Homily by Bishop Larry Duffy on Feast of St Macartan, 24 March 2020

Readings: Exodus 47:1-9,12; Psalm 45:2-3, 5-6, 8-9, R/v8; John 5:1-3, 5-16

How quickly our priorities and lifestyles have changed. Covid-19, a virus unheard of three months ago, has entered our world and turned our lives upside down. So much has changed for us.

  • Thousands of people out of work
  • We are asked to stay at home
  • Schools closed
  • Sports events cancelled or postponed
  • No public Mass – Confirmation and First Holy Communion delayed

The list is long.

Social distancing is what we are asked to observe. To stop the virus, we are called upon to be responsible and to do our civic duty; to wash our hands often; no shaking of hands; keep two meters away from the nearest person. So much of what is demanded is new and strange to us. Thanks to all who have made the effort and put the lives of others first.

And yet, our sacrifices are small when viewed against what public health workers and carers have to do. They are in the front line. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I thank our priests and deacon for their continued service in very different and new circumstances.

My heart goes out to the unemployed, and to parents at home with their children. Children, I know you like your freedom and that these are difficult days.

It is against this background that today we celebrate the Feast of St Macartan- the patron saint of the Diocese of Clogher. While this man lived many centuries ago, he has much to teach us at this time. Macartan is often referred to as St Patrick’s ‘strong man’. This faithful and dedicated bishop supported St Patrick, sometimes carrying him on his back over difficult terrain.

St Macartan’s life is a call for us to put others first at this time and for us to care for and carry the aged, weak and vulnerable.

Jesus, in the Gospel this evening, invites is to be the light of the world by our faith and love. He calls on us to light up the darkness by our loving deeds. Many groups, including Clogher don Óige, football clubs and community groups in general, have shone that light by being available to help the isolated and vulnerable.

A light has been lit in countless churches by the many people who have prayed silently and lit a candle and by the praying of the Stations of the Cross by so many people. Many lonely hearts have come alive because of a phone call, a letter or a loving note received.

And children, you can be the light of Christ by helping out at home; saying “Mother how can I help” – that can make a huge difference.

We can all be that light by our care, love and compassion.

None of us knows when this virus will pass. But what we do know is that Christ in His love healed the sick and died for sinners – for all of us. We place our trust in Him who is with us in this anxious and stressful time.

Lord, give us your peace.

Lord, show us your love.

St Macartan, pray for us!

Amen!

Note on St Macartan:

  1. St Macartan, patron of the Diocese of Clogher, was a close companion of St Patrick and he died in the year 506AD. The Church community he was given charge of by Patrick was based at Clogher, now in County Tyrone but at that time a place of great political and cultural importance and from which the Gaelic kingdom of Airghialla (Oriel) would emerge. This kingdom became the basis for the territory of the original diocese.
  2. The Diocese of Clogher today encompasses all of Co Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and portions of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan.  It has a Catholic population of 88,000, across 37 parishes, which are served by 56 priests and 1 deacon. There are 85 churches in the diocese. Since 1851, Monaghan has been the place where the bishop resides. St Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan was completed in 1892.