In many ways Thursday was a "tale of two cities" in Dublin at the International Eucharistic Congress. For the Toronto delegation, we started our day off by making a pilgrimage to the Newman Centre in Dublin for Mass with Cardinal Collins. It was an opportunity for our pilgrims to come together in fellowship, prayer and unity.
His Eminence reminded us that the very church in which we celebrated was created in part by funds from those who supported John Henry Newman in his battle against government authorities who were in many different ways, persecuting the church.
We experienced first hand local hospitality when the pastor of the parish opened his doors to allow us to celebrate Mass, following it up by providing tea and biscuits for everyone gathered. We were humbled by the hospitality. Yet upon departure we passed on funds collected to offer a gesture of our appreciation to the parish - about $700 was raised and the parish priest indicated that it would take him many months to raise this amount. So in many ways, we were able to support one another, just as the original "friends" of Newman were able to do so many years ago.
Following Mass we made our way on foot to a meeting of all Canadian delegates at a hotel ballroom close to the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) Congress Centre. A quick side note, it's impressive to see so many of our pilgrims doing the extensive walking involved in this pilgrimage. With many in their 70's there are little or no complaints when walking between 5 and 10 km every day. With a smile and nod, they always seem to take up the challenge to go that extra mile (or kilometer)...
While not all the Canadian pilgrims were in attendance at our national gathering, more than 500 made the trek, from coast to coast. We had the opportunity to come together with song, prayer, sharing and reflections from some of the 20 or so Canadian bishops who were present with us. We had the chance to hear from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops President, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton and Primate of Canada, Quebec Archbishop Gerald Lacroix, who reminded us joyfully that "ordinary time is when we're at our best". "While we enjoy the pinnacle of Easter and Christmas, it's ordinary time where we do most of the heavy lifting without any fanfare or hype. It's great to be part of ordinary time. Let's make it anything but ordinary."
At the main grounds of the IEC, today's theme was "Reconciliation in our Communion". As mentioned in these pages before, the Irish church is in great pain and hopefully the congress is the beginning of a new chapter in its history. Today's Mass was celebrated by Irish Primate, Sean Cardinal Brady. Workshops throughout the day also focused on themes of forgiveness.
The witness talk Thursday afternoon was given by Richard Moore, founder of the charity, Children in Crossfire. He spoke powerfully of his experience being shot by a British Army soldier in Northern Ireland in 1972 at the age of 10. He was left permanently blinded and later in life, sought out the man who fired the bullet, ultimately meeting up with him for a four hour meeting where Richard forgave the man who took away his sight forever.
As Richard said, "I am a victim of violence. I can't change that. But I refuse to be a victim of anger and hatred. Forgiveness won't change the past but it will change the future."
At Mass, Cardinal Brady continued the day's theme, acknowledging the sins of the church and seeking forgiveness. He also provided food for thought with poignant words in his homily:
"One of my hopes for this Congress is that more and more enemies will begin speaking to each other, more and more adversaries will begin to shake hands, more and more opponents may meet and simply talk."
Powerful words that we should all take to heart. It is not easy to forgive, it is not easy to substitute love in place of anger, it's not easy to accept someone when they've hurt us.
Yet do we want to carry hate and anger with us day to day? Rocks in our pockets that weigh us down? It is not easy to forgive but as we learned from the personal witness talks and homily today, Jesus calls us to do just that.
Full copy of Richard Moore talk can be found here with full text of Cardinal Brady's homily available here.
Plenty of food for thought at the IEC Thursday and more importantly, reflections to take back and apply to our everyday lives and relationships.
We pray today for all those who have been hurt and those who hurt us, may we find peace, love and forgiveness in those moments where it may seem impossible. Fellowship and reconciliation in Dublin - a day of discovery and hope for all!