I was very fortunate the other evening to tune in to ETWN for the Papal Mass for World Youth Day in Sydney. The sheer joy, excitement and energy of the occasion had the effect of involving the viewer at the other end of the world.
My immediate reaction was: these young people have something special going for them, they believe in what they are celebrating, they are people with hope in their hearts, and they love life and the God who gives it. So many thousands more would have wanted to be in Sydney but for one reason or another it wasn’t possible. I join with Mgr. Joe Quinn and Fr. Richard Gibbons in welcoming each one of you this evening to the Knock Summer Festival 2008 – the 7th year of this festival. Each year this festival offers young people from all the country the opportunity to explore and deepen their faith in a prayerful, interactive and entertaining way. The theme of this year’s festival “living life to the full” acknowledges that we can have no real love of life or fulfilment in life without faith in the God who created us, in Jesus Christ who died for us and in the Holy Spirit who lives within each one of us.
I remember reading one time a saying “You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt, as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair”.
As we get to know God and relate to him we gain a clearer insight into ourselves and others. Our faith is deeply effected by the faith and the lives of others but it is also an intensely personal experience.
Albert Schweitzer, a Franco-German missionary said “one thing that stirs me when I look back on my youthful days, that so many people gave me something or were something to me without knowing it. It is my hope and prayer that this festival will give you an experience of a living, lively faith which will carry you through your studies, your work, your relationships. And in this year of vocations it is my hope that whatever vocation or call from God you answer – be it married life, single life, religious life or priesthood, that you will find great joy, fulfilment and opportunity in your vocation. Vocation is a call to witness, to service, and to love. This is the call held out to each one of us.
I regret that I cannot be with you for the duration of the festival. On Saturday I celebrate Mass in Westport for pilgrims on their way to Croagh Patrick and on Sunday morning, please God, I will be celebrating Mass on the summit of the mountain.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the new dimension to the festival this year. The support of dioceses throughout the country through diocesan contact people. These people have worked very hard to establish this festival as a truly national event and I am deeply grateful to them.
I know that Fr. Richard Gibbons has put enormous work into planning this festival. I thank him and the organising committee for their tireless dedication – Anne Lee, Helen Toner, Sheila Moran and also to Pat Lavelle and to Paul Venison.
I leave you with a poem by Christy Conneely which is modelled on Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”.
If you can hold great riches
Never letting them hold you;
If you can hear your praises sung
And still give God his due;
If you can help the slow and weak
And raise the one who falls;
And quickly come with helping hand
When anybody calls;
If you can have a heart that’s free
From selfishness and sin,
And keep that heart so God’s great light
May shine more strongly in:
If you can give forgiveness
To the one who hurts your heart;
If you can build a bridge and bring
Together those apart:
If you can say – this thing is wrong
Or that is right to do.
And stand your ground though other hearts
Would pain and punish you;
If you can be a friend to all.
To all be strong and true,
Then God who made the world
Will make his Kingdom come in you.