Most Rev Alphonsus Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Homily at Knock 29th April 2018

We are here today primarily to pray for our country as we prepare to vote in the up-coming referendum – to repeal or leave Article 40.3.3 of our Constitution – which seeks to protect equally the life of mother and her child.

The date chosen is 25th May, which is the date of birth of St. Padre Pio in 1887.

The Sunday before is Pentecost Sunday, the 20th, as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.

The Monday before the referendum is the new feast day of Our Lady, Mother of the Church. Instituted by Pope Francis – the first time it will be celebrated. And here in Knock we commend to Mary’s motherly care all mothers and their children.

Amazingly, the 25th of May is International Missing Children’s Day. Ironically, if the 8th Amend is removed, there will be many missing children!

I know that this is difficult to speak about. The taking of a little human life is not easy, no matter how some may try to sanitize it. Abortion is not an easy thing for anyone. Deep down, we all know that it is full of contradictions and darkness. Many women have made the wrong decision and to them we must show great love and compassion. We are all in need of God’s mercy.  We all need to learn from past hurts. But we cannot agree with those who think abortion is justified; even in the most difficult of circumstances, we cannot agree that the deliberate taking of a little baby in the womb can ever be right. And we commend these mothers and their babies to the love and mercy of the Good Lord, who is always going before us, because that is, I believe, what God would want us to do.

It is God’s work that we are trying to do, and this we must remind ourselves of over and over. We do not do our own will. If we do we are misguided.

 In the garden Jesus said, “Not my will but Yours be done”. That is a call to holiness. Is the work we do to save lives, to help women to avoid making this wrong decision? To safeguard the integrity of medical maternal care?  Yes…. it is all these things, but, primarily, it is because it is the Lord’s work.

It is God’s will that we uphold life which is His gift. The amazing and wonderful mystery of human life given us by God the Father, in which man and woman co-operate in bringing new life. The gift is from God and we human beings must never deliberately take an innocent human life. “You shall not kill”.  And so, as we co-operate in pro-life work and in adoration, we must remember, I must remember, that it is about God and not me. The Lord speaks to us on this – in today’s Gospel – I am the vine you are the branches.

In this Mass and in every Mass we are joined to Christ as the vine to the branches.

Joined to Him. So what attitude should we have as we approach the 25th of May, and what attitude should we have if the vote goes the wrong way?

If we think that the work we do is ours alone – the result of mere human effort – then we may become very dejected if the vote goes for repealing the 8th. If I am discouraged, it may be that it is my will I am doing.

What attitude should we have? 

There is an English bishop, I shall not name him, who, as a young priest many years ago, entering a hospital met a nurse –  an Irish Catholic – who, when she saw the priest, asked him to go and see a woman who was going to have an abortion.

He went in to her room and tried to talk her out of it, spent as long as he could, but she was not for turning, and then the nurses came in and so he had to leave.

He was heading out of the ward when he was met again by that Irish nurse, “Well, how did you get on, father?
He told her. “And father, where are you going now?”    “I am off home.”

 “O no, father, you will wait for that woman until she comes back from the theatre, because it is then she will need you.”

In that story who are you most like – the priest or the nurse?

 I think my leaning is towards the position of the priest. But it is the nurse who really showed the mind and heart of Christ.

Did he not say, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’ ?

–  Doing the will of the Father, even if it goes against the grain.

We do this work, this great pro-life battle, which is wonderful, a great movement all across our land, all those who call from door-to-door canvassing to safeguard the life given as God’s gift, backed up by 100’s and 1000’s of hours of adoration, – we do it because we are called to it by God, and God will reward us come what may.

Lord Jesus we trust in you, come what may.

For it is more important to do God’s will than to do our own.

 to live the Gospel, in ways we may not like to live it.

It is more important to be holy than to be successful.

So this work is not about me or you,

It’s about God’s will, it’s about knowing and following the mind and heart of Christ.

The fruit will come in God’s good time.

The fruit will be good if we try to do God’s will.

Not because we are good

But because God is good

And so we seek to have the mind and heart of Christ

To Love one another as he told us to.

To bear fruit…

He is the vine we are the branches.

He calls to each one of us-

Beloved – Make your home in me

Remain part of the vine

For the glory of the Father. It is on the Risen Christ whom we depend, who brings the dead back to life and who forgives sins.

That is a call to holiness – how timely that Pope Francis has given us a new letter on the call to holiness –Gaudete et Exultate

Here is point 8 of that letter:

 Let us be spurred on by the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest people, as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross suggests, real history is made by so many of them. As she writes: “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed”.

To live in the moment. To find the will of Christ in the ordinary things each day. Holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full.

How important it is to call on the communion of the saints – on the saints in heaven and the holy souls to help us. As you sit in adoration pleading God’s help and mercy in this fight for respect for the little children whose lives are at stake call on the great multitudes to help, implore them.

So we are not alone – we have a great cloud of witnesses – saints and Holy Souls, as we read in No.4 of Gaudete et Exultate.

“surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God…I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone. All the saints of God, and I add the holy souls, are there to protect me, to sustain me and carry me.

-knowing that we fight not only against human powers but against the powers of darkness, of Satan himself. But the Lord is risen and has overcome all things.

And let us remember the attitude of that good Irish nurse whom God sent to that woman in the hospital in England all those years ago – to help, to support that lady who had fallen and showed us how to love like Christ.

I leave the last words to the saint whose feast day we would celebrate today if it were not Sunday – St. Catherine of Siena, who once wrote:

You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love”.