Homily marking 50th Anniversary of St. Eustace’s Church, Newbridge and
800 years of foundation of the Dominican Order
7th August 2016 @ 5.30pm
Last autumn in the lead up to the beginning of the Jubilee Celebrations for 800 years of the Dominican Order, the Order of Preachers, there was a huge effort on social media to get different people to send messages and good wishes. I tweeted a message on November 11th last using the #op800! I wished the Dominican Order then a happy 800th Birthday!
Ten months later we find ourselves here in Newbridge not only without enough candles for a cake but also immersed in a parallel celebration – the fiftieth anniversary of this Church. I think it’s an opportune time to ask ourselves, what we mean by that very phrase or term ‘church’?
A week ago in Krakow the Church was a field, simply called Campus Misericordiae, ‘Mercy Field’. There were no kneelers, chairs or forums, just a plethora of multi-coloured ponchos covering the ground, marking the site of the previous night’s sleeping bag territory! Umbrellas shaded us from the sweltering sun; the same umbrellas a few hours later might have helped enormously with the deluge of rain that would fall as we made our way to bus parks. Campus Misericordiae was very much a church; today I have no doubt there is little evidence of what took place a week earlier.
St. Eustace’s Church here in Newbridge is relatively young as churches go, 50 years of age, but it is the third church on this very site. The first church was opened on Christmas Day in 1819; the second in 1870 and the third here on July 10th 1966 by the Irish Dominican Cardinal Michael Browne. He was the first Irishman to have been elected Master of the Dominican Order.
The gospel invites us to become “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”. Pope Francis in a teaching on this particular text suggests the only way we can be salt or light is through prayer. We can do many great things, we can be like Martha a few weeks back, busy about much, but focused on very little. If we are not people of prayer our work, our contribution to church, no matter how generous it is, will be dark and dimly lit. Salt and light are for others, not for oneself. Salt can’t flavor itself; light can’t illumine itself.
I referenced ‘Maynooth and the week that has been in it’ over the past number of days. I’ve read columns and articles; I’ve listened to documentaries and news bulletins. The Dominicans have led the way in vocation promotion and discernment in recent years. Regarding Maynooth, the ones I pray most for at this time are current and aspiring seminarians, I think of the men who have been reflecting about discerning their vocation journey maybe over years and in the year they intend to take the plunge, the lifeguards are missing and the pool seems very deep. In every crisis there is an opportunity and perhaps the time is coming to reevaluate how formation actually takes place – naturally there must be learning, discerning and maturing in one’s journey, but parallel to it there must also be a rootedness in a diocese or a congregation where an individual one day hopes to minister and serve.
During the events around World Youth Day by chance on a few free hours in Kraków I came upon the Dominican Church known as Holy Trinity where the relics of the lay Dominican, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati were displayed for veneration. As I told our young pilgrims, this was a guy who had everything in life, would have been looked on by his friends as cool but yearned for something deeper, a faith that meant something to him in life. Placed alongside Polish icons like St. John Paul II, St. Faustina, Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko to mention a few, the young pilgrims were offered many role models in the days that followed.
It’s too easy to rely on an easy hashtag for deeper information on our faith in 2016. Social media offers us access to information at the click of a button. Being formed in our faith requires a much deeper commitment to avoid what St. Paul talks about in this evenings second reading to Timothy: “far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty … be careful always to choose the right course”. I once again compliment the Dominicans for the distance learning course they offer from Tallaght, a course that has formed and informed lay leaders in parishes all over the country.
‘Youcat’ was the tool offered by Pope Emeritus Benedict to the young people at Madrid WYD in 2011; ‘Docat’ is the follow up tool offered by Pope Francis. The verb ‘to do’ is in the title. ‘Docat’ answers the question asked by the rich young man in the gospels: ‘what am I to do to inherit eternal life?’ It really is the manual that allows us to be salt and light in today’s world. It tells us how to use the salt, what amount to put in, when to add it; it reminds us how to be that light, where to reflect best that light and when its best to reboot our batteries. ‘Docat’ is a curriculum that could be rolled out in parish catechesis classes or even distant learning programmes. The important message here is that we do something with this manual, it’s not for collecting dust on a lesser visited book shelf! ‘Docat’ will speak to environmental experts; ‘docat’ will speak to those invited to participate in a citizens’ assembly on critical moral isssues and ‘docat’ will speak to those concerned around issues of migration and immigration.
One hundred years ago young people – 14 years plus – left this island in their thousands to fight in a war and never returned or if they did, they were traumatised by the experience; one hundred years later young people in a context of anger and violence erupting in the most unexpected places all over Europe were a credit to their parishes, peers and parents in their behavior and attitude towards WYD.
Fifty years ago this church was opened; the fiftieth celebrations of the Easter Rising were quite mute that year; too many sensitivities and too many memories. We have moved on, this year’s centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising and of the Somme were exceptional; our celebrations today of this Church and of the Dominican order are very much underlined by those who are a key part of the day’s events – the Choir, the readers, Eucharistic Ministers, collectors, Lay Dominicans, church volunteers, Parish Team, local Religious, Board of Governors and Parents’ Association from the College.
If we need to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this homily, what do we mean by the phrase or term ‘church’, I suggest it’s very much here we find the answer. I conclude with the Jubilee Prayer entitled ‘Sent to preach the Gospel’:
God, Father of mercy,
Who called your servant Dominic de Guzman
To set out in faith
As an itinerant pilgrim
And a preacher of grace,
As we celebrate
The Jubilee of the Order
We ask you to pour again into us
The Spirit of the Risen Christ,
That we might faithfully and joyfully proclaim
The Gospel of peace,
Through the same
Jesus Christ our Lord.