Bishop MacDaid celebrates Mass for the Irish Catholic Community in Philadelphia during the Papal Visit to the USA

Mass for the Irish American Catholic Community

St. Anne’s Church, Philadelphia, PA, 6:30PM

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


Good evening everyone and greetings form the Irish delegation and other guests attending the World Meeting of Families in this fine city of Philadelphia. We thank you for your hospitality and the wonderful welcome you have given us. It has been one of the highlights of our visit-meeting, greeting and sharing stories with our fellow countrymen and women.

We were thrilled to accept your invitation to share in the Eucharistic table with you and we consider it a great honor to be asked. Today is the feast of Padre Pio and I am sure he has as many friends and admirers in Philadelphia as he has in Ireland. I am happy to accede to the requests to use the prayers of the Mass of the feast-day. I felt that in choosing the readings and words of reflection the occasion demanded that our thoughts turn towards our native country and our people both of which are dear to us all. On our way to St. Anne’s this afternoon we stopped to visit the famine memorial to our people. It brought us back to a Traumatic Time and a shared horror which forged bonds and left deep marks on our psyche. It was one of those shattering experiences which along with happier ones shape our self-image as a people.

On a lighter note a friend of mine tells the story of Murphy who came down from Donegal to Dublin and bought himself a high-powered motorbike. When he came back to his village there was great excitement; few of his neighbors had seen anything like it. He said to his pal Casey,   “Get up on the back and I’ll take you for a spin.” Casey got up and they had not gone more than a mile when Casey began to shout and complain “stop the bike, the wind is cutting the chest out of me.” So Murphy stopped and said to Casey “take off your coat and turn it back to front and that will stop the wind getting at your chest.” Casey did that and off they went again at great speed. They were gone another mile when Murphy turned around to check on how Casey was getting on only to find that he wasn’t there at all. Murphy turned the bike and went back and found Casey sitting on the side of the road surrounded by six farmers. Murphy asked “Is he alright?” One of the farmers replied “Well he was alright when we got here but he hasn’t spoken a word since we twisted his head round the right way.”

The reason I tell you this nonsense story is that my friend sees Casey as an image for many post-referendum people in Ireland. He says “they don’t know which way they are facing. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know whether they are alive or dead. They are stunned.” You will recognize that this is a flippant and humorous way, typical of our people, in talking about a rather serious issue. Since the referendum on marriage was such a traumatic experience for many of our people I thought we should reflect on it, if only lightly, for a short while this evening.

To prepare ourselves to celebrate this Mass more worthily let us call to mind our sins.




Mass for the Irish American Catholic Community
St. Anne’s Church, Philadelphia, 6:30pm
Wednesday, 23 September 2015


My dear friends,

You could describe life as a substantial journey, made up of many lesser ones. Often we are not sure what set us off on this journey and we may be uncertain as to where we are trying to go or how we will get there. But our experiences on the way can have a profound effect on our lives.

In 1900 Frank Baum wrote a best-selling book called “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” It is the story of a person’s journey, Dorothy’s journey. She leaves Kansas and her home and, at the end of her journey, arrives back home again having grown and changed and developed in understanding. On the way, she discovered her inner strength and courage, her capacity for compassion and her ability to love. Lessons learned on journeys of discovery enable us to find our potential and to sort out our values. In the process our inner world may be turned upside down.

As T.S. Elliott puts it:

 ‘We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive at where we started and know the place for the first time.’

The Old and New Testaments are full of journeys of all kinds. The two disciples on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus had their own notions and understanding of things. They had hoped and believed that Jesus was the expected Messiah and would restore the Kingdom to Israel and send the Romans packing. Now, for them, it was all over, a terrible mistake. But by the time they had finished their journey, the stranger who had joined them gave a new and different vision to the disciples. He gave a new meaning to what had happened. They could feel a glow of warmth in their hearts.

The description of the Pentecost scene we find in Scripture is not a happy one. Their hopes shattered and their vision gone, the disciples retreated, closed and locked the doors, and tried to comfort and support one another. Tension and danger filled the air. Until, the Holy Spirit found space in their minds and hearts there was no future, just a dead past. The coming and inspiration of the Holy Spirit which had been promised, transformed the landscape and the aftermath changed the course of history in many ages to come through the work of the same apostles.

