‘Stay with us Lord”

Home » Library » The Athenry Journal » Record

Fr Ciaran Blake, C C, Canon Antony King, Archbishop Eamon Neary and Fr John O’Gorman celebrating Mas in the Church of the Assumption, Athenry Nov. 2003

Recently, I was paging through the History of the Archdiocese. This book, published before Easter is a beautiful presentation of the faith-story of our ancestors. Monastic ruins, Holy Wells, and Mass Rocks speak to us of our Christian roots.

The splendid photography of parish churches and historic sites are interwoven into a rich and varied tapestry of a Christian tradition in the west of Ireland which we have inherited over the centuries.

Places as far apart, as Teampall Beanain in Aran, Tobar Chronain in Aughamore; St. Feichin’s Well in Omey Island and Lady’s Well in Athenry and in between, St. Patrick is claimed by local tradition in at least twenty parishes throughout the diocese.

So many other settings are honouring various saints and shrines of devotion to Our Lady. Above and beyond the local, Croagh Patrick and Knock embrace pilgrims from all over the world.

Each year on special days, the link of continuity with the faith-story of the generations is kept alive. People gather in faith and in prayer as they stand in gratitude on the shoulders of the past, they place their confidence in God and his Mother with their Patron Saint and entrust the future to their care and protection. August 15th marks this special day in Athenry each year

Pilgrim People

One of the things that struck me as I turned the pages was how the theme of pilgrimage keeps a strong link of continuity marking our Christian tradition down to the present time. Pilgrim People is a very rich and beautiful image of Church. Throughout the Liturgy, each year, we are constantly reminded that God is always calling us onwards on our pilgrim path. We travel in faith as we make our way out of the past and into a future that we cannot see. But we travel with trust and with confidence because we know that God never abandons his people. We believe that He is faithful to His promise and His Spirit is always with us to guide and inspire us as we journey onwards.

What nurtures our spirits?

What keeps us going, on our pilgrim path? What can satisfy the deep desire in our hearts? What will nurture our spirits and give us the courage to cope and face the future? It is in the Eucharist we find the food for pilgrims, the nourishment that will hold us up and hold us together on our journey.

The Altar of the World.

Pope John Paul in one of his last letters reflecting on this Year of the Eucharist, talks about every Mass having what he describes as “a universal and cosmic dimension”. He uses a beautiful image – “the altar of the world” he says “… because even when the Eucharist is celebrated on a humble altar, it is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world …It unites heaven and earth …It embraces and permeates all creation…” Could you imagine – A Mass-rock, like the one in Coldwood suspended over the world, and the worship and praise of all people embracing all creation being gathered and raised by the power of the Risen Lord as the gift of humanity to the Father in heaven. We are all a living part of all that prayer.

What do we bring to Sunday Mass?

When we gather for Sunday Mass no matter where we come from, we are representative of a wider world and we carry and place on the altar here the “work of human hands” from Coldwood, Coshla, Cormacoo, Cudoo, and all the other places of our Parish. We bring ourselves and all we do from the kitchens and offices, the farms and factories and the homes and families of our neighbourhood to the Altar of God.

Think of all the human energy, the power of goodness, the time, skills and talents of all who enliven our Parish, the creativity that arises from minds and hearts, all our gifts, we place around the bread that rests on the altar. Isn’t it all of that you bring as your gift to your Parish Mass in Athenry and Newcastle? And into the chalice is poured the anxiety and pain, the loneliness and suffering we carry within us to our Mass.

We bring with us all that rises up from people in hospitals and nursing homes, elderly people living in isolation, the love and compassion of great neighbours and carers – all to become our “spiritual drink” So what is transformed into the body of Christ, is “fruit of the earth and work of human hands”. Isn’t it all your gift that you bring to the celebration of this Eucharist?

What do you carry away from your Sunday Mass?

That beautiful Easter Story about the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is the theme of the Pope’s letter. He invites us to reflect on the two disciples as they returned back from Emmaus to Jerusalem. Think of the change, the enormous transformation that had happened. They had come down-hearted, listless and dejected. They met the Stranger on the road. He listened to them and “explained the Scriptures to them. “Stay with us for it is nearly evening” … And then it happened! They recognised Jesus in the “breaking of bread” And then, everything changed!

There was no staying or waiting around, they hit back to Jerusalem. What a contrast in their mood, in their stride as they retraced their steps to tell the story to the disciples. It was the same road, but everything had changed. “Hearts burning within them, their eyes were opened and they saw in a new way. A surge of fresh enthusiasm was flowing through them. The light of the Risen Lord had shone in their minds and hearts. They were touched by his power and they were travelling with new energy to go and tell the good news. Our Sunday Mass is our Emmaus.

We receive the “Mystery of Light”

The Eucharist, we receive, it is the same Risen Lord. This is the bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. The food that draws the light and love of the Risen Lord into the chamber of our souls. We receive the “mystery of light” to nourish the hungers in the depths of our spirits – for meaning, for love, for hope and the strength to cope with all that will unfold in the days to come.

We are sent on a Mission

The Bread that is broken to deepen our intimacy with Jesus draws us into friendship with one another as companions as we share the same food. “Because there is one bread”, St. Paul tells us “We who are many are one body, for we all share in the one bread” 1 Cor. 10-17. We do not travel in isolation; we lean on one another. We draw strength and courage from each other as pilgrims on the journey. The Spirit of God will speak to us through one another, encouraging us to face our situation and see people around us in a new way when we gather to celebrate our Sunday Mass.

Like the two disciples, the Eucharist sends us back again on the journey we came, with fresh hope in our hearts and with the assurance that He is with us and “not to be afraid”. We are sent on a mission, a mission to encourage one another as we journey together.

A mission that is summed up in the beautiful words of a Psalm … “Today, as long as this today lasts, keep encouraging one another …

– –

About this record

Written by Tony King

Published here 09 Jan 2024 and originally published Summer 2005

– –