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Bishop Denis’ homily at Mass on Pentecost Sunday, Holy Cross Church Killeshin

Pentecost Sunday:                                                                                   28.05.23


Yesterday evening, the eve of Pentecost, was my 59th and final Confirmation Ceremony this year. 2,728 confirmed over 33 days in the past three months. Across the diocese there were 4,606 confirmed, so I celebrated 60% of the Confirmations.

I’m very conscious that some of the two Sixth Classes from Killeshin are here as is Michael Hennessy from Saplings who was confirmed last Friday and they, like the other 40% were confirmed by their own priest, in your case by Fr. John. We have tried to offer different kinds of liturgies and ways of celebrating the sacrament, all learnings from the recent pandemic. You might be interested to know in the ceremonies I presided at, 73% did not include a Mass, 27% were within Mass.  

Pentecost counts the days from Easter – fifty days and fifty nights. We find ourselves hearing the Easter morning gospel once more, as Jesus stands among the disciples paralysed with fear, greeting them “Peace be with you[1].

The Holy Spirit is our companion for life. As I told the young people yesterday in the Cathedral and indeed over the past three months, my hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit will always give them the courage, the conviction to speak to truth and not just be swayed by the crowd. Sometimes in life it’s hard to stand apart, the Spirit helps all of us to do just that, for the moments we struggle, we call to mind our sins


Spirit of the living God,

Fall afresh on me x 2.

Melt me, mould me, fill me, use me.

Spirit of the living God,

Fall afresh on me.”

This very well-known chorus in fact encompasses only five notes. It’s very simple harmony and melody can be sung by anyone and everyone. It draws us into prayer.

Pentecost, the feast of the birthday of our Church, reminds us of the healing, purifying, strengthening breath of God. Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles places us inside that first Pentecost room.

The Spirit coming in wind and fire empowers us to dream of the kind of Church we hope for and pray for. This morning on Bowman Sunday[2] we had a splendid reflection on the great Pope John XXIII marking the sixtieth anniversary of his death on June 4th and that beautiful poem by Paul Durcan. John XXIII was seen as a caretaker Pope because of his advanced age, he was looked upon as ‘filling the gap’ until someone brighter, younger and more energetic would fill his shoes. and yet he became one of the most empowering Popes. He had no fear of the Holy Spirit and what might become of our Church. When he opened the Second Vatican Council he said it was time to “open the windows and let the fresh air in”. We are here again. The air has stifled in time and we need to allow fresh air infuse every room once again.

Spirit of the living God,

Fall afresh on us x 2.

Melt us, mould us, fill us, use us.

Spirit of the living God,

Fall afresh on us.”

The earlier verse suggests the need to melt me, mould me, fill me, use me, while now the concentration has moved to us. Another version of the well-known hymn includes the verb “to break” alongside melt, mould and fill. We don’t use it in our refrains. But it reminds us that if we are to be truly and humbly open to the Holy Spirit, we must allow the Spirit to take us where we must go.

Next August it will be ten years since ordination as Bishop. In those ten years I have buried 19 of our priests including my predecessor Bishop Jim Moriarty. In those same ten years I have ordained 4 priests: two for the diocese: David Vard & Seán Hyland, an SVD priest and a Jesuit. Doing the sums, twenty priests dying in ten years replaced by two doesn’t make for good maths!

Our diocese is challenged by the older demographic of its clergy, men in their late seventies and some well into their eighties who are very generously administering parishes. You don’t need me to tell you what you already know yourselves that these men are held in deep love and affection by their parishioners. In addition over the past ten years I have taken in ten priests from abroad who generously serve here: four from Romania; two from Poland; two from China and one each from Brazil and Sri Lanka.

Episcopus’ means “one who sees further”. It’s not always easy to see further, and sometimes looking back can be more comfortable than looking ahead! But we need to begin to appreciate our shared baptismal calling and indeed I think of the 22,147 who I confirmed over the past ten years, and who at Confirmation renewed their baptismal promises. What do these promises amount to? What does the renewal actually mean? How can we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us of what the Church in Kildare & Leighlin might look like into the future?

Spirit of the living God,

Fall afresh on all x 2.

Melt all, mould all, fill all, use all.

Spirit of the living God,

Fall afresh on all.”

I read recently where there used to be a ritual during Ascension Sunday Mass, a week ago, no longer now part of the liturgy, where the priest after reading the gospel would blow out the Paschal Candle. For forty days Jesus had appeared to the disciples and was perfectly visible through their eyes, now He would only be visible through the eyes of faith.

We are asked to have eyes of faith in these more challenging times. The Holy Spirit allows us through time to see the Church that God is calling us to be. I reminded the young people at yesterdays Confirmation ceremonies, as Fr. John reminded you some weeks back, that the anointing of the Holy Spirit was the sealing, the confirming of being empowered to witness to the Lord in today’s world. We are confirmed to serve His kingdom not just for new clothes, a meal or a bouncy castle but to make a difference in today’s world, todays Church.

Imagine just for a moment if a even a fraction of the 22,147 whom I confirmed over the past ten years were engaged in their Church, their parish, their faith, what a wonderful place it would be. In the words of Pope Francis we need “tradition is not a museum, true religion is not a freezer and doctrine is not static but grows and develops, like a tree that remains the same yet which gets bigger and bears even more fruit”[3].And later quoting Gustav Mahler he says “tradition is not the repository of ashes but the preservation of fire”[4]. Our prayer this Pentecost Sunday is to kindle and preserve that fire that allows new voices to speak and new members to find their feet in Church today. That’s my prayer for the current process of Pastoral Area conversations I am having across this diocese and ask you the people of Killeshin to put those conversations and gatherings in your prayer this Pentecost day.

[1] Jn.20:21

[2] Bowman: Sunday: 8.30am Sunday 28 May 2023 RTE Radio 1

[3] Pope Francis: ‘Let Us Dream’  in conversation with Austin Ivereigh, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2020, pg. 57

[4] ibid