I told you we were having Mass on June 10th. I invited any of you that might be free and local to come along. It was to be the Sunday Parish Mass as the people had kindly allowed me change the Mass time for this week. I was totally amazed at how many people turned up and my amazement is matched only by my gratitude. Thank you for being there and, to those who could not be there but made contact with me. You gave me much to think about and to be renewed through. God Bless you all.
I am going to put here the words used yesterday. It was the Feast of Corpus Christi and the gospel was Mark’s account of preparing for and the the celebration of the Last Supper. We blessed Holy Water and the beginning of Mass – to celebrate God’s forgiveness and desire to cleanse us as well as to be reminded of the man who carried the bucket of water – the man the disciples were to follow – the man who would make available to them the “upper room” for the Last Supper.
Just one more thing – this is the end of it!! I’m not seeking to turn this into a Silver Jubilee Express!! I really hadn’t planned on yesterday and owe its happening to my aunt’s decision to come from Richmond Virginia to celebrate. A mutual friend, Corky Korves, left his own home and family to accompany my aunt. The fact that the two of them were travelling across the Atlantic to celebrate something that I didn’t know was going to happen, was possibly what was needed to make it happen. I thank the two of them for that. I thank as well, from the bottom of my heart, the people of the Parish of Kilmovee, the Pastoral Council, Community Centre, various clubs and societies in the community, the choir, musicians, those who prepared the church, decorated it and its surrounds with flowers and bunting, individuals and families who went far beyond what I had imagined and gave us all a day to remember and one on which to rejoice. In all honesty I was not prepared for that and was deeply touched by the love and support you showed me and the welcome you afforded my family, neighbours and friends who travelled to be with us yesterday. I can only hope that you know how much it means and how determined I am to say thanks even without words ……
I have a sort of a fondness for the Tyrone comedian, Kevin McAleer. I like his droll delivery and his powers of observation. He tells a lovely story about his father and his not wanting to travel anywhere beyond the home parish, despite Kevin’s invitations to come to London to visit when he was living there. “What”, the father used say “will I see there that I can’t see here?” Kevin said he had no answer to that! He tells a lovely story of telling his father about an epic trip he had undertaken that took him from coast to coast in the United States, to India where he sat beside the rising floods of the Ganges River where he saw a “cow float by with a crow on its head”! He peeled tulips in Amsterdam, cleaned toilets in Antwerp Airport until one day the manager told him the “the toilets are looking great Kevin” – he figured it was time to come home, “so”, he told his father, “I caught a flight to Dublin and got the bus to Omagh and here I am”. His father said “Were there many on the bus?”
Sometimes our agenda is not the agenda of others. Our words, no matter how well chosen, may not be the words another needs to hear. Even today, as I celebrate with you this day, I am well aware that there are people in the congregation who have heavy hearts because of recent bereavement or worry about illness among family members. I want you to know that I know that. The words of today may be far removed from where you are. Know, nonetheless, that you are part of all we seek to bring to the Altar here in Kilmovee today. Your prayers – all our prayers – become one and I invite to leave them with me at the foot of this Altar.
It’s always a risk for a priest, in talking, that his words are not striking home. There’s a lovely story of a young seminarian coming home for his first Christmas Holidays. He goes to Sunday Mass and the parish priest delivers a fairly uninspiring homily. The young man rushes around to the sacristy after Mass and, as the old priest, struggles to take off the vestments the student cuts loose. “That was awful. It was at least forty years out of date. When did you last go away on a course on preaching or open a book to get some idea of current theological thought?” The old priest made no reply but when the student told his mother what he’d said she went directly to the parish priest and apologised for her son’s words. “His father will kill him”, she told the priest “if he told him once, he told him a thousand times – do like the rest of the people in the parish, let it in one ear and out the other”!!! That’s the choice always, I suppose, but you’d hope that occasionally something is said that might remain somewhere between the two ears.
The Gospel image of the man carrying a bucket of water and his being followed by the disciples to the house where he will show them the “upper room”, is one that I have liked for some time and especially in recent times. There is something about it. The disciples asked Jesus where they were to have the Passover and he told them to walk down the street, that they’d see a man carrying a bucket of water and that they should follow him. That’s exactly what happened. Could the bucket carrier ever have imagined he’d play such an important role in the shaping of our Salvation? Such an ordinary thing and an ordinary task – I think that’s why I like it. Kavanagh said that God is found somewhere in the bits and pieces of everyday life. A bucket of water and the man that carried it – there’s great consolation for me in this, for it’s often in the very ordinary we live our lives and carry on our work and ministry. It’s not all about Monstrance or Cyborium but doing all in the belief that some of what we do can and will make a difference. Sometimes, like the disciples, we follow strange people. Perhaps I’m one of them so today I thank all who have followed me, in life, through prayer and friendship and helped me to realise, remember and believe that much of our ministry is found in the ordinary.
