On Thursday 29th September the Congress Bell arrived into Carlow on the River Barrow where it was welcomed by the people of Carlow.

 

“Thursday night marked the beginning of the  journey of the Congress Bell across the diocese. The Bell  made its way safely down the River Barrow accompanied by the Meitheal students of Knockbeg College. It was met by Mons. Brendan Byrne (administrator of the Diocese) who had gathered with up to one hundred people at Carlow Town Park. Those who gathered included Town and County Council officials, parishioners, local pilgrims from the World Youth Day in Madrid and the Carlow Gospel choir. Fr. John Flaherty of the Dublin Diocese was on hand to officially hand over the Bell from the Dublin Diocese to Kildare and Leighlin.

A candle light procession, led by a lone piper, accompanied the Bell from the Town Park through the streets of Carlow to the Cathedral of the Assumption. On arrival at the Cathedral the gathering swelled to over 200 people. The liturgy that followed was rich in music (led by the Cathedral choir), prayer and participation and was punctuated by the ringing of the Bell by World Youth Day pilgrims. At the conclusion of the liturgy all were invited to ring the Bell – an invitation wholeheartedly responded to by those present!

The evening concluded with refreshments in the parish centre.  It was a wonderful night and a most fitting beginning to this unique time in our diocese.”

 

Click to see Timetable of the Congress Bell in the Diocese

Commenting on the arrival of the Congress Bell Monsignor Byrne said:

“In our preparations for the Eucharistic Congress, we have been asking people to think of it as a journey rather than just an event in June 2012. The visit of the bell is a call to the congress itself next Summer and an invitation to all of us to prepare for this important event in our history. The bell was chosen for Ireland as a call to congress because of its historical significance. In the very early days of Christianity in Ireland the bell was seen as one of the principal symbols of this new Christian religion. It was a new sound ringing out from our monasteries, churches and chapels, calling people to prayer and announcing the presence of faith. It was the custom of St. Patrick to give a hand-bell to one of his followers whenever he was left in charge of a local Church.

“Some of those who came to the last Congress in Dublin in 1932 have spoken to us of their mammoth journeys on foot or on bicycles. For this Congress we are asking people to engage in an interior journey of renewal. That is where the symbolism of the bell comes in. The bell will go on its journey around the country, but it will invite all those who hear it to begin an interior journey of renewal.”

Homily at the Cathedral

Click to download Homily (delivered by Fr. John Cummins, Adm Carlow Cathedral)

Liturgy marking the hosting of the Congress Bell in the diocese

Arrival of the Eucharistic Congress Bell in Carlow Cathedral

Today is a significant day; it’s the feast day of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael; the word angel means “messenger”, and each of these angels proclaimed a message – Michael, bringing God’s protection in danger; Gabriel, announcing the Good News of the coming of the Saviour; Raphael, guide and messenger of healing in the Book of Tobit. Today is also the 32nd anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland in 1979; Pope John Paul also came as a messenger, bringing a message of peace to the men of violence, a message of hope and encouragement to families, a message of love to the young people of our country. Today we welcome the Eucharistic Congress bell, which also comes on its pilgrimage through Ireland as a messenger.

As we have heard, bells have been an important part of the culture and spirituality of our people since the coming of St. Patrick so many centuries ago. Their ringing over the years has always pointed to something else; bells never ring for themselves; their tolling always has a message, usually one of joy or sorrow, or one that summons people, telling us to come, to worship, to pray, to celebrate. The Congress bell, for all its simple elegance and beauty, does not come here for its sake. Indeed, a number of people have remarked in the past few weeks, “a bell – what’s all this about? why would I go out to welcome a bell?” We come here because this bell has a message for us – it summons us to the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Dublin next year. This is a singular honour for our country, and this bell calls us to be part of it. But there’s much more. The bell calls on us to prepare for this Congress; it invites us to consider once again the sign of the Eucharist, which is at the centre of our faith and of our life as Christians.

