An Teaghlach Naofa

Saving the Soul of Ireland: Return to Knock

Our little class of primary 6 pupils in St Joseph’s Primary School, was blessed with a wonderful teacher. Her name is Rose, now a sprightly 90 years young. She ‘phoned last week, heartbroken over the evil in the world and the spiritual war ravaging Ireland. We chatted about the blindness of Irish politicians and the President, speaking out on the horrific genocide of children in the Middle East yet hauntingly silent on the child holocaust they have brought to our own doorstep. We spoke of the need for Christ more than ever in our daily lives, the need for teachers who will instruct children in the correct catechism of the faith into which they are baptized and teach them how to say their prayers – the age old prayers taught to Irish children for centuries. I remember well her teaching of the catechism that we all knew by heart, for we were tested on it. And my father, leading family prayers in the car on the way to school, prayers from the heart, in the same order, so that even the youngest could follow and learn, always starting with the morning offering – “Oh my Jesus through the most pure heart of Mary…”. And my mother, leading us in the rosary at home and giving us each in turn, at a certain age, the job of looking after the May altar or making the Christmas crib or placing the baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning. How many children in Ireland today have the richness of these blessings?

To console Rose, I shared an extract from the life of St Patrick, from a little book bought in Emmanuel House bookshop in Clonfert. It describes a vision our patron saint had towards the end of life. “When St Patrick and St Brigid were united in their last prayer, a special vision was shown to him. He saw the whole of Ireland lit up with the brightest of rays of Divine Faith. This continued for centuries, and then clouds gathered around the devoted island, and little by little, the religious glory faded away, until, in the course of centuries, it was only in the remotest valleys that some glimmer of its light remained. St Patrick prayed that the light would never be extinguished, and as he prayed, an Angel came to him and said: “Fear not: your Apostolate shall never cease”. As he thus prayed, the glimmering light grew in brightness, and ceased not until once more all the hills and valleys of Ireland were lit up in their pristine splendor, and then the angel, announced to St Patrick “Such shall be the abiding splendor of Divine Truth in Ireland”.

In 1979, St John Paul, told us in Phoenix Park , “Like St Patrick, I too have heard the voice of the Irish calling to me and so I have come to you, all of you in Ireland”. He spoke of the challenges facing Ireland and the urgent need to “steep ourselves in the truth that comes from Christ”. He spoke of the Eucharist as the call to conversion and the importance of the sacrament of confession in our society. In Galway, he told us, “the very soul of Ireland, will be challenged by the temptations that spare no society”. His homilies were prophetic for these times. “Ireland must choose”, he said, “your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and preserve Ireland’s soul, resound today in your ears, what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own life? What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul ?” Did we listen? Is it too late - has Ireland lost her soul? What can we do? St John Paul, like St Patrick, centuries before, told us what to do – to steep ourselves in Christ by returning to Him through Mary. In Knock, where he presented the Queen of Ireland with a rose of gold, he told us, we have Christ if we entrust ourselves to Mary. In Limerick he expressed his wish “that every home in Ireland remain, or begin again, to be a home of daily family prayer”. Let us take our rosaries and pray more fervently to Our Lady for Ireland and encourage others to do the same. Let us ask Our Lady to wrap us in her mantle and protect us from the darkness that has pervaded the very soul of our country. Let us pray to Our Father to deliver us from all evil including the increasing despair that draws people to considering suicide, drugs and abortion as solutions to life’s problems.

Return to Knock - days of prayer for IrelandI was in Knock this week for the national novena to Our Lady. It was heartwarming to see the large crowds. All is far from lost for Ireland. On the feast of Our Lady of Knock, Bishop Doran, told us that the future of the church is the person of Jesus Christ and in Him, as St John Paul said, we find “the meaning of our existence”. “How many of us”, Bishop Doran asked, “allow eternal life to be the focus of our daily lives? Each of us as Christians must remember who we are, to whom we belong and where we are going”. The answer is “in Christ”. Each of us must be, as St Paul says one hundred times “in Christ”.

St John Paul’s great friend Mother Teresa said “when you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the light of the world, Jesus in us, or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread”. Across Ireland, there are great groups of prayer, great organizations and associations of faith. However, we tend to stay within our own local circuit. To dispel the darkness and save the soul of Ireland, we need to link up and let our light shine.

There is an interwoven link between the lives of St John Paul and perhaps one of the greatest saints of our times, Padre Pio, the only priest to bear the wounds of Christ. It was St Pio who predicted that the newly ordained Fr Karol Wojtyla would be Pope and it was St John Paul, when Archbishop of Krakow, who wrote the first letter to the Vatican calling for the beatification of Padre Pio, whom he himself would canonize in 2002. St Pio, who had such a special place in his heart for the Irish. What would he say to Ireland now? Let us implore his most powerful intercession. Let us return to Knock. Let us entrust our families, our priests and our dear country of Ireland to Our Lady. Let us listen to her motherly advice “Do whatever He tells you” and apply His teachings in the gospel to our daily lives and give witness to it. Let us encourage others who have never come to Knock to make a visit. Let us share the story of Knock with every child in Ireland. Let us, like St John Paul entrust Ireland to Mary, “star of the new evangelization”, and "Let each of us, like St Patrick, be able to say “I have kept the faith”. And most importantly, let us always look for ways to share the light of Christ, the light of faith, with others.

Join us for two days of prayer for Ireland in Knock on 23rd and 24th September. If you would like an event poster to share with your parish or prayer group contact

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