Have you ever wondered what would happen if next Sunday morning a priest in a parish was suddenly taken ill and unable to celebrate Mass with his community? What would people do when they arrived at the Church and discovered there was no priest to celebrate Mass? Would they simply go home or drive to the parish down the road? What would happen in a country parish where the next Church might be ten miles away? Most parishes in the diocese, especially those outside the city, are now served by a single priest.
I am not trying to paint a doomsday scenario or to frighten people but the simple fact is that if a priest is ill, or unavailable due to other circumstances such as an unexpected death in the family, we really have nothing in place to deal with that situation. It is almost impossible to find another priest to cover at such short notice as they also have Mass in their own parish. Whilst we are very lucky to still have a number of priests in our parish what would happen if I were away and Fr Con took ill on a Sunday morning? Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t make Passage West Mass at 11.00 a.m. and Monkstown Mass at 11.30 a.m. Whilst it would be relatively easy for people here to go to the Monastery or Rochestown or Carrigaline, that would mean breaking up our praying community and take away from that special sense of us gathering as a community to pray with and for each other and the needs of our own community.
I am a great believer in the power of people praying together as a community and am convinced that we need to seek to protect that as a core value even in circumstances where a priest is not available, for whatever reason, to celebrate the Eucharist. To that end, over the coming weeks, we have planned a series of four evenings to help prepare people who would be willing to take an active role in leading prayer celebrations in our community when the need arises. We will explore not just how to lead a Sunday Liturgy for our communities if and when a priest is unavailable. We will also look at leading other forms of public prayer such a Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion; the Prayer of the Church which traditionally has been prayed daily by priests, nuns and religious; the rosary and the Stations of the Cross. For far too long In Ireland we have reduced all public prayer to the celebration of Mass and have ignored the rich spirituality of other forms of community prayer that are also part of our Christian tradition. Come and join us in the Gill Room on Thursday night, 19th May 2016, from 8.00 to 9.00 p.m. for the first of four Thursday nights in preparation for leading public prayer moments in our community. All are welcome so come along and see if this is something you might be a part of. Let’s prepare together so that we can continue to pray as a community no matter what the future might bring.