Jubilee of the Parish of St Mary's

Askeaton 7th December 2001
PAPAL NUNCIO'S HOMILY
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light ( 1 Pe 2:9 )
With these words, Peter the Apostle, writing from Rome , greeted the Christians of the churches that had been founded throughout Asia Minor.
I am happy today to convey my own greeting to you in those same words.
My warm greeting goes first of all to the pastor of this Diocese, His Excellency, Bishop Donald Murray, and I thank him profusely for having wished to honour us all with his presence. I greet your Parish Priest for the gracious invitation he extended to me in your name and which I was immediately delighted to accept . I greet as well all my other brothers in the priesthood who have joined us this evening
The words of the Apostle, quoted at the beginning, remind us of what underpins our true dignity as Christians, and they can also help us to grasp the true meaning of the jubilee you are celebrating
It seems to me indeed, that what we must place at the very centre or our thoughts and prayers cannot be solely this material construction - this building, however beautiful, yet nonetheless made of bricks and mortar. What we must celebrate is rather the faith and love out of which this temple has sprung.
It would be far to little just to celebrate the anniversary of the erection of this material edifice - which is subject to the ravages of time, and, like all things human, destined one day to disappear - if we did not at the same time and above all remember the reason for which, one hundred and fifty years ago, this church was built.
You my dear brothers and sisters, are the true temple that has been built, not with human hands, but born out of a divine plan that began not in time, not in 1851, but in the very eternity of God.
And once again, it is the inspired word of the Apostle Paul that enlightens us and brings confirmation of this truth : 
You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors : - the Apostle reminds the Christians at Ephesus, and us to - you are citizens like all the saints and part of Gods household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into  a house where God lives, in the spirit.
( Ef 2:19-22)
The true temple of God is the one that springs from the faith we have received as a gift, thanks to labours, the testimony and the martyrdom of the Apostle and of so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith, even here in this land and in this very region.
In one of the publications sent to me, together with the invitation to take part in your jubilee, there is a long list of martyrs for the faith, from 1540 to 1713. I have read their names one by one, not without feeling deeply moved, and I thought that it is to these, and to their courage and sacrifice, that we owe our faith. This is the true temple, which rests on a sound and unshakeable base: the Lord Jesus, his word, his Cross and Resurrection - a base that no event of human history can ever weaken, shatter or demolish
The Gospel tells us that one day some of the disciples spoke to Jesus of the magnificent temple of Jerusalem and of the beautiful stonework and votive offerings that adorned it the only answer Jesus gave, however was to announce its destruction: " All these things you are staring at now - the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another, everything will be destroyed" (Lk 21:6)
My dear brothers and sisters, you may find it strange that I should be reminding you of these words of Our Lord on the very day you are celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of your church here. It is quite proper, of course, to love the place in which we gather to sing the praises of the Lord. It is certainly pleasing to God that we lavish care and attention on our churches, which are rightly called "the house of God." But we would not be putting into practice the teaching of Our Lord if we concentrate all our attention on the temple made of stone and forgot the living stones of which the real temple of God is made.
Here in Askeaton and the surrounding areas we can still lay our hands on the stones of several churches and monasteries, centuries old, that draw forth our admiration. They are important, not solely as historical monuments, but above all because their presence bears constant witness to the deep faith  that our fathers nurtured and kept, passing it on intact down through the centuries, until finally it has come to us.
As we celebrate this jubilee, it is our duty to give thanks to God for this immense gift we have received from him through the generations of men and women who lived before us in this land. But it is also our duty to ask in what way we ourselves wish to live our faith, so as to be able to pass it on, living and intact, to the generations that will come.
In a hundred or two hundred years time, we would like still to have Christians who, on entering this church, would feel the need to thank God for the gift of the faith they received through our testimony, just as we today are grateful to God for the faith of those who have gone before us.
We are the people that God has won for himself so that we may proclaim the wonderful works of Him who has called us out of darkness into his admirable light... We must ask ourselves today what those works are that we wish to proclaim with our lives as Christians, so as to be able to face, as we should, the challenges that lie before us.
This is an examination that none of us can elude and that no one else can make for us - a reflection that we must conduct as individuals, placing ourselves before Our Lord Jesus and asking about the kind of personal relationship we have with him. But it is also a reflection that needs to be carried out altogether, as members of a community that acknowledges in Christ Jesus the cornerstone, the true and only foundation of the Church to which we belong and with which we identify ourselves.
This, in my view, is the true sense of the jubilee you are celebrating. At the end of these celebrations your community should feel stronger in its convictions, more united, more of one mind; more committed to the proclamation of the faith through catechesis and the celebration of the sacraments; with a more lively interest in finding new forms of solidarity with those who suffer material want, but more still with those who are looking for spiritual certainties and seeking sure guidance for the future
Your beautiful church is dedicated to our Lady - as is the other Church of Ireland. This shows clearly the great devotion that the communities here have had in the past for Mary, whom we venerate today under the title of the Immaculate Conception.
If it is true that the living temple, which we are, is built upon a single cornerstone, chosen by God himself, and hence solid and indestructible, it is equally true that no one more than Mary has been the living temple in which God has been pleased to find a home and in which he has found a worthy dwelling place. Before ever coming to live physically in Mary and son, God lived in her heart and in her spirit, filling her totally with the presence of his grace and finding total attachment in her to his gift of love.
We are still travelling as pilgrims, and the certainties that sustain us need to be re-confirmed every day: "In the midst of the temptations and tribulations along her way, the church is sustained by the strength of God's grace, promised by the Lord ... so that through the Cross she may reach the light that knows no decline," as we read in the council document, Lumen Gentium (LG, 9).
"On this wayfaring pilgrimage through space and time, and still more through the history of souls, Mary is present ...  as the one who advances on the pilgrimage of faith, participating more than any other creature in the mystery of Christ" (Redemptoris Mater , 25) - she is present as a sign of sure hope and consolation, until the day of the Lord finally comes. (LG, 68).
It is precisely during this time of Advent that we are preparing for the coming of the Lord at Christmas, and the jubilee that your community is celebrating can give added intensity and conviction to your preparation for the day of the Lord who seeks continually to enter into human history and into the course of our personal lives.
If we are called to proclaim the marvellous works of the God who has called us out of darkness into the light of faith, we too should, as we celebrate this jubilee and Christmas, not alone give thanks to God for what we have received, but also ask ourselves about our responsibilities. If we see around us something that does not leave us happy, if we see on the face of the Church some blemish that takes away from its beauty, our first duty is not to try and lay responsibility at other people's doors, but to ask ourselves first and foremost what we can do to make manifest the true face of God.
Over the coming days we will gaze at the crib and our eyes will always see, beside the infant Jesus, his Mother Mary. We will ask Mary to help us understand why God wanted to come and share in our human condition. No one better than she has understood that, and no one better than she can help us to understand it, as the famous poet Aubrey de Vere, buried here in Askeaton, so touchingly expressed it:
One only knew him, She alone
Who nightly to his cradle crept
And lying like the moonbeam prone
Worshipped her Maker as He slept
Mary is still here with us today and with motherly care continues to sustain our faith and prayer, thus guiding our steps more securely towards the Lord