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Bishop Denis’ Homily Mass in Duiske Abbey launching the Season of Creation 2023

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A:                       03.09.23

11am Duiske Abbey, Graignamanagh


It’s always a joy to visit Duiske Abbey here in Graignamanagh and more importantly to celebrate Mass. This is the oldest church in our diocese. When we gather here, we gather on holy ground, we gather in the footsteps of Cistercian monks who came here in the twelfth century. But ground that continues to be sanctified by you the worshipping community who continue to pray here over eight hundred years later.

I thank Fr. Mark for the welcome here this morning and for all he is doing, with your great support and help to enhance this Abbey as a place where parishioner and occasional visitor can equally meet the Lord.

It makes such great sense to me to launch the Season of Creation here in Graignamanagh this Sunday morning. Four weeks that allow us to focus on our common home and the little things, the little changes, the little actions that will make a world of difference to the world we share.

Like tributaries of a river, we all can join forces over this season on the theme “Let Justice and Peace Flow”. The words of this mornings psalm reverberate: “For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord my God[1] with the very first verse “my body pines for you, like a dry, weary land without water[2]. There are too many lands crying out for water to flow; there are too many thirsting for justice and so we pray …

  • Lord Jesus, you are forgiving and kind to all who call on you,

Lord, have mercy …

  • Lord Jesus, for you my soul is thirsting,

Christ, have mercy …

  • Lord Jesus, you guard us in the shadow of your wings,

Lord, have mercy …


I like the image of turning the dial ever so slightly, making what may seem as those small inconsequential actions that in reality make a world of difference to others. St. Paul asks us not to model ourselves “on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind[3]. It comes from the concluding section of Paul’s letter as he tries to lay out what he means by true worship.

Taking up our cross is the only way of truly following the Lord, St. Matthew reminds us. For too long we have seen the cross as maybe of someone else’s doing, someone else’s burdens intruding into our lives, St. Matthew seems to be saying the cross is ours, own it, name it, identify it, but most importantly take it up and follow the Lord.

The gospel is the immediate continuation of last Sunday’s account of Simon’s confession that Jesus was the Christ and out of this confession emerged the new name for Simon Peter – the Rock. Well the rock has well splintered this morning, a week later, as Jesus explains what following Him actually entails. Jeremiah seems burdened by a calling he doesn’t want, and pained by the hostility of those he has been called to minister to. The challenges are everywhere. Following Christ costs us, Jeremiah comes around to realising that; St. Paul teaches that and St. Peter is embarrassed with a public dressing down over this realisation.

Crosses are everywhere. Yesterday I climbed Brandon Hill, the highest mountain in Co. Kilkenny with an elevation of 515 metres. The archaeologist Michael Gibbons in the 1980’s using ground and aerial surveys estimated that the slopes of Brandon were settlements in excess of four thousand years ago. Again, like here in the Abbey, yesterday we were walking on sacred ground. There on top of Brandon Hill is a Cross, well done to those who continue to maintain it, lighting it up for different moments in the calendar of life in these parts. While the storms of last November grounded it, the frame remains upright, reminding us of the moments of resurrection in all our lives.

The Season of Creation is a new initiative by Pope Francis to call us to ponder the world around us. The little changes, the dial turns we can so easily make, that will result in our world being a better place for all. This summer, above all summers, our news-feeds were filled with frightening images of climate change, even climate catastrophe. The fires in Greece, in Canada and on the Hawaiian island of Maui. More locally the wettest July on record, and I imagine August wasn’t far behind. The challenges farmers face to save crops and the harvest. With the school holidays ending we can be certain that September would begin spendidly, lets use it to appreciate creation all around us.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis reminds us “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor[4] are joined at the hip. The cry of the earth is the cry of the poor. There is an urgency if we don’t turn that dial ever so slightly, the effects can be catastrophic. Launching the Season of Creation here in the splendid setting of Duiske Abbey and Graignamangh allows us to reflect on the slight changes we might take that would result in a world of difference to our globe.

Here in Graignamanagh this parish has made a number of changes of environmental importance. Apparently there was considerable waste with votive candles, with the parish consuming an incredible ¼ tonne of candles yearly. The small plastic cup that each votive candle was packed in had to be dumped afterwards, reintroducing the more traditional ‘penny candles’ results in no waste plastic or waste wax. The altar candles have also been changed to original beeswax, hence using a natural product and less hydrocarbons. The result of these changes is that 80% of waste wax from votive candles has already been eliminated.

By fitting LED lights and emergency lighting the parish has reduced the electricity consumption in the Abbey by 67.5%. As oil prices soared last year, the parish managed to reduce oil consumption by 12% while the Abbey was two degree warmer during the winter, by simply changing weekday access to the side door only, using the main door for larger celebrations only. Of course there is more to do, but it shows how by a slight adjustment of the dial, of the way we do things, so much can be achieved. What we do is for the good of God’s creation and the benefit of future generations who like us one day will walk in the shoes of those early twelfth century Cisterian monks.

It is incumbent on us all to learn a new way of dwelling in our common home, a new economics, a new political order. What impacts one, impacts all. It strikes me, what is happening here in the Abbey needs to be developed further and offers perhaps a template to other parishes. It shows what is possible and achievable with small incremental changes. As we reflect on our shared future together, there is so much we can learn from one another, by making that slightest change.

[1] Ps.62:2

[2] ibid

[3] Rm.12:2

[4] Laudato Si, par 49