Earlier today, we celebrated Mass in Kilmovee and began the “Do This In Memory” programme with six children from the parish who are preparing for First Holy Communion – to be celebrated in April 2013. The six, two boys and four girls, were called by name and came to stand beside me for the reading of the Sunday Gospel passage, the story of the healing of the blind man at Jericho. The church was particularly well filled today and that’s always such a great feeling. Mighty to have people gathered in one place to spend a bit of time in prayer together.
I told the children that I had thought about them during the week and that we are so lucky to just have six children preparing for Eucharist. A friend of mine in a Dublin parish told me that he had three hundred plus one year. I was saying to them and the congregation in Kilmovee that we’re lucky to be able to get to know each other like this. I recently heard a lady speaking about the Irish language and she said a woman told her that she once visited the Cork Gaeltacht and a man asked her “Cé leis thú?” which literally means “Who’s with you?” She said she was on her own but the questioner insisted she was not and that we all belong to someone so the phrase – the greeting – meant “Hello” but more than that – it meant “Who are your people?” It’s sometimes in knowing the family, the ones before us, we stand a better chance of getting to know who’s before us right now. We have that chance in Kilmovee with these children – to get to know them, to get to know “who’s with them” over the coming months and, through all that, to say a prayer for them.
The image of a half dozen eggs came to my mind yesterday and I thought about the children that we’d meet today. There is so much can be done with eggs and, needless to say, I wasn’t suggesting we boil, fry or scramble the six preparing for Eucharist! On the contrary, we see their fragility, like the egg shell, and respect it – nurture it and shield it with our presence and prayer. The community’s role then is to protect what might easily be broken or damaged.
I mentioned that when I was in Ballaghaderreen the Polish Community there used come to the Cathedral on Holy Saturday for a ceremony of blessing food. It was their way of saying that Lent had passed and the Easter Celebrations were at hand. Among the food items they’d bring for blessing were eggs, beautifully prepared and painted. I remember one lady giving me two of them that I had managed to keep safely until last year when one of them broke. It was amazing to see the decorative style of the eggs and the tenderness and gentleness of hands that carefully decorated and painted them.
That’s what I hope we will do with the “half dozen” over the coming months. Trace on their hearts, images of Christ, Eucharist, Parish, prayer, peace and all that is good and that can stand them well throughout their lives and journey with them along the roads they will travel.
I invite you then, to pray for the “half dozen” in Kilmovee and the dozens, hundreds, thousands like them who represent a fragile frame and hungering faith.
At the end of Mass, I mentioned that we have a seventh person preparing for First Holy Communion. Unlike the “half dozen”, she’s more grown up – a young woman called Lynne, in her twenties, who came to live in Ireland and felt drawn to share the Catholic Faith. She has, for some months now, been receiving guidance, reflecting and praying and will on the Feast of Christ the King, celebrate her First Holy Communion and Confirmation in our Parish Church. Living in Dublin, she visits the West with her boyfriend – a good friend of mine – and has, on many occasions, attended our Sunday Mass. She said that’s where she would like to step into our Faith and we look forward to celebrating that day with her.