By Cian Molloy - 29 May, 2017
The annual pilgrimage of relics of St Oliver Plunkett to Cavan takes place on Tuesday 6 June.
This will be the fourth year in a row that relics of the 17th century martyr will travel to the Kilmore Diocesan Pastoral Centre, which is located in the grounds of St Patrick’s College, north of Cavan town.
Normally, the relics are kept at St Peter’s Church in Drogheda, but thanks to the Knights of St Columbanus in Cavan, it is becoming a custom for some of the relics to be put on display in the Diocese of Kilmore on the Tuesday following the June bank holiday.
“It really is a lovely day,” says the diocesan centre’s director Seán Coll. “All kinds of people, of all ages and all backgrounds, turn up throughout the day to pray before the relics, seeking St Oliver’s intercession for whatever their own private intention may be.”
The relics will arrive at the centre at 10 am and will be available for veneration until 10 pm on Tuesday evening.
Mass will be celebrated in the chapel at 1.15 pm by Fr Kevin Fay, chaplain to St Patrick’s College and Loreto College, Cavan, for those doing examinations at this time, again at 5.45 pm by Fr Ultan McGoohan, director of Kilmore’s pastoral services, and at 8 pm by Bishop Leo O’Reilly.
Music for the evening Mass will be provided by St Mary’s Church Choir, Carrigallen, Co. Leitrim. Before each of the three Masses, the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available – from noon to 1 pm, from 4.30 to 5.30 pm and from 6.30 to 7.45 pm.
Born in Oldcastle, Co Meath in 1625, Oliver Plunkett studied at the Irish College in Rome before being ordained a priest in 1654. He became Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all-Ireland in 1657, at the height of the Penal Laws. While working on the reorganisation of the Irish Church, he was arrested and charged with treason.
He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 1 July 1681 and was the last Roman Catholic martyr to die for the faith in England. When he was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1975, he was the first Irish saint to be officially recognised by the Church in almost 700 years.
“It really is a great honour and blessing to have the relics in Cavan,” said Mr Coll. “We do hope that we are establishing a tradition and that this visit of the relics is an annual event.”
Traditionally, pilgrims travelled to locations where the relics of saints were kept. For example, a pilgrimage to Rome is to the shrine of St Peter, a pilgrimage on the ‘camino’ to Santiago de Compostela in Spain is to the shrine of St James, and a pilgrimage to Canterbury is to the shrine of St Thomas Becket.
Increasingly, however, relics go on tour so that they can be venerated in new locations, with St Thérèse of Lisieux being the most notable example; although she lived the life of a contemplative nun, her relics have visited more than 40 countries around the world.