The day I was ordained I remember that moment in the ceremony when the man to be ordained lies flat on the floor – it’s called the prostration – and is a sign, I think, of submission to prayer and the support of people and church. Literally you are mouth under and carried by the prayers of all those around you. John McMorrow who is here with us today doing a video of this Mass, was also there that day and if you listen carefully, just as I lay on the ground, my nephew or maybe my niece, I’m not sure which can be heard saying “Vinnie fell”!! Truth is Vinnie has fallen many times since – in different ways and circumstances but the memory of that day of the power of prayer has helped him – me – find the feet and direction again. That carrying in prayer has continued and has been so important in my life. For that carrying too, I thank you all today.
Earlier I met a young girl and her grandmother outside the church. They said they had been looking at the photos from my Ordination Day that I put up in the porch. “I’ve changed a lot, haven’t I?” I said and I think the grandmother was just about to agree when the young girl said “your smile is the same”. I thank her for that and I think she’s right. My smile has remained the same and I’m so glad to be able to smile and I’ve had a lot to smile about; good friends, people who have allowed me into their lives to share celebrations and important moments, kitchen friendship and laughter. Good friends in the parishes where I worked and from my time in the Galway Regional Marriage Tribunal. Mighty priests that shared work with me – priests like Fr Gerry Walsh my first Parish Priest, may he rest in peace. I love to smile and to see others smile. Despite all the negativity around us and all the hurts of our time, there is still much to smile about. For that I’m glad. I can say, in all honesty, that I have not understood all that is priesthood and some of it has confused me, annoyed me and bothered me but there is nowhere else I would want to be right now, nothing else I’d want to be right now. I smile in priesthood, through priesthood and because of it. I am glad to be a priest.
Later in that “upper room”, he took bread and broke it. There is a lot of brokenness about. I remember today all who live in this brokenness – family problems, ill-health, unemployment, concerns and so much more that leaves us vulnerable – leaves us broken. Sometimes it might be in the brokenness we see the full value of togetherness and find ourselves driven to repair what has been damaged. Maybe brokenness reminds us of how good and important is the totality. If so, the maybe we need to be able to live with and through brokenness, to be nourished and strengthened. In brokenness we are called to remember.
I remember today my father and mother, so central to my life. I miss them and pray they be at peace. I mentioned at a funeral Mass yesterday that I had gone home the night before to get the Vestments I wore on my Ordination Day. They had been made by a classmate and I wanted to wear them in remembrance of that. When I went home the house was empty as it has been since my father’s death. I put my foot on the bottom step and heard my mother say “Vincent, is that you?” It wasn’t a roaring voice just her voice in my head and heart. That’s the way she had been in the closing months of her illness – listening for us, listening for me and as soon as she’d hear the back door open, she’d call out “Vincent, is that you?” I was saying this at the funeral because I wanted the family to know that there will be for them many reminders of the man we were burying. “Vincent, is that you?” It was – it is. So they’re remembered in those inner voices and reminders that they lived and made a difference in our lives. We acknowledge today, all gone before us in recent or distant past. I remember my uncles, my aunt, Bishop Fergus (who had been such a good friend to my family at home), priests of the diocese, friends who have died over the years. May they rest in peace. The theme of the Eucharistic Congress is “in union with Christ and one another” – that this may be the case.
When Bishop Kelly was ordained he spoke and spoke very well in the Cathedral. One of the things he said was by way of acknowledging his friends. He said he was not going to name anybody but that that they knew who they were. He used a lovely line that has remained with me; he said “without you I cannot be”. I borrow his line today and attribute it to all of you, my family – my brothers Gerard and Kieran, their families and my friends who have given me such support and love through the years – “without you I cannot be”.
And to the word, I think people like to hear me use, “finally”!! I think I get along well with people and have never deliberately sought to hurt anyone. That doesn’t mean I haven’t for through no intention and maybe sometimes with intention (though we might not admit that) hurts are caused. I am sure I have hurt people – I know I have and today, from the bottom of my heart I apologies for any hurt I may have caused intentionally or otherwise. That said, thankfully I get on well with the people in this parish and don’t take that for granted. Thanks to you all in Kilmovee, Urlaur, Kilkelly and Glann. Thanks to the people in Carracastle, Collooney, Ballaghaderreen and the Marriage Tribunal as well. Priests might not always get along with people and there’s a lovely story told about one such priest. He was, more than a little, pumped up on his own importance and one Sunday at the end of Mass spoke to the people: “Jesus asked me to become a priest. I was happy to do whatever Jesus asked me to do. When I was ordained Jesus asked me to go to a parish and I went. Later he asked me to work in a school and I went. Eighteen years ago Jesus asked me to come to this parish and I have worked very hard here ever since. Now Jesus has asked me to move to another parish and I will leave this week”. There was a moment’s silence and then the choir sang “What a friend we have in Jesus”!!!!
We have – thank you!