By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 March, 2016
Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick has urged young and old who are searching for a deeper meaning in life to look to the faith of the 1916 Rising leaders.
Speaking at the annual St Patrick’s Day Mass at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick, Bishop Leahy said that in the deserved celebration of the contribution of the 1916 Rising leaders to the birth of the nation, the meaning and support they got from their faith, not least as they went to their death, is not to be forgotten as it contains a lesson for all.
“They had courage in abundance to follow their patriotic convictions. But they also drew courage from their faith to know how to live life and face death.”
Even for those who had little faith, there is certainly evidence to suggest that some of the executed leaders – notably Roger Casement and James Connolly – fall into the category of ‘it is never too late to call on your God’ as they received sacraments before their execution, Bishop Leahy said.
“In the world today, a world in which many are searching for meaning, there is a deep message in this and I would urge young and old alike to look at the 1916 leaders and what they got from their faith; how it anchored them in life, especially at a moment of unimaginable trauma.”
Bishop Leahy continued, “It is true also that some felt alienation and distance from the Church. The 1916 leaders would have been acquainted with the limits of the Church. And yet they recognised the presence of Christ working in and through these limits. We admire their courage and conviction and their faith was clearly part of that. We should also be willing to celebrate this aspect of their immense story.
“So today, as we celebrate the feast day of St Patrick, the ultimate faith hero for our nation, I would ask young people especially to think about these great men and what faith did for them.”
In Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said at a Mass in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral attended by President Michael D Higgins, that as the country reflects on the ideal of an Ireland which dreamt of cherishing all its children equally “we cannot celebrate 1916 without thinking of the challenges still faced by inner-city communities”.
He thanked homilist Fr Bryan Shorthall OFM Cap for his reference to the Pro-Cathedral in the events of 1916.
“The priests from this Cathedral provided spiritual support to those in the GPO and with great difficulty and courage attended to the many who were wounded and shot during the uprising, especially in Jervis Street hospital,” the Archbishop highlighted.
He added, “This is probably one of the very few buildings in this area which still stand as it was during Easter Week 1916 and offered refuge to many who were trapped in the area during the fighting.”
In his homily, Fr Shorthall said that fundamentally St Patrick’s Day is a religious feast day.
“We sit here this morning because Patrick lit the flame of faith in our land over 1,500 years ago.”
He said Patrick lit a flame of faith in the people which has been passed down from generation to generation.
“Over the centuries that flame was a fire and at other times it was just a flicker. Patrick just lit the candle as it were, and ordinary people have passed it on down through their families.”
“As powerfully as Patrick handed on the Christian faith, and as generously as Irish missionaries travelled overseas with that faith, ordinary men and women passed it on too. Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers brought their children to the church and told the children about Jesus Christ and it continues to this day.”
Reminding the congregation that they were celebrating St Patrick’s Day in a year when as a nation they were also commemorating 100 years since the 1916 Easter Rising, the Capuchin said, “We know that the 1916 leaders were men and women with a strong faith in God. They actively sought the consolation of the sacraments and the pastoral care of the Church from the Priests of the Pro Cathedral, the Capuchin Friars in Church St, and the Priests of James’s Street.”
“They asked no questions nor did they try to find out what political persuasion the men of 1916 and their families were.”
“As church men primarily, they were far more interested the ministry of pastoral acts of mercy and charity for them.”
He concluded, “In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we give thanks to the God of Mercy for generous men and women who passed on faith in Jesus Christ to us. We are grateful that the flame of faith that Patrick lit in our land burns today. And we commit ourselves to fan that flame into the future for our world and our Church.”