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Pilgrims who have come to Dublin are already re-invigorating Ireland’s faithful

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress offers us Irish Catholics the chance to re-root our faith

By on Monday, 11 June 2012

Altar servers lead the procession at the conclusion of the opening Mass (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Altar servers lead the procession at the conclusion of the opening Mass (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The minute I stepped through the arrival gates at Dublin airport, volunteers for the Eucharistic Congress warmly welcomed me to Ireland. They greeted my news that I had travelled home from London with bright smiles and “that’s great!” One lady volunteer escorted me to the bus and taxi stand, and said she has been encouraged in her Catholicism because “the pilgrims who’ve just flown in from all over the world have been telling me that they got their faith from their Irish parents and that the Congress is a time when they can trace the roots of their family’s faith. It’s given me a lot to think about.”

Some 12,500 pilgrims from 120 countries attended the opening ceremonies at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) and increasing numbers are now pouring into the arena today. Yesterday was a sunny Dublin afternoon when the celebrants in radiant yellow vestments walked in a procession to the main altar to celebrate the opening Mass. The concelebrants included Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and the Vatican’s Cardinal Edwin O’Brien. Chief celebrant was Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who made it clear that the Irish Church had “challenges” but that “we turn together to Our Lord, who renews, heals and strengthens the faith of His people”. Archbishop Martin echoed Cardinal Ouellet’s sentiments but made specific mention of the abuse victims, saying “we recall all those who suffered abuse, whose lives today bear the mark of that abuse”. A sorrowful note was struck by mention that the Church “failed” the most vulnerable.

While the opening Mass was being held, eight protesters gathered outside and hung black children’s shoes on the spiky railings of the RDS. When I asked them what the shoes represented, they said that were “reminders of crimes against children committed by the Catholic Church”. While it is their right to call people’s attention to evil acts, the protesters might acknowledge that the Irish Church is not entirely made up of criminals. This was evident from the ordinary Irish people who are here from all corners of Ireland who are bowing down in love of the Eucharist. From my first moments in the stadium, I rubbed shoulders with twenty-somethings that I knew at university to young families to young politicians as well as proud Irish Americans.

I don’t deny that grave injury has been done to the Body of Christ because of the scandals in the Irish Church. The reason why the Body as a whole has been injured and hurt so much by the Irish abuse scandals is that Irish Catholicism, in its missionary form, was directly responsible for bringing millions of people into the Body of Christ. If so many parts of the Body of Christ take their example from the Irish Church, then what happens during and after this crisis?

Archbishop Martin was keen to relate that “the Church in Ireland is on the path to renewal… We pray for renewal in priestly and religious life.” Prayer for renewal is fast becoming the signature intention. But there are definitely competing elements of darkness and light at the Congress. Indeed the Congress presents a choice for every Irish Catholic and everyone influenced by Irish Catholicism. Do we allow ourselves to be coloured by the black deeds of some clergy and let those memories muddy our vision for the Church, or do we accept that hard lessons have been learnt which will shed light on our future actions and that as people of faith, we need to pray for the grace for renewal and that this will be possible if we can turn to Jesus, the Light?

Pilgrims from all over the world rejoice that they are coming home, where their family’s faith first grew, and they are taking delight in meeting devout Irish Catholics. But the Congress is our chance to re-root our faith, not in a glorification of the Irish people who spread the faith, but in absolute respect and veneration of the actual Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. It is time to beat our breasts, proclaim that we are all sinners and that we need the One who was like us in every way but sin. This is true Catholicism and the truth will set us free. The Congress is the long-awaited opportunity to focus on the Truth that Christianity is a Person, Jesus Christ.

Recently I chuckled when American Archbishop Wenski joked, “They say God laughs when we are referred to as an organised religion.”  The notion that Catholic events always operates in chaos has been proved wrong by the Congress. Without need for exaggeration, dozens of pilgrims are already fond of saying that it is exceptionally well organised.

There may have been thousands of people milling around the RDS, but the only queues are for coffee. I was only waiting eight seconds to be given my press pass. Every pilgrim has been given a pack with a detailed guide, The Four Gospels published by Aid to the Church in Need and a raincoat which is essential for surviving Hibernia’s moist climate. The pack comes in a neat, tightly strung waterproof sac.

The volunteers in their bright fluorescent green and yellow uniforms are key to the smooth running. They keep their eyes peeled for anyone who may need assistance, have joyful faces and at times look tired, but are ever eager to share their own journey of faith and why they believe so strongly in the Eucharist. The volunteers include members of Catholic Comment, the media response team in the mould of Catholic Voices.

Irish society is becoming more intolerant of inaccurate reporting of abuse scandals. Over the past weekend, it was front-page news that Prime Time, once a flagship show of the nation’s broadcaster RTÉ, has lost over 100,000 viewers after it defamed Fr Kevin Reynolds in the programme Mission to Prey. The chief reason for this drastic loss in viewers (100,000 is a big figure when you consider Ireland’s tiny population) is that the TV show had lost credibility and was no longer trusted to deliver facts.

  • teigitur

    I hope you are correct. By the looks of the liturgies(  eg of word and water!!??) something else with have to uplift the beleaguered flock in Ireland.