We could talk about Abraham, who answered what seemed to be a ridiculous call in the circumstances; Mary the Mother of Jesus, who put her faith in God saying yes in extraordinary circumstances, and of course there is Paul who had adjustments made to his vision as well as his body when he came off his horse and hit the ground to such effect that some of his friends did not recognize him.

Many of our people in Ireland and many more who now live and work abroad had a shattering experience earlier this year. To many of them it was the last straw. As they saw it, politicians had now joined with the media in opposing the message of Christ. The Irish people had voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriage and giving it equal recognition and status with traditional marriage. The reaction to the Referendum result among the practicing Catholic population ranged from disappointment to shell-shock. Too many of our people, and especially to our exiles, it was unthinkable to have such a result in the Ireland they remembered.

Ireland, it seemed, was now firmly a secular state and, as some saw it, our people had abandoned the faith and the moral values and practices which went with it. It was past five minutes to midnight. There was no future. We were on our way to the cemetery. But there are lots of twists and turns in a journey. When the initial after-shock passed and we remembered that God was still present to us in Jesus Christ and the promised Holy Spirit, a more balanced reaction began to take root. Nothing that grows is instant but gradual, like the seed in the soil. The faith has a long history and deep roots in our soil. Lives have been given in generous service to the spread of the faith and in meeting the needs of the people before God. We could explore, examine, analyze and translate all the figures and come up with one hundred and one reasons why this result emerged.

We could ask ourselves how much did abuse scandals involving priests and religions, especially in the manner of their reportage, affect the vote. We could ask how much influence did the flood of money, exhorting a yes vote, have as it flooded past $11 million dollars. Or we could ask how much did modern communication, technology, and its clever use by the media influence the result. We could have a long debate on all of these issues and more.

But we never cease journeying and we are continually and often imperceptibly changing and adjusting our position, at times influenced by external factors. But God, our loving father has always saved us from destruction and brought us back from the dead. He did that most fully through his son Jesus Christ and also through the prophets, old and new.

It is not a time to doubt the power of God who has always shown his strength and loving care. Most parents who have shared in passing on life have played their part in the community’s efforts to pass on the riches of their faith to their children. It is a time to trust the seeds that have been sown, and be confident that something of value has taken root and will surface on a distant dawn when other avenues have disappointed as has happened many times already. The farmer in today’s Gospel message declared that night and day the seed is sprouting and growing while he sleeps and when he is awake, – how he does not know. But his eyes tell him that, of its own accord, the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready he wastes no time. The harvest has come and God is Lord of the harvest. Brendan Kennelly, a modern Irish Kerry poet wrote:

‘Though we live in a world that dreams of ending that always seems about to give in, something that will not acknowledge conclusion insists that we forever begin.’

Speaking in the name of God, the prophet Ezekiel says:

‘I the Lord am the one who stunts tall trees and makes the low ones grow, who withers green trees and makes the withered green. I the Lord have spoken and I will do it.’

+Liam S. MacDaid
Bishop of Clogher

23 September 2015




Mass for the Irish American Catholic Community

St. Anne’s Church, Philadelphia, PA, 6:30PM

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Concluding Remarks


Before we ask God’s blessing a few words of thanks to Archbishop Charles Chaput for his welcome

to Fr. Edward Brady, Pastor of St. Anne’s for his hospitality

to Joe Fox, President Ancient Order of Hibernians for his assistance

to Bishop Murray and Fr. Peter Murphy for their support

to the other members of the Irish Delegation for their companionship

to Nuala Kilduff for all her work behind the scenes

to all the other guests who helped to make the occasion by their presence and participation in this Mass

to Cormac O’Duffy composer if the oratorio ‘The Wedding Feast of the Lamb’ for inviting us all to the launch to-morrow evening in St. John the evangelist Church on 13th Street and to which we are looking forward with great anticipation.

+Liam MacDaid

23 September 2015


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