By Sarah Mac Donald - 12 July, 2019
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh has said he hopes the new statute of St Oliver Plunkett unveiled on Tuesday in St Patrick’s Cathedral will inspire people to accept their daily crosses and sacrifices, and encourage them to be stronger in their faith.
In his homily at a Mass to unveil the statue, the Primate of All Ireland said he also hoped that the statute would encourage people to be firmer in their hope and more active in their charity.
“My prayer tonight is that we will never forget St Oliver Plunkett, and all of the ‘martyrs of yesterday, today and tomorrow’, and that we will hear more strongly in our own hearts the personal call to holiness and to witness, that is given to every Christian.”
Paying tribute to Dublin-born artist Dony MacManus who sculpted the bronze statue, Dr Martin said he hoped that in the days, months and years to come, countless visitors to the Cathedral in Armagh will have an opportunity to share in the fruits of Mr MacManus’s efforts.
“This sculpture is much more than a work of art. I trust that it will draw us to prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering for their faith; and I hope in that way that we will all feel called to witness more strongly in our daily lives to Jesus Christ, who loved us ‘even unto death’.”
He said it was his hope that when people feel their faith is being tested or growing weak, they will visit St Oliver’s shrine in St Patrick’s Cathedral and find strength and healing.
“I want people to come here to experience God’s love and closeness when life is getting them down, and they are losing hope – whether it be in their relationships or in their chosen vocation.
“I invite people to visit St Oliver’s shrine when they are afraid of what lies ahead for them, or when they are concerned about the direction which their family members are taking in life. May all who come here look up at the statue of St Oliver and gain serenity, courage, wisdom and hope for themselves and for others.”
He recalled the words of Pope Paul VI on the day of St Oliver’s canonisation: “The message of Oliver Plunkett offers a hope that is greater than the present life; it shows a love that is stronger than death.”
The bronze sculpture was unveiled, blessed and dedicated on Tuesday evening at the end of Mass on 9th July, the very day in 1669 that St Oliver was appointed Archbishop of Armagh.
“For many years the people of Drogheda and the surrounding areas in Louth and Meath have faithfully kept his memory alive; St Peter’s Church in Drogheda will continue to be the national shrine to St Oliver Plunkett, where his relics are venerated. But in this significant year I think it is appropriate that we acknowledge St Oliver in a special way here in our Cathedral, and, through him, honour all the martyrs of yesterday, today and tomorrow,” Archbishop Martin explained.
Talking about the commission he gave Mr MacManus, he said he asked the artist if he could inspire both devotion and admiration for the courage and serenity shown by St Oliver in face of such an horrific execution.
“I wished that his work would speak into the reality of Christian persecution today; but, most importantly, I asked Dony if he could help us to see, in this sculpture of St Oliver, the face of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who humbly gave His life for us on the Cross.
“I am grateful to Dony for bringing all his God-given talents to this task, and also for the prayerful way in which he has approached his work. I also thank the many people from all over Ireland and beyond who have made this commission possible by their prayers and financial support.”