In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy speaks of how he engaged with so many people over lent using Twitter and his experience at the dawn mass where over 4,000 people were gathered.

Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 10 May 2011.

Two very real encounters have left a deep impression on me during our recent Easter Celebrations. On Good Friday evening, I found myself sitting in the pews of St. Andrews Church, Bagenalstown; armed with my brievery and iPhone. My colleague Fr Declan Foley, together with the local parish Folk Group, led an informal but very powerful “prayer around the cross”. Fr Declan shared stories and prayers on how the cross can be both a symbol of suffering and hope in peoples’ lives. As this prayer experience was taking place, I facilitated via twitter, a powerful conversation with hundreds of people throughout the world. I advertised this as “tweet around the cross”. Tweets immediately started to be posted on my twitter account. Tweets by students doing exams, sick people undergoing chemotherapy and treatments. Tweets by Irish Emigrants abroad, missing their families and friends.

One tweet left a lasting impression on me; a young woman working on the streets of Dublin asked for prayer. I felt how relevant the death of Jesus on the cross is. Jesus the God of true compassion remains in deep solidarity with those who are bruised and broken. Her tweet was simple and yet heartfelt. I wondered who she was, her story, her dreadful predicament, and marvelled at her great faith.

It’s easy to like God when things are going well. It’s much more difficult to express our strong desire and need for him when we are in crisis and want. I have no doubt that we must be imaginative and creative in the important task of communicating Christs compassion. Twitter is such an example. This prayerful initiative, quirky as it may be, featured on the front page of the Chicago Herald and was highlighted on Fox News as a positive way to engage with people.

My second rich experience, happened on top of Mount Leinster at midnight April 24th. Our fantastic Baden Powell Scout Group, walked carrying a Sacred Light from the Easter Vigil to ignite the Easter Fire for our Dawn Mass.

Their faith, youth, energy and good humour brought great joy and hope to all who encountered them on their pathway; many thanks to all who offered hospitality. As they arrived, close to the mountain, I saw with the crowd already gathered, their light and heard their singing; Alleluia. Just at that moment, the most incredible, fantastic shooting star, lit up the sky. The light no doubt, was a sign from the celestial heavens, that God was near. The resurrection is true, and all will be well. God’s light is so much brighter than any darkness felt in any of our hearts. The spirit is plentiful. There is absolutely no recession when it comes to the good news. Over four thousand people gave witness to this incredible light. In the same way, packed churches across the country, highlights a rich faith that continues to be both strong and relevant, especially in a time of crisis. Don’t give up. Often those magic moments of encounter are signs to us. We are not alone. God is very near.

Twitter – @frpaddybyrne