Celebration of the 125th Anniversary
of the Church of the Sacred Heart,
Cross, Co. Mayo on
Pentecost Sunday, 4 June 2017
I welcome you all as we celebrate the century-and-a-quarter anniversary of this beautiful church.
Growth in and maturing of the faith
When I read a little of the history of this church, particularly the history of its construction, and its modifications and renovations over time, I was immediately struck by the mention of the installation of the stained glass windows in 1958, a set of windows depicting the seven sacraments. It was interesting because I felt their installation revealed a steady growth in and maturing of the faith of the people of this area and of the parish over time. Built in 1891, the emphasis was, naturally, on the celebration of the Eucharist – the Sunday Mass, and in addition to that, as the name reveals, on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But later renovations and additions included a new set of Stations of the Cross in 1923 and another set in 1973, and the reception in the 1973 refurbishment of the liturgical reforms given to the Church by Vatican II.
The Seven Sacraments: Baptism
The installation of the windows depicting the seven sacraments struck me as an artistic recognition of the presence of Jesus Christ with his people in the here and now and all through time. In the readings for Mass for Pentecost Sunday our attention is drawn to three of them. In the second reading there is mention of the Sacrament of Baptism. This is the sacrament by which we become children of God, members of the Church, and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Here at this font mothers and fathers have brought their children to be baptised. That long chain of faith and prayer was given particular expression here. We remember them today. Some have gone to their reward, others have emigrated and continue the building up of God’s kingdom in the U.S., England and elsewhere while still others are still here at home in Ireland. St. Paul reminds us in the 2nd Reading “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.”
What no history can adequately tell is the faith of those who have gone before us, their trust in God, their love for one another, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, in poverty and plenty. Such was the faith, the hope, the love of those who worshipped here before us.
Without them our lives would be quite different – perhaps even less Catholic.
In the first reading, and again in the Gospel, the coming of the Holy Spirit in a most dramatic form on that first Pentecost Sunday is recalled for us. It must have been an utterly indescribable experience, and it was certainly one that filled the frightened disciples with courage and energy to go out and to proclaim the Gospel without the slighest doubt or hesitation. Our country, not to mention the whole world, is waiting today for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit given at Confirmation, to be unlocked and released in and through us. How desperately the world today needs the gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Right judgment, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, and Wonder and Awe in God’s presence! And how the world today longs for the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control to be known and seen and active in all walks of life.
The sacrament at the centre of the Gospel passage today is the Sacrament of Mercy, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Penance or Confession. Again, when we reflect on the name given to
this church – The Church of the Sacred Heart – we see a very appropriate connection between it and the mission given to the Apostles by Jesus and confirmed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, namely the emphasis to be placed on God’s never-ending love for us, the inexhaustable fountain of mercy which is the Sacred Heart, and God’s perpetual longing for us to be reconciled with him and with one another. After all, as St. Paul teaches us: “God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.”
Pope Francis invited the whole Church to spend a year 2014-2015 reflecting upon and celebrating God’s mercy in a new and vibrant way. The Holy Door, normally a feature of Basilicas in Rome, became a feature in every Cathedral around the world, and of shrines and pilgrimage sites like Knock and Lough Derg. The Holy Father wanted to reawaken in the faithful a sense of our need for forgiveness and, at the same time, the realisation that all we needed to do was to walk through the door of the confessional and God’s mercy was already waiting for us there. That hasn’t changed. God’s mercy didn’t end when the curtain came down on the Year of Mercy!
Honouring those who have gone before us
On this feast of Pentecost – the feast of the birthday of the Church, and on this celebration of the 125th “birthday” of your
church here in Cross, the greatest way we can honour the priceless gift of the faith we have received from generations gone before us, and the best way to honour all those who built and refurbished and maintained and ministered in this building over the past century and a quarter, would be to renew our commitment to our Christian vocation given at Baptism, and any other vocation we have received from God – marriage or single life, religious life, priesthood, and to endeavour to unlock the gifts of Confirmation we have been given, and to resolve to have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, in addition to and above all, our full, active, and conscious participation in the Sunday Mass.
I congratulate you on the initiative you have shown in organising and gathering in such large number for this anniversary celebration. It is a profound expression of your gratitude for those who, often in difficult economic circumstances, made significant sacrifices to maintain to a high standard this House of God, and who came here faithfully to celebrate God’s love for them and the Lord’s abiding presence with them in and through the sacraments.
But your being here is also a statement of your own commitment to this church and to the liturgical life of the parish, and to your own recognition of the importance of having room for God and time for each other in our lives.
I congratulate the Pastoral Council, the Parish Finance Committee, the Sacristan, the Readers, Ministers of the Eucharist, Choir, Servers, and all who volunteer their time in order to serve this church and this community through your exercising your particular God-given gifts and talents.
And I congratulate and thank Fr. Paddy Gilligan for his skilful leadership, his commitment to enabling parishioners to live up to their baptismal calling by calling forth their unique gifts, and his consistent positive presentation of what the sacrament of Holy Orders means and requires in the world of today.