Homily by Fr Kevin Duffy PP, Irvinestown (Devenish), at Ecumenical Service on White Island, Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh, Sunday 14 July 2019, as part of the 2019 “Lady of the Lake” Festival in Irvinestown.
Scripture reading – Luke 5: 1 – 11
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is preaching at Lake Gennesaret, not totally unlike White Island, Lower Lough Erne. This is Luke’s account of the calling of the First Disciples which takes place in the context of a miraculous catch of fish. Jesus is using Simon’s boat as a sort of platform from which to address the crowds who had gathered around him Already Jesus is gaining popularity and the crowds are ‘pressing’ near to him. Clearly they see something in Jesus that is attractive and fulfilling.
Simon is most likely being polite when he agrees to try again for a catch, possibly thinking that Jesus should leave the fishing to the professionals. Simon obeys, takes the risk, lets go of pride, and the result is an overwhelming catch of fish. It can be hard to trust others at times; it can be difficult to let go of what is familiar to us. The big challenge is to trust that God knows what God is doing and is constantly urging us to pull away from the shore.
White Island celebrates for us the fact that as far back as the 9/10th century, the boats that pulled up at this historic site were filled with people who had placed their trust in God and who dedicated their lives in a monastic way so that you and I can stand here this evening to celebrate the exact same God who reassures us that we need have ‘no fear’. The history of White Island and Devenish Island has formed each one of us into the people that we are today. For that we give thanks…. As the Gospel we listened to was the calling of the first disciples, we by virtue of our baptism are direct descendants and called by Christ to imitate his example in word and in deed. The remains of this 12th century Church is testimony to the faith of the people of this area and community and the challenge to us is exactly the same as in the ‘Monastic Times’, to put our trust in God and not to be afraid to pull away from the shore to spread the Word of God.
During the week as I strolled through Irvinestown Old Church and Graveyard, it was an opportunity for me to pause and reflect on the history of this great place. I was aware that before the 1680’s we would have talked about ‘Lowthers Town’. I was aware that the oldest recorded gravestone there is that of Hubert Holmes who died on 18th February 1694.
Today, in this ecumenical service we are reflecting on the the last 400 years of history of Irvinestown. As a people, where we have come from, how it has formed us and created the environment that we hold dear to this day. I am also very aware of how time moves on. No standing still for any of us. How ironic that what now remains of that part of Irvinestown’s history is the square clock tower. In its prominent place in our town it is a timely reminder of how ‘time waits for non of us’…. There is a time for everything, a season. All of which links itself back to the ground that we now stand on.
The roots of White Island are the same roots of Lowther\Irvinestown. These are our roots too. As the First Disciples were called to be witnesses, so are we. We are called to be risk takers with Christ like values in the same way that Simon risked casting his net for another catch.
“A boat is safe in the harbour; but this is not the purpose of a boat”. – Paulo Coelho
- The Ecumenical Service was part of the “Lady of the Lake Festival” which runs from Thursday 11 July until Sunday 21 July. Over 150 people attended the service, which included members of the Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. It was held in the ruins of a 12th century monastic church on White Island in Lough Erne. A 12-century Romanesque arch is one of the special features of this ancient place of worship.
- Irvinestown Cross-Community Choir led the music for the service.
- Fr Kevin Duffy is the Parish Priest of Irvinestown (Devenish) parish, which consists of irvinestown and Whitehill.