Words at Celebration of Evening Prayer, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny 2.2.2021
We gather for Evening Prayer on this, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. I welcome the many who join through the Cathedral webcam. Earlier today your former Bishop Dermot was installed as Archbishop of Dublin. He was ordained Bishop here on March 11th 2018 and in those short three years he has made a huge impression on the faith life of this diocese, which has been called ‘Ireland’s oldest bishopric’. I am humbled to be invited by Pope Francis to serve as your Apostolic Administrator as you await the appointment of a new Bishop. As a neighbour and as a friend, I look forward to walking with you and to help in every way I can in this period of sede vacante.
Today religious life is celebrated throughout the Church. The religious traditions in this diocese speak volumes. I think of Edmund Ignatius Rice, a native of Westcourt, Callan, the founder of the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers. I think of Margaret Aylward, a native of Mullinavat, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Faith and of Bishop Daniel Delany, native of Paddock in Castletown, founder of the Brigidine Sisters and Patrician Brothers and co-founder of St. Patrick’s College, Carlow.
The religious play a huge role in the life of any diocese, as I witness every day in Kildare & Leighlin – Ossory is no exception. There is a temptation to talk about ‘the religious’ in the past tense as if that contribution, their day in the sun, had passed. I disagree. The demographic may be older but their presence, their commitment, their influence remains as fervent as ever. I pay tribute to the priests, religious and lay faithful of Ossory who have kept the flame of faith burning in these parts since the twelfth century and indeed long before that.
Today especially I recall Bishop William Kinsella, a native of Ballon, County Carlow who was Bishop of Ossory from 1829-1845. He was the Bishop who oversaw the new building to house St. Kieran’s College, which lays claim to be the oldest Catholic college in the country. Before his death he witnessed the building of the early phase of this splendid Cathedral, standing on the highest point in the city, one of the finest examples of pure Gothic design on this island.
In the scripture reading this evening the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of a ‘high priest’ but one who is not removed from the weaknesses of those around him. The difference between ‘the mercy seat’ of the Old Testament and ‘the throne of grace’ in this Letter is the approach. In the Old Testament ‘the mercy seat’ was only approached by the high priest and it was approached in fear and trembling. All are invited to approach the throne of grace and to do so with confidence.
In a time of pandemic we need to approach this throne of grace, more than ever reassured that the Lord walks with us and remains with us at all times. We are never on our own and we need this reassurance above all right now. Our buildings may be closed to public worship but they all remain open for personal prayer. This latest ‘lockdown’ is bookended by the patrons of both our dioceses, St. Brigid of Kildare on February 1st and St. Kieran of Ossory on March 5th. On this feastday of the Presentation of the Lord when we customarily bless candles, let us keep those candles burning as we intercede through the intercession of all the saints to protect us and those we love from the effect of this virus. We also begin this evening our prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the discernment of a new bishop for Ossory.
It is only through the prayerful and practical support of the priests, religious and laity of both Ossory and my own Kildare & Leighlin, that I take on today this added responsibility and I ask all of you to keep me in your prayers.
St. Kieran, pray for us.
St. Canice, pray for us.
St. Brigid, pray for us.