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Embrace Farm Ecumenical Remembrance Service Sunday 25 June 2023

Remembrance Service: Embrace Farm                                                   25.06.23

Church of the Holy Rosary, Abbeyleix @ 2pm


I welcome warmly all who gather here in the beautiful Church of the Holy Rosary in Abbeyleix for our tenth annual Ecumenical Remembrance Service. I am so conscious of the many who join us through this KAIROS production for RTE, who have been deeply impacted by the effects of a farm accident.

A statistic doesn’t cut it, because one accident is one too much and can’t be undone. It is too simplistic to quote statistics. Such references don’t bring back a loved one’s life or repair a loved one’s limb.

I am so conscious that once again too many have died, too many have lifelong injuries in the ten years since Brian & Norma with their friends founded EMBRACE. Maybe for some it is only now that the service EMBRACE offers and the comfort this liturgy gives makes some sense.

I am very conscious of the eighteen widows who gathered over the past weekend designing flower arrangements and art work for todays ceremony. Their beautiful work hopefully will help them in their own separate journey of dealing with their their grief.

Let us renew our collective determination to do everything we can to make our farms and those who work, live and visit them, safer places.

Opening Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Creator of heaven and earth,
Bless our farming community and those who work on the land, co-creators with you.
May we all grow in respect for the land, the farm machinery, the animals and the crops.
As we gather this day in your name remembering those we have loved in life but have lost to farm accidents.
Comfort those who are bereaved.
Heal the broken.
Accompany the wounded.
And bless and protect all our endeavours.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen

Concluding Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
On the days when life seems dark and our hearts are overwhelmed
We reach out and seek your hand as our friend.
Give us dignity and strength for what trials we may face.
Grant that we may always have the good gift of your grace.
Wipe away our tears and fill us with your peace.
Hold us and those we have lost through farm accidents safely in your arms.
For it is only with you can all of us find comfort and peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen


May almighty God keep you from all harm and bless you with every good gift. Amen.
May He set His word in your heart and fill you with lasting joy. Amen.
May you walk in His ways, always knowing what is right and good, until you enter your heavenly inheritance. Amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Tenth Remembrance Service is over, let us go in peace.


It was in Sweden at the end of his ecumenical trip in 2016 that Pope Francis gifted the church with six new beatitudes to offer an addendum to Matthew’s gospel text:

  • Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others, and forgive them from their heart.
  • Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and show them their closeness.
  • Blessed are those who see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him.
  • Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
  • Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
  • Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.

An ecumenical ceremony like todays speaks very much to these new beatitudes. Each of them are a powerful daily examen as the Mediterranean continues to be a grave for too many refugees and migrants in flight for a better life; as our world continues to try to understand the erratic pattern of our climate and its devastating effects on the poorest of our lands and of our people; as we continue to welcome Ukrainians displaced because of a war that has pulverised their farms, their crops and most of all their people. 

The Beatitudes  in our gospel introduce us to Jesus the Teacher. Jesus understood his disciples only too well, they would be swayed by the crowds, they would be enticed by the miracle man, they would be caught up in the euphoria of the moment. So he calls a halt to their gallop and sits down to teach them. Like all students, the disciples must first must learn the syllabus, cover the curriculum, the case work will come at a later date.

I think Pope Francis is deepening that teaching, that understanding, that buy-in, by expanding the Beatitudes. These verses and his few additions in Sweden form the mission statement, the vision he has for our Church today. To understand the poor in spirit, to affirm the gentle, to comfort those mourning, to feed the hungry and slate their thirst, to encourage those who forgive, to be chaste, to be a person of peace, to be unjustly accused, to be persecuted. And then he adds to forgive, to welcome the stranger, to see God in everyone, even the most insignificant, to care for this earth we live in, to be less concerned with our own comforts and to pray for the unity of all Christians, all people of faith.

Accidents cause devastation to families and farms. The more advanced we have become in our farming methods the more risks there are for slippage, for mistakes, for shortcuts. It’s unfortunately human nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stretch of fine weather or a very hard winter, a farm remains a place where the blend of light and darkness frames every single day. Just days ago we marked the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the turning of the year, once again light and darkness.

Of course light and darkness doesn’t simply exist when we look out the cab of the tractor or the window of the kitchen; light and darkness exists inside each one of us. The memories we carry of loved ones today who left us too young. An old photograph, his handwriting, her pink scooter – anything can trigger a memory, anything can plunge us back into that darkness. Within everyone of us there is a cavern of darkness, where we sit in the shadows of heartbreak and heartache.

For ten years we have been joining in prayer coming from Abbeyleix. For ten years we have been reading names revisiting that cavern of darkness in the hope of offering some word of comfort and consolation. For ten years we have been lighting candles, reflecting on photographs, reaching into the homes of families affected by a farm accident or a farm fatality.

I deter from the statistics narrative, because every death is someone’s neighbour, someone up the road, over the way, a husband, a dad, a partner, a friend, a child. I read great stories of recovery and saw one recently in the Journal where a farmer is back on the land, using a special inbuilt hoist to enter the cab of the tractor after a catastrophic injury to his legs and mobility. Technological advances are super. Therapy and counselling are a huge help. But nothing replaces encouragement from family and friends. Never give up on hope.

The reading from the Book of Deuteronomy reminds us at the heart of the Old Testament is a great story of liberation, how God frees his people from the shackles of slavery. The people were immigrants in Egypt and used as cheap labour. The reading reminds us of the importance of keeping memory alive which is exactly what we are doing this day.

Keeping alive the memories of those who died too soon. Those for whom a family, a farm and a community mourn. May they all rest in peace and may our prayers bring you some comfort this day. Amen.