11.30am – St. Peter & Paul Church, Monasterevin – 175th Anniversary, 03.07.2022
The word ‘peace’ dominates todays readings. In each of them the theme is explored. In Isaiah peace flows like a river through a future landscape. Paul, in speaking to the Galatians, does so in the context of bitter disputes among the early Christian community; you get the feeling Paul has had enough! In the sending out the seventy-two in Luke’s gospel, Jesus reminds them their first message must be one of peace.
As we gather to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of your church, St. Peter & Paul, Monasterevin, we are aware it’s more than the sesquicentennial, the 150th and not yet the bicentenary, the 200th. It’s in that ‘in-between space’, it’s in this place, this space, our generation meet the Lord and ask for peace.
Fr. Liam, I’m delighted to join with you and conscious, very conscious, of the shoulders we stand on this morning, those who sacrificed so much in famine times to build this beautiful church. It has gone through many incarnations and renovations since the 1840’s, but substantially this sacred place remains a constant on Drogheda Street for worshipping generations over the years. I loved our earlier walk from Passlands, travelling from Passlands allowed us to tangibly connect with the earlier places of worship in these parts. We could have as easily chosen Coolatogher or Rosglas; there are many places with sacred roots in these parts.
Luke’s gospel recounts the sending out of the seventy-two. They are sent out as all of us are, using a much loved phrase of Pope Francis, as “missionary disciples”. Their work is a mission of evangelisation. Evangelisation is the heartbeat of every parish. Luke reminds us what we all accept and know “the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few”, if we restrict those labourers to the ordained but when, as he has done, when we open that harvest to the wider baptised, there are many including those for whom Sts. Peter & Paul is a critical part of their lives, so let’s give thanks and praise to the Lord for this realisation, while still asking for forgiveness for failing to take up our personal responsibilities to be bringers of peace to those around us …
The notion of a “missionary disciple” in todays parish is very different to ‘doing something to help Father’. There are 56 parishes in our Diocese. I invest time and energy visiting all those parishes. Each one has a character of its own. Yesterday I was in Balyna at the Silver Jubilee celebrations for one of our priests, Fr. Seán Maher, earlier in the day in Clongowes celebrating the Concluding Mass for the youth week Camp Veritas. A diocese that stretches from Balyna in the north to St. Mullins in the south where the water becomes tidal, therefore affording me apparent access to the sea if in need of a quick exit!
A parish defines who we are, what school we send our children to, what club we play our football with, where we want to be buried – a parish gives us an identity. It brings me for a moment back to St. Mary’s, Drogheda where I served as Parish Priest before being appointed here to the diocese. I always think of Drogheda when I visit Monasterevin, because of Drogheda Street. In Drogheda it was often remarked “oh, she’s from the far side” – the far side wasn’t that comic strip created by Gary Larson, but simply a stone’s throw away across the River Boyne! How possessive we get about territory and identity. The recent synodal process and the diocesan report, published on our KandLe website shows how important the local priest is to a community. The local priest is held in very high regard and rightly so; while recognising the failures in our shameful past, those failures cannot blinker the excellent work done by so many. Ongoing discussions and conversations around clustering and parish pastoral areas demonstrate the huge affection a community has for their place, their space, their territory. Close a Church and suddenly everyone wants to practice!
Pope Francis in Evangelium Gaudium says “the parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration”. He goes on to say in its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to become evangelisers. The seventy-two in the gospel remind us it’s no longer just the priest, it can’t be just the priest, a parish is choked if everything is left to the priest. On this 175th Anniversary of the Church of St. Peter & Paul we are commissioned as “missionary disciples”. Disciples who welcome, embrace, offer hospitality. Where Jesus was welcomed he stayed, the gospel reminds us; when not welcomed the dust could be seen rising from his feet.
This very time last week I was preparing with the group who travelled with me to attend the final day of the World Meeting of Families in Rome with the Angelus blessing in St. Peter’s Square. The theme for our days together was ‘Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness’.
During the previous day we had heard testimonies from the USA on ‘Discernment in Family Life’, from Paraguay on ‘Spiritual Accompaniment for new unions’, from Indonesia on ‘When a spouse is a unbeliever’ and from Australia on ‘Forgiveness as the Way of Holiness’. All of us gave several standing ovations to that most moving account by Danny and Lelia from Australia. They described themselves as parents of seven children, naming them Antony, Angelina, Liana, Sienna, Alex, Michael and baby Selina. Their heart wrenching story is for another day.
There is a significant Australian connection with the Church of St. Peter & Paul, the homilist on the day of it’s dedication was the man who would later become Cardinal and Archbishop of Sydney, Bishop Patrick Moran.
Families are critical to parishes. Families are critical to dioceses. We talk about clustering of parishes, we should see a parish as a family and reflect on how we might cluster families. We saw the value of the domestic church during the height of the covid pandemic. Cardinal Mario Grech who was appointed by Pope Francis to drive the universal synod process tells us “the future of the Church is in rehabilitating the domestic Church and giving it more space … we must live the Church within our families”.
How blessed our parishes would become if those baptised, first-communioned, confirmed, sacramentally married remained active within the parish community? I fear sometimes we over glamorise the initial ceremony like First Holy Communion or Confirmation or even the Wedding and forget that every Communion afterwards is even more important, because we are deepening our relationship with Him. Every day after our wedding day is an even deeper understanding of how much God loves us and we love one another, as one couple shared during last weeks World Meeting that “I love my husband much more now than the day I married him”.
A parish is made up of families. No family is dropped from heaven perfectly formed. Every family has a screechy door or a loose handle on a saucepan! Together let us design family work rituals, family play rituals, family talk rituals and family prayer rituals that allow our family back home to be the domestic church that God invites all of us to be. Thousands of small gestures make up the liturgy of the domestic church; as we celebrate the 175th Anniversary today, let us prepare for the Bicentenary and let’s make sure that this sacred place on Drogheda Street remains important for those who come after us. If we do this, we will truly respond to Pope Francis’ invitation to become “missionary disciples”.
 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, par.120, 2013.
 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, par.28, 2013.
 Interview in La Civilta Cattolica with Antonio Spodaro, 2021.