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Bishop Denis’ Homily from the Opening Mass at Lourdes

Today Bishop Denis celebrated the opening Mass of the inaugural Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes in the Rosary Basilica.

In his introduction Bishop Denis said “This is an historic morning. We have come from every parish stretching from Balyna to St. Mullins, from Hacketstown to Clonalsee, from Kill to Ballinakill and from Clonaslee to Clonegal!

But for now, it’s enough to acknowledge we’re here, we’ve made it, we’ve come as a Diocese to walk in Bernadette’s footsteps and meet Our Lady. While we arrived at different and perhaps on different days, we are now together, under our diocesan banner, embracing our parish banner. The pastoral theme for Lourdes this year focuses on Mary’s great prayer ‘The Magnificat’: “the Almighty has done great things for me!” … if only we realised this our life would be so different … and so we prayer in this beautiful Basilica dedicated to the Rosary for His love and mercy … we are in a building that started in 1883, on top of this basilica Ireland’s gift, a 14 foot Cross and Crown are placed. Access to both this basilica and the Cross and Crown are by means of two giant ramps symbolising welcoming arms. The mysteries of the rosary allow us to remember where there is suffering, there’s Mary – she’s been through it and so we pray as we begin our pilgrimage …”


Two women were overheard comparing their Lourdes pilgrimages some time last year. What was the first question Josie asked Mary? “What was the weather like when you were there?” And then one succeeded in outdoing the other in how wet it actually was on their first day of pilgrimage. “I was soaked” one said; “to the skin” the other replied! And the second question: “Where were you staying, was it the Panorama, the Paradis, the Solitude, the Agena or the Jeanne D’arc?”. Here one tried to find out who was nearest the Grotto and isn’t it funny the further you are from Lourdes, the closer your hotel seemed to the Grotto!! It is as if a hotel might be built in the centre of the sanctuary!

I think in Lourdes we begin to learn a new vocabulary. The language of Lourdes is deeper than the weather, the food (oh yes, the food!) – you can have your Porridge when you get home! – the accommodation, even the flight out, Lourdes is much bigger than all these things. It is the language of rest, the language of peace, stillness, the language of humour and good fun. All of us come overburdened – it might be an illness, an addiction, a bit of bother at home, a personal difficulty that will be addressed in a petition later in the week. All of us need a rest, this isn’t a holiday but it is a rest. We shouldn’t miss that rest. All of us are in need of healing, we have our story to tell, and we bring with us the stories of many more at home. For you, the sick or invalided, the many who live so bravely with cancer, the many coping with depression or living with family members who are always on the edge, to all of you who have travelled with us on our first every pilgrimage, you are our VIP guests, make we do whatever we need to, to make these days special for you. “the Almighty has done great things for me …” for all of us.

Matthew’s gospel begins in a confrontational manner all about conflict and disturbance, preference and living with whatever cross life deals us. It ends with the reassuring words of welcome, inclusion and reward. On Saturday afternoon last my doorbell went at Bishops House. Outside I found two men, who told they were Neo-Catechumens on mission work around the country. Fr. Adrian Carberry in Kildare had given them a bed for the night earlier in the week. Fr. John Cummins promised one later that night. I wondered exactly what they were looking from me! They asked for a blessing on their work as lay missionaries, one was a father of thirteen children and the other a first-year seminarian in Redemptoris Mater at Dundalk. I brought them in and gave them a blessing. Then they invited me to open a page from the bible and pray a passage with them before they left. I opened by chance Matthew: 10:40: “anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me”. I treated them to their lunch and they went their way. None of us know whom the Lord will put in our paths these coming days, let’s be open to His will and to His Mothers Magnificat.

So, we have arrived, and in our arriving, in our unburdening let us celebrate the Lady who has brought us here from every parish. This may be our first ever Diocesan Pilgrimage, but its success is on the shoulders of a hugely successful local parish pilgrimage tradition that stretches back many years. Let us speak to Our Lady in her language of hope and joy as expressed in her Magnificat. And allow her to introduce us to Her Son:

Jesus, someone said …..
He saw you on a dark and dirty street –
Said that you were gently
Washing an alcoholic’s feet.

Someone saw you in a nursing home
With those who need Your care,
Caressing trembling wrinkled hands,
Brushing tangled, snow-white hair.

You found the frightened runaway
Who bristled at your touch
You didn’t offer him advice,
Instead you shared your lunch.

You crouched inside a doorway,
Next to a homeless man,
You wrapped him in a blanket,
Spoon-fed him from a can.

Someone said he saw you in a prison
With a man who killed his wife
You bowed your head with him in prayer
You spoke to him of life.

Someone said he saw You,
And I believe it’s true
What he saw was your church at work
Doing just what You do.

May our journey to Our Lady’s Shrine here at Lourdes help each of us in Kildare & Leighlin Diocese, in all our fifty-six parishes to become more reassured and fulfilled doing just what Jesus would want us to do, unburdening ourselves and finding some rest

St. Brigid, pray for us.
St. Conleth, pray for us.
St. Laserian, pray for us.
St. Bernadette, pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.


On Wednesday morning at 7.30am (Irish time) Kildare and Leighlin will lead Mass at the Grotto which can be followed online at Lourdes Live TV