Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop of Clogher, celebrated Mass at 8.00am this morning for the Clogher diocesan pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine in Lourdes, France. The congregation included 350 pilgrims from the Diocese of Clogher, and this was the opening Mass for the annual five-day diocesan pilgrimage.
In his homily Bishop MacDaid said, “This morning we are privileged to be drawn here, to be apart and in a quiet place, a place where the pace of life is different and where our care and attention is offered especially to those amongst us who are sick and vulnerable. As pilgrims, we are all reminded of the need for a quiet space and place in our lives to introduce us to a new world. As we leave the bustle of our world behind us, just for a few days, it is important for our spiritual health that we allow ourselves to be drawn apart to this quiet place where the pace of life is different. This is an opportunity for each one of us – and also as a faith community – to be much more reflective, and prayerful.”
Bishop MacDaid, “In contrast to the holiness, solitude and peacefulness of this Marian shrine, our daily lives are typically drenched in stories and images presented by social media, by newspapers, magazines, television and films. These sources often describe, analyse and inform the world within which we live and, as a result, we may get a less than happy or pretty picture. We find people grasping for power and wealth, motivated by greed rather than giving; and worshipping self rather than God and His glory. We are made aware of people and families fleeing from countries of the East to escape modern forms of slavery, injustice and corruption. Human lives are wiped out in a calculated way by extremists who, while masquerading in the name of religion, use the most effective weapons of destruction, including chemical warfare, to leave a cruel blight on the lives of future generations. Furthermore, we are told that the forces of nature are buckling under our environmental abuse, mismanagement and greed. It is as if nature is turning on us, no longer able to sustain the treatment which has been meted out to it. We find innocent victims of bad decisions wading through flooded homes, damaged land and premises. We are so deeply entrenched in our ways that we find it difficult to change our behaviour to accept the discipline and sacrifices demanded to bring about harmony and healing. It can seem that we live in a man-made world of darkness, crime and death.”
Bishop MacDaid concluded, “But is this the whole story of human existence? Today, let us thank God for the stories which illustrate the beauty of human nature, of our response to sick and vulnerable people, to children, and to the many who have found healing and conversion in quiet places such as Lourdes. Such life experiences also introduce us to a new world. That is why the Lord drew the disciples to places apart where they could see more clearly, discuss matters of importance and converse with the Father in heaven. May the Lord open our minds, our hearts and our hearing so that we may clearly pick up and understand His directions on how He wants us to live our lives and glorify the Lord.”
The Clogher pilgrimage to Lourdes lasts until Monday 11 July. The 350 pilgrims include 50 assisted pilgrims, 80 young people from the Clogher don Óige youth ministry and 50 staff of nurses, brancardiers, helpers and priests.
The programme for the diocesan pilgrimage includes participation in the traditional torchlight procession, the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, Mass at the Grotto where the apparitions took place in 1858, and a Eucharistic procession. Other features include baths for the assisted pilgrims and a visit to the nearby village of Bartres where Saint Bernadette spent much of her youth.