Bishop Denis celebrated the closing Mass for the AFCM International Youth Conference held in Clongowes Wood College recently.
AFCM International Youth Conference – Concluding Mass, Clongowes Wood College 30.12.19
I am delighted to celebrate the Closing Mass of your Second International Youth Conference. We gather on the sixth day of the Christmas Octave. These are the quiet days between Christmas and New Year when negativity subsides and positivity abounds. A positivity rooted in this season of good will.
It is Anna we meet in Luke’s gospel – she represents all that is positive, wholesome and totally committed in faith – never leaving the temple, Luke tells us. You have been here in this ‘Temple’ at Clongowes for the past four days, arriving on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. Love builds the bridge between the Evangelist and the daughter of Phanuel; for so often destructing that bridge, damaging its supports, undermining its design, we pray for God’s love, grace and mercy …
An International Youth Conference held here in Clongowes Wood College in my diocese. Hands up those from Ireland? From England? From India? From Nigeria? From Romania? From the United States? From Kildare & Leighlin?
You will be much more familiar with the work of AFCM than I am, Anointing Fire Catholic Ministries. You know who you are, you know your ethos, your raison d’etre, your reason for existence.
I am going to concentrate on one word ‘Fire’. We know from news headlines how destructive the fires have been in recent weeks in Australia. I heard this morning that a volunteer firefighter has died and two others suffered burns after their truck rolled over when it was hit by extreme winds as they fought bushfires near Albury in New South Wales. Bushfires that have decimated large tracts of land across Australia including residential areas. Neighbouring Tasmania saw temperatures soar to the hottest December temperature on record yesterday – 40.8C in Hobart.
When I confirm young people and since my Ordination as Bishop I have confirmed over 15,000, I pray the gifts and fruits of the Spirit imparted on Confirmation Day will hugely impact their young lives. The symbol used for the Holy Spirit is often that of a flame, a flame that captures, that encapsulates, that allows the Holy Spirit to take root in the young persons life.
My late dad used to say “you can stand the cold, but you can’t stand the heat”. These were the words spoken by a farmer, milking cows 24/7 in a milking parlour that was renowned for the East wind that entered the end of the parlour. Today my brothers continue that dairy tradition, but in much more solobrious conditions. The East wind has well passed.
I mentioned that these few days between Christmas and New Year are what might be called ‘quiet days’. It is Anna, “the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher” who takes centre stage today. Her story is well told – advanced in years, widowed at a very young age, her life was now the Temple, day and night. She was consumed by a life of fasting and prayer. We all know these people. They may be our granny, our aunts, our uncles, our neighbours. Anna’s constancy in faith and theirs is always richly rewarded. Anna was present when Jesus was presented in the temple, when his parents arrived, she was there.
Anseo or As Láthair, as we recall from our Irish school roll call days? Present or absent? Too many of us are absent. We miss the moment. We miss the encounter. Being present is so essential in our faith today. Being present at Mass on Sunday. Being present in the confessional or at the Penitiential ceremony to confess or sins. Being present in the shelter, at the food bank, on the volunteer rota to care for those on the edges.
Your Conference opened on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist and draws to a close today with the story of Anna meeting and recognising Our Lord. ‘Love’ is the bridge that brings together the Evangelist and the daughter of Phanuel. Your Conference hopefully has reassured you of God’s love for each one of you, you are special in His eyes. He is uniquely present to each one of you.
May each of you be on fire in the knowledge of His love for you. His forgiveness for each one of you. His embrace of everyone here.
 Lk. 2:36