Last Saturday, March 24, was the feastday of St Macartan. It was also the occasion for a special liturgy celebrated at the ancient place associated with the patron of the diocese, in Clogher parish itself. There, the petitions placed by thousands of families in various parishes over recent months were entrusted to the five religious orders in the diocese. The focus on Saturday last was on families and the forthcoming World Meeting of Families to be held in Dublin in August and which will be attended by Pope Francis. The petitions of families across all the parishes of Clogher diocese will be added to the prayers of the religious communities over the coming months, before they are taken to the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families in the Phoenix Park on 26 August, which will be presided over by the Pope.
The liturgy on Saturday was celebrated in St Macartan’s Church (the Forth Chapel) which has a number of historic links in that it served as the pro-cathedral of the diocese for a time and was also associated with Archbishop John Hughes, the first Archbishop of New York, a native of Clogher.
The celebration was organised jointly by the Diocesan group for the World Meeting of Families, the Diocesan Liturgy Commission and the Parish of Clogher. The Diocesan Administrator, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness presided, Rev Sean Mulligan, Enniskillen, was deacon and Fr Noel McGahan PP, Clogher, was the Master of Ceremonies. Following the prayers of intercession, the petitions were entrusted to the five religious congregations, namely, the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St Louis, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Passionist Fathers and the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Monsignor McGuinness’ Homily:
‘We gather here in this historic place on a special day, the feast of St Macartan. This church served as the pro-cathedral of our diocese for a number of years in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, also, we have with us the icon of St Macartan, normally kept in our cathedral in Monaghan. But it is here today, reminding us of the local roots of the faith which we as families nourish, live and pass on. The icon of St Macartan and the World Meeting of Families icon too, together with our own presence here today – all of these reinforce for us that the church is, as Pope Francis often reminds us, ‘a family of families’, a community of love and compassion.
‘Over the last few months, people from every parish in our Diocese have been given the opportunity to write prayer petitions for their families and place them in boxes which have travelled around the Diocese. All have been gathered together and brought to this church of our diocesan patron, St Macartan, to be entrusted to the care of the religious congregations in the Diocese.
‘We have brought to the church today five simple boxes. All they contain is thousands of pieces of paper, and yet each box is a treasure chest. For on these simple scraps of paper are written the hopes, the fears, the joys, the sadnesses, the thanks, the regrets and the deepest desires which form the fabric of the lives of our families.
‘Each of these pieces of paper is a message of love. Each one too is a unique expression of Christian faith and hope. Some will speak of the longing for healing for a sick family member or the liberation of one captive in the grip of addiction. Others may pray for the safety of loved ones far from home or the future success and happiness of the next generations. Others still may yearn for the gift of forgiveness and the mending of broken relationships. What all will speak of is the love and compassion which is at the heart of the families which make up our Christian community.
‘Each of these petitions is a prayer, and every prayer is a gift of time and thought. Although these prayers are made for the benefit of others, they bring blessings also to those who have written them. For in taking time and giving thought, we nurture the gift of love within ourselves. These simple acts of kindness and compassion make us more truly God’s chosen race, his saints. They make us better people. They also remind us of the real needs of those whom we love, and so allow the love of God to touch them through us.
‘In the Gospel story of the wedding at Cana, we see all this happen – a potentially embarrassing predicament averted by the sensitivity of a mother, her confidence in her son and the loving honour he gives to her and to the young bride and groom. It is a reminder to us of the power of the love we experience in our families and the importance of celebrating it with joy and thanks. We will have the privilege of doing this in a special way at the World Meeting of Families in August in Dublin. There these prayer petitions will end their journey at the celebration of the Closing Mass in the Phoenix Park. In the company of Pope Francis, kind and compassionate Father to our family of believers, we will, as they did at Cana, gather around the table of the Lord and celebrate with thanks the joy he brings.
‘I want to say a very special word of thanks to the religious congregations in our Diocese who are represented here today – the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St Louis, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Passionists and the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. Thank you for accepting from the people of our Diocese these prayers, which express their deepest longings and hopes. You will take them from their homes to your homes, from their families to your faith-families. Over the coming months you will make their prayers your prayers. For this service of love to the families of Clogher, we are deeply grateful.
‘We are now barely five months away from the great celebration which is the World Meeting of Families. As we continue our preparations in eager anticipation, may I wish every blessing on the work being done by all who are organising this wonderful event. May I also express our thanks in particular to all in our own Diocese who have taken up this work with such commitment and enthusiasm. And may I urge as many people from our Diocese, and families in particular, to seize the opportunity to experience this unique happening in our country – do register and take part!
‘St Paul speaks to us of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are the hallmarks of true Christian families and vibrant religious communities. May these qualities be ever-present in all our homes and religious houses and may the peace of Christ reign in all our hearts.’
At the conclusion of the liturgy, Fr Noel McGahan PP, Clogher and Eskra parishes, thanked all those who participated in the celebration and invited everyone to lunch in St Macartan’s Primary School, Clogher. This represented the hospitality that is at the heart of family life and the invitation was gladly taken up by those present.