Bishop Denis celebrated Mass in St Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of Sr. Veronica
We gather this Tuesday morning here in the beautiful St. Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen to offer our heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Sr. Veronica and in doing so to thank the Poor Clare’s for their presence amongst us.
A presence that means a constant wellspring of petition and prayer on our behalf and on behalf of the universal church.
John’s gospel this morning reminds us just as Sr. Veronica was chosen, so are we. We are chosen and commissioned to go out beyond ourselves, to go out to the peripheries, Pope Francis often reminds us.
We begin by bringing into our awareness our sense of sin, as we pray for God’s love, grace and mercy …
May 7th 2019 – the Silver Jubilee of Sr. Veronica. May 7th 2018 – Mass in St. Conleth’s Church, Newbridge to see off the WMOF Icon. May 7th 2017 – 23 confirmed in The Curragh. May 7th 2016 – Pieta House Darkness into Light 5km in Carlow. Keeping diaries is one of my interests, always has been; I started keeping a diary in 1973.
Recording key moments or events in a day. Mitch Albom, the American writer wrote a book ‘For One More Day’, the desire to have one more day with loved ones to say the things we failed to say, to spend precious time with dear ones, to tune out of handsets and ear pieces and tune into conversations. Just one more day.
I’m not going to give you May 7th from 2019 – 1973, so don’t be worried! You’ll be home in time for lunch!! I just want to offer you one more date from my May 7th series, May 7th 2013, I was announced as Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin. How quickly six years pass!
I imagine Sr. Veronica has similar thoughts as she reflects back on the past twenty-five years. Twenty-five years modelling her life on St. Clare and St. Francis. Twenty-five years living out that calling thousands of kilometers away in the Phillippians and in more recent years a few feet away in the Poor Clare Monastery.
I am so conscious that her family are unable to be here with us for todays celebration, but I am certain her adopted family, the Phillippino community in Ireland and the people of Graiguecullen and Carlow are here in great numbers and are making up for their inability to be present. I am so conscious of Veronica’s late parents, family members and community members. We hold all of them in our prayers this Jubilee Day.
The gospel chosen for this day comes from St. John, reminding us of the primacy of the commandment to love and offering us a real definition of friendship: “you are my friends, if you do what I command you”. It moves on to the vocation calling of choice: “you did not choose me, no, I chose you, and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last”.
In the early hours of this morning Jean Vanier died. He was 90. A deeply spiritual man, founder of the L’Arche community and Faith and Light. His life and witness has already bourne great fruit. In his very last message, a few days ago, he said: “I am deeply peaceful and trustful. I’m not sure what the future will be but God is good and whatever happens it will be the best. I am happy and give thanks for everything. My deepest love to each one of you”.
Jean Vanier spoke often about the call to follow Jesus. He said the first call would be to follow Him and in doing so be admired by family and friends for doing noble things for the Kingdom. The second call comes later, he said: “when we accept we cannot do big or heroic things for Jesus; it is a time for renunciation, humiliation and humility”. Anyone who chooses to pursue a religious vocation or priestly vocation today will always experience that second call. When we realise, as Veronica and all of us religious and priests do, that we cannot save the world on our own back, and if we try to, we’ll burn out, we’ll risk breaking down. When energy seems to drain from us, because we are doing too much and not returning to the source or the spring enough.
This is Eastertide, the third week of Easter. Every day over these these we live on the energy of the Resurrection. It is only through the pain of the cross that we discover what resurrection means. St. Paul in our first reading reminds us, following our calling may be the loss of everything: “I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him”. We know this is very difficult. For most of todays congregation this is something from another age and time, but not for the Poor Clares. For most of us, this is completely counter-cultural, going completely against the grain. From their beginnings in 1893 just over the way on the edge of Graigue Bridge, they have, inspired by St. Francis and St. Clare embraced their humble calling. When Pope Francis saw the votes moving in his favour at the last Conclave one of his great friends whispered in his ear: “Don’t forget the poor”.
And the Poor Clares and this parish have never forgotten the poor. I commend St. Clare’s Hospitality on its fourth anniversary this week; 1,900 meals served during the past month of April, the biggest ever. The demand continues to deepen and expand, despite our economic situation of so called near ‘full employment’. The poor are more evident today than ever; the divisions are more acute. Veronica in 1994 became a Poor Clare; in 2008 she came to Carlow and how blessed we are to see her living out her vocation calling in our midst. I pray todays ceremony and celebration will encourage others to pursue a vocation calling and be brave to heed the second call as much as the first.
St. Clare, pray for us.
St. Francis, pray for us.
St. Conleth, pray for us.
St. Brigid, pray for us.
St. Laserian, pray for us.