Friday, June 20, 2014

A Spiritual Legacy

Mass Rock in Clara, County Offaly

Today is the feast of the Blessed Irish Martyrs. I usually write a post on them because their witness is so important to us in these times. Our diocese has one Blessed among them, Blessed Margaret Bermingham Ball.  These Irish men and women, most of them living in Ireland, but a few living in England, preferred to accept death rather than renounce their Catholic faith. They represent many thousands of Irish who put their religion before king, state and society, and who went out into the wild places to meet for Holy Mass, protected priests and passed on the faith to their children even as the state was doing its best to indoctrinate them.

These forefathers and foremothers leave us an important spiritual legacy. It is one of fidelity, endurance, heroism and authentic devotion. All of these are symbolised by physical reminders of our penal past - the Mass Rocks which are scattered throughout the island. One of the most impressive (in my view) is in my home parish, just a mile or so from where my family lives. This Mass Rock (pictured above) is hidden away in the hills of Kilnabin and no doubt holds may secrets as it witnessed, for many years, our ancestors gathered for Mass at the risk of their lives.

This Mass Rock seems rooted in the Irish soil and in Irish hearts, and it consoles me that yet even today the faith is still rooted in the hearts of many Irish men and women. We may well face again what our ancestors once faced, we may not be as numerous, but the legacy of our martyrs and our faithful ancestors, whose names are no longer remembered, can serve as an encouragement for us. At the end of the day we can lose everything the world thinks important - our livelihood, our buildings, our reputations, even our freedom, but we will still share in the treasure of the Church and it can enrich us - faith. Our martyrs teach us how important that inheritance is.

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