An Teaghlach Naofa

Arise People of Ireland

Orla Sheehan

“For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land”. (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

There is something so beautiful about Spring. All of the country is in renewal as new life bursts forth from the dead of winter. The blankets of purple and white crocuses, the daffodils, little lambs in the fields, all sing of the Glory of God. “Arise O Earth for thy Priestess Spring, cometh to thee! She has put on the mitre of gladness and her vestments are weighted with flowers – God’s golden embroidery”. Spring is a time of exuberant joy and hope. What hope Spring time must have brought to the early saints, as they travelled the roads of Ireland, preaching His gospel, witnessing His breath making all things new. “I arise today, through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in Threeness, through confession of Oneness, of the Creator of creation”. Laudato Si!

In the very heart of Ireland, stands St. Mel’s Cathedral, a beautiful beacon of hope and faith. Who would have believed that such a magnificent cathedral could arise from the ashes of the devastating fire that ravaged the dearly loved cathedral early on Christmas morning of 2009. Almost all, that was held precious, vanished in a fire described as “a dagger in the heart of the Diocesan family”. Even the treasured crozier of St. Mel, that St. John Paul carried on his visit to Clonamacnoise in 1979 , melted in the fierce heat. Yet some precious items survived, the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle – while the outer casing melted, the key still turned and the Eucharist inside perfect – and a painting of The Earthly Trinity, The Holy Family. Also, statues of Our Lady, St. Mel, St. Therese of Liseux and a Bible.

The 22nd May 2015, was a “dagger in the heart” for the faithful people of Ireland. The Vatican’s Secretary of State described the outcome of the Irish referendum on marriage as a “defeat for humanity”. Faithful catholics across the world lamented the fall of the land of saints and scholars, front page news in too many countries. People spoke of the death of a nation. One headline stated RIP Ireland. Well Ireland, is far from dead; we may have fallen but we can rise again, in Christ. In the words of St. John Paul, “it becomes all the more urgent to steep ourselves in the truth that comes from Christ, who is "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14 :6), and in the strength that He himself offers us through his Spirit”.

Each of us will remember where we were that day. I was in Cascia, for the feast day of St. Rita. It was a joy to behold how the people of Umbria venerate their pearl. Church and civic leaders alike, carrying roses in her honour. We Irish have a lot to learn from how Italians venerate their saints. My joy soon faded with the news from home. From there, I went to Loreto, to seek the comfort of The Holy Family house, described as “the holiest place on earth”. Written on the doors of the Basilica, "The whole world has no place more sacred, for here was the Word made Flesh, and here was born the Virgin Mother". No better place to be! All around the little Holy House of Nazareth, thunder and lightning raged for hours on end; yet inside, all so peaceful. It was a haven in the storm. God allowed it for a reason and God has a plan for Ireland. We must continue to pray in hope for a new dawn.

The painting of The Holy Family in St. Mel’s, was commissioned by Bishop Bartholomew Woodlock (1879-1894) for The Holy Family Altar where marriages were solemnised in St Mel’s for many decades. It was painted in Rome in 1891, by an unknown artist, and a copy of a work by the Spanish painter Murillo. It is painted on a cotton canvass and so considered “miraculous” to have survived the fire. It depicts The Holy Family of Nazareth, walking, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, described a vision of The Holy Family walking through Gaza on the arduous journey into Egypt; as they walked, roses sprang up before them from the earth. On that same journey, a little child with terrible skin disease was completely healed after bathing in the same water as The Infant Child. That healed child was the good thief on Calvary, to whom Christ said “on this day you will be with Me in paradise”. We, the people of Ireland, need to renew our devotion to the Child Jesus. Many of the saints had great devotion to the Infant Child. Jesus told Venerable Margaret Parigot (1619-1648), a Carmelite in Beaune who entered aged 12 yrs “whatever you wish to obtain, request it by the merits of my infancy”. And we need to restore, The Holy Family, as the sovereign family of Ireland and entrust ourselves and our families to the three hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Last Spring, An Teaghlach Naofa carried St. Mel’s image of the Holy Family as a banner on our pilgrimage to Knock, when 7000 people united in our national shrine to Our Lady, to pray for the protection of the sanctity of marriage, family and human life. For it was here, in Knock, on the evening of 21st August 1879, the veil of heaven lifted and the Holy Family of Nazareth came to comfort the people of Ireland. And how the sun shone on us last year! Some of those many prayers, as well as the fervent prayers of people across all four provinces, were answered just a few weeks ago, when the light of Christ burst forth in the North of Ireland. The majority of politicians in Stormont voted no to extending the UK Abortion Act of 1967 to Ulster, the news coming through on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. Praise God. Christ’s victory in the North, a beacon of hope to the faithful in the rest of the country. Let us continue to pray for the protection of human life in all of Ireland and lift our prayers to protect the Eight Amendment of the Irish Constitution.

This year, on Saturday 19th March, the feast day of St Joseph, we travel as pilgrims with the Holy Family to St Mel’s Cathedral for a Mass for Ireland. The day begins with the rosary at 2.30 p.m. in procession to The Holy Family Altar, Holy Mass at 3 p.m. and a Holy Hour for Ireland at 4 p.m. Prayers groups are welcome to bring prayer banners for the procession. St. Mel, nephew of St. Patrick, and all the Irish saints pray for us. In the words of St. John Paul, who loved the people of Ireland so much, “May the light of Christ, the light of faith, continue always to shine out of Ireland, may no darkness ever extinguish it”. Come and unite in prayer, in the heart of Ireland, for our families and a new Spring time for our nation. Arise people of Ireland.

Please also join in a 9 day novena to St. Joseph, starting 11th March. Please consider attending daily mass in honour of St. Joseph from the 11th and consider having a mass offered for protection of families. In the words of St. John Paul, “as the family goes, so goes the nation”.

For further details on the Mass for Ireland, please contact one of the numbers on the poster or email

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