  • EFWDeal

    Well balanced and welcome article, Mary, as ususal, thank you

  • Scyptical Chymist

    On a recent visit to Dublin my wife and I were fortunate to attend Mass with beautiful singing of traditional hymns led by a wonderful soprano – such a change from the loud guitar swamped mediocrity of some of the stuff we have at home. However other things were rather disturbing. There was little or no participation in the Mass by the laity – I noticed no one responding to “The Lord be with you” (I suspect the clergy do no like the new/old “And with your Spirit”) and the Creed (Apostles’ – see later)  was recited rapidly by the celebrant , it seemed with no expectation of the laity making their profession of faith in conjunction with him. Moreover the Gospel read out for Trinity Sunday was not the Jerusalem version as appeared in  the Mass sheets/weekly bulletin, but another whose source I did not recognise.  However it gave a very different emphasis (or possibly the celebrant himself did?) with “glorifying you” replacing “glorifying me” of the Jerusalem text quoting Our Lord’s words. Then at the Consecration the words “for you and for all” were used intsead of the accurate new/old form of “for you and for many” Was I witnessing one of the Irish rebel priests we have heard about?

    Incidentally,getting back to England,  why do we always get the Apostles’ Creed these days and never The Nicene Creed? And why do we never hear the Kyrie in Greek, or the Gloria, Creed and Our Father etc in Latin. These are legitimate forms under the “new” translation (and which appear even in the basic “Simple Prayer Book” of the CTS (which is cheap and handy enough for anyone to carry with them) but I have only experienced the Kyrie once and the others never. The clergy here and it seems, more particularly in Ireland, seem to be deliberately dragging their feet and are not leading. We sill have a long way to go with some of our present priests.

  • theroadmaster

    The opening event of the international Eucharistic Congress was very impressive in relation to the liturgical and musical content, done in an atmosphere of penitence and joy.  There was no hint of the triumphalism, which marked the Congress, the last time it was held in Ireland, in1932.  Archbishop Diarmuid Martin described the current event as an opportunity to open up the road to genuine renewal. Let us hope that this great International gathering  in celebration of the great Sacrament, will act as a catalyst for God’s graces to pour forth upon the local Church, during this time of great uncertainty mixed with eternal hope.

  • Lazarus

    We’re getting the Apostles’ Creed in (the parishes I’m familiar with) in Scotland as well. I’m pretty sure that it’s to avoid the ‘consubstantial with’ of the Nicene. (Too difficult for us thickos!)

    Really irritates me! Without the Nicene wording, you don’t really get a sense of the depth of the doctrine of the Trinity.

  • Oconnord

    The catholic brethren of Croatia did little to uplift the flock in Ireland last night. And I’m pretty sure the Spanish and Italian brethren will do the same :)

  • Oconnord

    From my many experiences of mass in Ireland in the 70′s and 80′s, both rural and urban, a traditional Irish mass was one where all the men stood at the back, furthest from the altar and closest to the exit.
    There they would shuffle their feet, quietly smoke and chat, and “slag off” the few “holy joes” sitting up with the women. 

    Ah how things have changed… No-one smokes in church anymore.

  • Jeannine

    Regarding you last paragraph, you may want to do a little research by examing GIRM  (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) before tactfully inquiring about your legitimate concerns about the lack of use of the Nicene Creed, first to your pastor then to your diocesan office.  I believe the Apostles’ Creed can be said during a children’s mass & maybe at other very limited occasions of a particular kind of mass. In other words the Nicene Creed is the norm not the exception.

    The prayers mentioned can be prayed in either the vernacular or Latin (& the Kyrie in Greek) for the Ordinary Form. I bet your priests are saying these prayers in English because they don’t know Latin &/or the bishop does not encourage the use of Latin.

  • Jeannine

    I knew of such men. Were your Irsih men responsible for the collection baskets also?

  • JabbaPapa

    There’s nothing wrong with the Apostles’ Creed.

  • teigitur

    ?? Please explain Damo. Something tells me you might be referring to football. Almost as important to some people as faith, of course.

  • teigitur

    Yes, in the rural case, I have never noticed it in all my time in Dublin. People used to stand, but only because the Churches were full, sadly now rarely the case.

  • Lazarus

    No, nothing wrong: it just doesn’t suggest the richness of Trinitarian understanding you get in the Nicene. It was only when I came across the Nicene Creed (as an Anglican) that I began to realize that the Trinity was more than just a bizarre historical doctrine. I suspect that you just don’t pick this up as clearly in the Apostles’ Creed. (But I’d be delighted to be wrong about this!)

  • cephas2

    I have a photograph of my father as a child, with his siblings, taken in 1932, all blinking up at the sun, wearing their Eucharistic Congress badges. I can only imagine the excitement of that day for them – probably the only time they were taken to Dublin as children. How my grandparents would have been incredulous at what has happened in Ireland to their dearly-beloved faith.

  • Oconnord

    Yes, sorry, it’s just impossible to escape soccer at the moment.

  • Oconnord

    That I can explain and it’s counter-intuitive. It was because rural areas were more religious. So my rural uncles attended mass as it was expected, so hung at the back as they didn’t want to be there. Because the city was less religious there was no social pressure, so of course the attendees were willing and attentive.

    Well at least that’s how it seemed to me.   

  • Oconnord

    The area I grew up on the baskets needed security guards :)

  • teigitur

    Yes, much more anonymous in the city.