will become more than you ever dreamed you could be.” “So the stream surrendered to the sun and the clouds were carried by the wind for many miles. Once they crossed the desert, the stream poured down from the skies, fresh and clean, and full of the energy that comes from storms.
My dear friends, the central symbol which you have chosen for your Ceremony of Blessing and Thanksgiving this evening is the symbol of water. Water has been carried from Lough Erne, from theGlendarraghRiver, from the well at Kiltierney, from the stream by the Mass Rock in Montiagh and from the well at Tirwinny. It was all carried toSt. Joseph’s Church and poured into the Baptismal Font, which spans generations of your people, coming as it does from the original Church at Blackbog. We asked the Lord’s blessing and we prayed. The water was sprinkled on us to remind us of our Baptism. As we sang our entrance hymn we asked the Lord to lead us to the water.
Many writers refer to the terrible loss of soul in our times. Many of us are soul sick and in need of healing. There are many who claim you cannot cure the body unless you also heal the soul. God is absent or maybe He has just been covered by and disappeared into a mountain of sand like the stream as it tried to cross the desert. A character in one of the books of Thomas Moore (whom I mentioned earlier) cries out at one point in despair, “ My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”
My dear parishioners of Cúl Máine, I compliment you and your priest Fr Brendan Gallagher for the loving care which you have given to your Church. I commend the good work of the Architect Karl Pedersen and his team. I commend the work of the contractor Eugene Gallen and his workers. I also acknowledge the excellent work done by members of the Parish Committee in supervising the project. The Church is a worthy legacy to your skills and commitment. But it will be you, the people of Cúl Máine, who will bring these stones to life. Blessed by the Baptismal Waters of God’s grace, you have been given all the directions you need by Jesus Christ to find your way. If you surrender to him and lose yourself, if you allow him to, God will take your hand and lead you, help you to your feet when you fall and give you the strength to finish your journey. If you live at peace with God, you will live in harmony with one another. Your Church will be a place of eucharistic nourishment, a place of penitential forgiveness, a place where God’s love can find hearts where it can bloom.
In the opening prayer we said “From living stones, your chosen people, you built this house of prayer. As we gather together in your name, may we love, honour and follow you to the eternal life of our heavenly home.” In the final prayer of the Mass we will say, “As we as a community celebrate this evening, may we continue to give ourselves whole heartedly in your service.”
Our spirit can catch up, our lives can have meaning and a sense of purpose. The stream can be carried across the desert and God will lead us to the water. We can be healed. God will teach us to love one another. Our Church will come alive and flourish.
+Liam S. MacDaid,
Bishop of Clogher
22 September 2011