I intend after prayerful reflection to come back to these special days when the Successor of Peter was here amongst us on Irish soil.

I was delighted to ramble round the RDS at the World Meeting of Families Conference. There were so many signs of hope and new life. Great warmth, great faith. Perhaps one of the best parts of it was meeting so many people from all over the world, many of them young, and to encounter the fire of the gospel alive within them. I was encouraged and inspired by this. I marvelled at the work Hannah and her team had put into this, and I was so proud of her. Our very own Jane’s contribution was immense and beautiful bringing Laudato Si alive.

I was delighted to see that Pope Francis had chosen to go to our National Marian Shrine at Knock. I thought of John Paul II and I thought of Monsignor Horan, and I sang a few bars of Christy Moore’s The Knock Song, ‘oh ye better donate the dough, the dough, ye better donate the dough’. Later I sang along with Dana’s beautiful anthem to Mary, Our Lady of Knock. I was very moved that the Holy Father brought the Irish Church in all her pain and all her beauty to the feet of Our Lady of Knock. There is something profound about a mother’s tears. Both in their depth, which knows no bounds, and their range from bursting pride and joy to excruciating heartache.

I think the Pope was energized here. I think the Papal batteries were re-charged in the presence of Kevin and Brian and the other holy friars and all the women and men they work with.

I will return to this topic after I have had time to bring it to prayer. Obviously it was a great honour to be in such close proximity to the Pope. That said the ticket into the meeting was born of pain.

I thought he was tired when he came into the room. I was thrilled to hear he was going to spend half an hour with us, and I still cannot believe he was with us for an hour and a half.

I was amazed at his engagement. His energetic sustained interest. His obvious desire to understand. His repeatedly seeking clarification.

I believe I saw in him a man, broken and bowed by the darkness which swirls around him and yet I saw strength.A fragile gospel strength. This strength is rooted in joy.
I found in Pope Francis a man who knows Jesus.

I am hoping people do not see my presence in Croke Park, and not only in Croke Park, but in the Sports Media Box with Marty Morrissey as ‘borderline sacrilege’! Maybe it took a papal visit to bring about such a miracle! I had been invited in by RTE to share commentary with Marty and Alison O’Connor. I enjoyed the evening immensely.

It was a festival. It was a festival of family. It was warm and funny and at times deeply moving both in the family testimonies and music. I was proud of Eoin Murphy a cousin of ours, and his absolutely wonderful truly gifted dancing. I was conscious that we were being watched by the world and not for the first, nor the last time, in these special days did I feel a soaring pride in being Irish. I would like to also note that I thought the Taoiseach’s speech in Dublin Castle was really powerful. I felt he was warm and respectful but did not in any way compromise himself or the government.

I was so proud and delighted with the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin’s opening remarks, in which he beautifully captured the fragility and the strength of the Irish strength. Indeed I hope the Archbishop has a sense of rightful pride in how this whole endeavour has gone.

However above all I was blown away by the penitential rite at the opening of the Mass. This is the pivotal
moment. This was living liturgy. This was the Successor of Peter begging for forgiveness of God for all the sin and all the crime against the innocent. This to me was Francis at his best. This was the Francis that has taught us that our future is as a Church is on our knees washing feet.
More anon.


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