Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown has delivered a wonderful homily at the closing Mass of the Novena to Our Lady of Knock yesterday. Entitled "The Future of the Church in Ireland" he pointed out some of the wonderful things that are happening now, from the Eucharistic Congress to the new priests being ordained, the presence of a number of faithful priests working away in Ireland, to the many ordinary people, many of them men, making the annual pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick or the young attending the annual Youth 2000 conference in Clonmacnoise. The Church in Ireland may have many difficulties, but there are good things happening.
I am particularly taken with one paragraph in the Nuncio's homily:
"So what is this future going to be like? Before all else, I would say that the future needs to be authentically Catholic if there is to be a future. We need to propose the Catholic faith in its fullness, in its beauty and in its radicality, with compassion and with conviction. We need to be unafraid to affirm the elements of the Catholic way which secular society rejects and ridicules."
As the Holy Father has pointed out, the Church will not be renewed or reformed by dissent, by denying Catholic teaching or by changing it so it fits in with the mores and fetishes of the age. As has often been said, if the Church marries herself to the spirit of an age, she is soon widowed. Indeed what the Church offers is so much more wonderful and beautiful than what the spirit of an age offers. It is time for us to take courage and begin to show this to the people of Ireland. At the end of the day, our mission is about salvation - the "reality of salvation" as the Nuncio calls it.
I must say I am impressed with the new Nuncio - he is a remarkable man. We are used to Nuncios being remote figures who mix with the bishops and rarely appear at events, and when they did they were well protected and, to be honest, isolated. Archbishop Brown is out there meeting the people as they are without any "filter" and this is good. He takes an interest in what is happening at grass roots level and sees the new groups which are helping strike small sparks of renewal in Ireland - his encouragement can help fan those little flames into a temendous fire. In a sense, Archbishop Brown reminds me of St Patrick, the bishop sent to the Irish to proclaim the Gospel again. His presence reminds us that to be Christian is also to be Roman - we are children of Rome, as Patrick told us, and we must maintain unity with Rome. I think he will be a great support in these difficult years. Thank God!
Other news: good article on the LCWR issue, see Dan Burke's piece in the NCR. Our own John Waters is extolling the religious aspect of rock music. And Pat Archbald has an excellent piece on those who use the Church to back up their own magisterium.