In our Pizza and Poetry offering this week we have given the first three stanzas from the Philip Larkin poem, ‘Church going.’ Every time I read it I am caught by the lines:
‘Their parchment plate and pyx in locked cases And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.’
How sad would that be? Imagine our churches became old museums. Relics of a former day.
Remains of yesterday’s glory. Imagine if the Gospels and the beautiful prayers of the Mass were all locked away, never used. If our communion plate or ciborium gathered dust and our pyx to bring communion to the sick and dying was never used. I think nnost of us would be sad to think of such a day. A day when the church would be redundant or dead.
Some people say the Church will not die because it’s God’s Church and he is always with it and will guide and protect it. Now there is alot of truth in this. Central to our faith is the Lord, in and through the Church. Mary is the Mother of the Church. This is all true.Yet the Church has died in many parts of the world. Countries become secularised. Churches become creches, cinemas, pubs … spa hotels!
Surely this will not happen in Ireland? Well there are some worrying signs. Lack of vocations, decrease in Mass attendance and many people no longer accept core teachings of the Church. There is a growing lack of respect for the sacred.
Yet here we are in the Parish of St. Patrick and St. Brigid. This is a strong and vibrant parish.
There are many signs of life here. So many of you are obviously highly committed members of this beautiful faith community. In my brief few weeks here I have already been inspired by your dedication. In the changing face of the Irish Church what is the role of a healthy parish such as this?
My own life experience, including my time as a Religious Brother and latterly in my time as a Priest,has taught me that the Church at times has been responsible for alot of harm, many people have been hurt by the Church. The Church can still be abusive. However it is the Church that I love. The Church is still beautiful. It is at it’s best, and most beautiful, when it models itself on Jesus. When the Church is in harmony with Christ then it proclaims the loving compassionate heart of our God. However the Church is always in danger of becoming self seeking, of abusing power and of becoming corrupt.
It is because of this that the Church is always in need of reform and renewal. Reform is not a bad word. The source of true reform and renewal is the Holy Spirit. We are called to be open to the saving Spirit and how we might be part of the ongoing reform and renewal of the Church.This will often take the form of true sorrow for past institutional wrongs and resolve to do better.
The Holy Spirit is constantly renewing, refreshing and recreating. It is in the same Spirit that we discover anew the joy of knowing Jesus and in this we will find new ways of being Church and proclaiming the kingdom of God. This is what my initiative, the Roncalli Community is all about.