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Speaking Notes of Bishop Denis at Chrism Mass 2024

“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour” .

There is something very special about these words uttered by Jesus taken directly from the prophet Isaiah. These words were obviously very important to Jesus. The fact that the Chrism liturgy every year takes the same text from Isaiah and from Luke, which again returns to those words of Isaiah, is noteworthy.

“The Spirit of the Lord”, I concluded my last confirmation before tonight’s new oils are blessed and consecrated out in Leighlin for ten young people from Scoil Molaise Old Leighlin. There was a time when everyone in Leighlin took the name Laserian for Confirmation; there wasn’t one taking his name this year!

The most popular boy’s name across the diocese, so far in the ceremonies I have celebrated is Patrick by a long stretch, followed by Anthony and Joseph. Interesting to recall that at the ploughing last September, St. Anthony was voted Ireland’s Favourite Saint. The most popular name for girls so far has been Brigid (in its many varied spellings) followed by Ann.

It’s great to see Brigid featuring in this special year of the 1500th Anniversary of her death. Fourteen of our parishes have churches dedicated to Brigid. Twenty-three of our parishes have Primary Schools called after Brigid; three parishes have two schools called after the saint – Kildare, Paulstown and Suncroft.

It is great in our Chrism Mass to hear Liam Lawton’s new Mass of St. Brigid, which I invited him to compose in honour of this commemorative year.

Each of the oils will shortly be presented to me by people with a strong connection to St. Brigid. Jean Roche will speak to that connection later.

I want to return to the prophet Isaiah and the importance he held in this the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. Remember these words were the first words Jesus uses publicly, having just returned from forty days in the wilderness. In that wilderness he was confronted with an abundance of temptation; the forty days prepared him for this visit to the synagogue in Nazara. He was now emboldened by the Spirit.

During Lent I took up again the beautiful book ‘The Name of God is Mercy’, published in 2016. If we want to understand the much publicized recent declaration Fiducia Supplicans, on the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings, everything it says is rooted in that book. There is nothing new, just a call to be sensitive to the story of others and to realise all of us are loved by God. I recall so well Pope Francis’ words to us at the end of our audience with him during the recent Symposium for the Ongoing Formation of Priests when he passionately pleaded: “please do not get tired of being merciful. Always forgive. When people come to confession, they come to ask for forgiveness and not to hear a lecture on theology. Please be merciful. Always forgive, because forgiveness has the grace of embracing, of welcoming. I urge you: always forgive” .

Pope Francis has called for 2024 to be a ‘Year of Prayer’ in preparation for the ‘Jubilee Year of Hope’ in 2025. Every time I call into this Cathedral there are others here praying. I am always humbled by the example of those who quietly pray, light their candle, offer their petition or thanksgiving. We need to find ways of praying, ways that don’t involve more Masses. I think we don’t do enough to encourage the graces that Holy Hours and Eucharistic Adoration bring. Of course we don’t need to use words to pray. In an era of social media where our world becomes more polarized, we all need more days in the desert, more experience of prayer, more days to allow ourselves to be emboldened as Jesus was by the Holy Spirit. In this context of prayer the Council of Priests working with the Diocesan Pastoral Council and Faith Development Services and the many other stakeholders in the diocese with me will develop a Strategic Plan to give direction and impetus to our work and our mission. This must be rooted in prayer, focusing on pillars already identified but which still need further polishing. I ask all of you to hold this work in your prayer as we look forward to launching it in the Jubilee Year of Hope 2025.

When I challenge the young confirmandi to reflect on how they being sealed with the Holy Spirit might allow them to leave something that will last, long after they have been confirmed, the response has been amazing. Some classes have planted or will plant trees, trees that will help to mitigate the effects of climate change and one day provide shade for others. More have held bake sales supporting charities from Trócaire, to the Alice Leahy Trust, to the Tidy Towns to the Capuchin Friary in Dublin. Others are creating spaces in their school grounds where a buddy bench has been placed so that in the words of one confirmation candidate’s letter “no one will ever feel alone”.

The Renewal of Priestly Promises is a central part of our Chrism gathering. I too renew mine. All of us working together, priests, deacons, religious, lay women and men, our young people and myself, co-responsible for the faith life of our parishes and diocese. None of us have all the answers, none of us but all of us working together can make the difference. At the great Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday we will all renew our baptismal promises.

I am enjoying very much my individual meeting with priests and deacons. It’s so important we feel we know one another and can work together. No one should feel he is not in a position to take a break, even if it means parishioners must travel further for Sunday Mass. The gift of priesthood we celebrate this evening is given to earthenware vessels; all of us need to be minded. Renewal is not just for men experiencing difficulties or problems. Ongoing formation is good and to be encouraged. I am eager to see how different strands of ongoing formation or accompaniment can be further developed to support our priests.

As always I congratulate our many jubilarians. I look forward to having a celebration with all of them later in the summer.

With gratitude I now, at one with you, renew my priestly promises. May the Lord continue to allow us together to serve him with gladness and so we pray …