By Sarah Mac Donald - 09 July, 2013
Everything from the latest papal encyclical to having a dialogue with atheists was explored in Focolare’s packed programme of events for this year’s Mariapolis which concluded in Dungarvan on Saturday.
More than 400 participants came from the four corners of Ireland and further afield to for the gathering in Co Waterford.
They were joined by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles John Brown, who brought with him the first encyclical of Pope Francis, ‘Lumen Fidei’.
In his sermon, the Nuncio said, “Those who live only for themselves … people who want to be the source of their own righteousness, they find that that is soon depleted and they are unable to keep the law (of God)…”
He added that St Augustine tells us not to turn away from the one who made us.
“The beginning of salvation is the openness to something prior to ourselves, to a primordial gift that informs life and sustains it in being. Only by being open to and acknowledging this gift can we be transformed, and experience salvation and bear good fruit,” Archbishop Brown explained.
The Nuncio along with Bishop William Lee of Waterford & Lismore as well as Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick concelebrated Mass on Friday.
Earlier in the week, Bishop Leahy addressed the topic, “Do Atheists Have a Point?” He suggested that Christians need to ask themselves if they adequately portray their faith in words and deeds.
“Is the atheist’s point of view a critique of how we try to live our faith and how we present the true God – the God of Love?” he asked.
Author and CatholicIreland writer, Susan Gately, spoke of the many ecclesial movements alive in faith and hope in the Church in Ireland and which she wrote about in her book, ‘God’s Surprise – the New Movements in the Catholic Church.’
These groups, she said, witness with their lives that God is Love and God has helped them transform their lives – from the members of the Travelling community who felt like outsiders but now welcome people to their parish; to the formerly homeless man who leads prayer services; to all those who are the backbone of every parish in the country, including members of groups such as the Legion of Mary.
The subject of atheism was touched on by commentator and author John Waters who told those present the “new era” for people is one where they are assailed on every side by the modern means of communication which pushes them towards a consensus of how to view life.
This so-called ‘freedom from religion’ and the race towards liberalism is in fact more restrictive. He said that Pope Benedict calls this ‘a bunker’ inside which people live.
Speaking at the conclusion of the festival of faith, Juanita Majury, who is one of those responsible for Focolare in Ireland, said of the theme ‘What really matters?’, “We have had the opportunity to consider what does really matter: in my life – and my faith – and family – and society – and it is a fantastic opportunity to focus on what is important in life.”
She recalled the testimonies and experiences on the family morning as “precious pearls” and as the testimony of someone “who had the courage to forgive in her heart at a very difficult moment.”
She concluded, “I thought that was very important for us all that we pray for peace a lot and build a culture of trust and dialogue. And really to do that we have to, to forgive and to have peace in our heart.”
Apart from the talks, a very important aspect of the Mariapolis is to put the Gospel into practice in everyday actions such as queuing for coffee or going to the beach on an outing.
To help the participants along, each morning a sentence of the Gospels was chosen by throwing a dice. Each face of the dice had a Gospel phrase such as “Love your enemy” or “Be the First to Love.”
Everyone from the smallest child to the young adults to the elderly present did their best to live the sentence in a practical way every day.
This dice or cube has also been adapted as a tool for positive living in the business world with phrases such as “First to help others” and “Competitors can be friends too”.
This was revealed for the first time in Ireland by Donal Lawlor who also spoke of how he lives the culture of the Gospel in his workplace – a multinational company.
This involves experiences such as adapting the job to be more inclusive of someone with disabilities, and another experience of agreeing with managers that bonuses would not go to top management only (as suggested by head office) but to the team of people involved.
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By Ann Marie Foley