There are many who wonder about the wisdom of all this – they ask “is this the message we need at this time?” With all the trouble in our Church, all the pain in our society, the suffering of those affected by the recession, – it this all that we have to offer? A Eucharistic Congress and a bell? Our problems are far deeper – surely this is the last thing we need? And it’s easy to understand the lack of enthusiasm which so many have expressed. Their energy is for other things; many are angry, many seek change; many look for new ideas, reform; many point to the brokenness in our Church; the hurt, the pain, the frustration, the injustices. Is a Eucharistic Congress a good idea at this time? I have to say that I was stunned when I heard that Ireland, or rather Dublin was to host the Eucharistic Congress, and stories about the positive impact of other Eucharistic Congresses didn’t really cut the mustard. And yet, as we get closer to the Congress, I wonder if it might not be far more significant than we realise.

For Eucharist is at the heart of our life as Christians. It nourishes us in Word and in Sacrament, food for the journey of our lives, sustaining us and giving us strength each day. It is the Sacrament above all others, the Giant among the sacraments, for it encompasses so much of what the other 6 sacraments signify. At its heart, it makes Christ present. It’s not that we simply meet Christ here and that he becomes part of our lives, but rather that here he meets us, and we are swept up into his life and the mystery of his death and resurrection. Here, the divine embraces us, and lifts us into the life of God. Here we meet the Christ who suffered and died; he is the one who gives his life to us, so that in our brokenness, in our hurt and in our need to be healed, he is present with us, our healer and renewer. It’s about the bread that is broken and shared, fragmented, just as many of us are. Yet it is the one Christ who gathers us as his body, one people made of many individuals; one body, one faith, one Lord uniting us all.

The Eucharistic Congress bell calls us to live Eucharist in a renewed and radical way. It calls us to wash the feet of the poor, the vulnerable, the suffering. It tells us to offer our lives in service, to live for others and not for ourselves. It tells us that Christ is at the centre, not us. It reminds that life, death, and everything in between, have meaning and that they are beautiful. It assures us that even suffering and pain have an inherent dignity that stems from the presence of Christ who suffered.

The Eucharistic Congress Bell says “Come,” just as our readings do this evening, “come and be nourished, come and find strength, come, all who are overburdened, and find rest.” Come and rediscover the Eucharist as “the source and summit of Christian life” as it was described by the Second Vatican council.

Nothing less than this symbol is needed now.

Our Church needs the Eucharist more than ever – not necessarily just in its ritual, but we need a Eucharist that captures every fibre of our being, and every being in our land, and draws us into the life of Christ, healing, renewing, leading us forward, filling us with hope, intensifying our trust, fuelling our imagination with the vision of God’s love.

We need Eucharist because Eucharist proclaims the transformation not just of bread and wine, but of the people and the lives they signify. The bread and wine are presented at the altar because they represent us, our life. In the fruits of the earth, the world and all creation is offered to the Lord; in the crushed grain, the suffering of all people is borne; in the hands that made the bread, all human work and activity is present; in the sharing, the nourishing, the celebration that bread and wine signify, all human sharing, nourishing, and celebration are present. And all of human life is offered in bread and wine, so that it may be transformed, just as the bread and wine are transformed through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mission of Christians, to bring the world for transformation, to present the brokenness, the suffering, the genius, the joy and the whole of life to the Lord as we bring the bread and wine at the offertory, so that all of life may be transformed into him, all of life may be Eucharist, all of life’s meaninglessness and pain and death, may be utterly alive and full of meaning through the action of Christ.

The Eucharistic Congress itself can only be a beginning; but as a symbol, it could not be greater or more appropriate to the needs of our time, the needs of our country, the needs of our world. The Church began at a simple meal, when Christ fed his disciples with the bread and wine as his body and blood; may the ringing of this bell, which calls us to the Eucharistic Congress of 2012, be the herald of a new beginning of Christ’s Church in Ireland.

Rev. John Cummins Adm, Carlow Cathedral Parish