THE annual Knock Novena drew to a close last Wednesday, bringing the curtains down on another successful August season at Knock Shrine. The new Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown, delivered the homily at the closing session. Overall, numbers were up on last year and a spokesperson for the Shrine said they were very pleased with the response to the 2012 Novena.
The Apostolic Nuncio, addressing the theme of ‘The Future of the Church In Ireland’, recalled the words of Pope John Paul II when he came to Knock on September 30, 1979, to celebrate Holy Mass. “He began with the words: ‘Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland: the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock’ and, in a certain sense, his words are true for all of us here today, as we celebrate the conclusion of the National Novena; we too have come to the goal of our journey.
“The passage of time tends to make us forget what things were like in Ireland when Mary appeared. When we reflect on Our Lady’s apparition at Knock and the historical circumstances in which it occurred, we cannot help thinking about our times and our own future. Certainly, there are reasons for discouragement. It seems as if every few months, a new survey is released showing, or purporting to show, that the Catholic faith is disappearing in Ireland. We have had two decades of scandals, crimes and failures. ‘The Church is finished!’ seems to be the cry heard everywhere.”
Archbishop Brown said he had detected many good reasons for hope since he came here some months ago. “Let me tell you what I have seen and heard. Two months ago, I saw the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin exceed everyone’s expectations, with tens of thousands of people coming to learn more about the central mystery of our faith – the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
“One month ago today, I was in Ballyvourney in County Cork, where I had the joy of ordaining a young man to the priesthood. The small country church was filled with people young and old; the liturgy was celebrated in a beautiful way, with music and hymns in the Irish language. “Three weeks ago, here in County Mayo, I saw thousands of pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday. I saw hundreds of people that day going to confession to the priests on the top of the mountain. Ten days ago, I was at Clonmacnoise and I saw literally hundreds of young people kneeling in adoration in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Rosary, confessing their sins, rejoicing in the liberating love of God, and sharing the joy and excitement of being Catholic with their peers.”
The Apostolic Nuncio said his heart was full of hope and the future of the Church in Ireland begins now. “We have all been revitalised in our faith by the unforgettable experience of the International Eucharistic Congress, which, pray God, has marked a turning point in the life of the Church in Ireland. Certainly, the road ahead is not an easy one, but the road ahead for Catholics in Ireland did not look very easy in 1879 when Our Lady appeared here on that rainy evening in August. And yet her appearance was followed by one of the most fruitful periods in the fifteen centuries of Catholicism on this Island.”