Pope St John Paul II Awards
4th February 2020 - St Paul’s, Arran Quay
Speaking notes of Fr Kieran McDermott
I extend a very warm welcome to you all and to members of your families, your local faith communities schools and parishes who have supported you in this endeavour.
Welcome to the representatives of the Knights of Columbanus who generously and quietly support the Pope St John Paul II Awards since its foundation in Derry in 2006.
We gather in this historic church St Paul’s Arran Quay. It was designed by Patrick Byrne and built between 1835 and 1844, not long after Catholic emancipation. In 1852 Captain Charles Boycott married Annie Dunne and Eamon and Sinead De Valera were married here in 1910. The inclusion of a clock in the facade, less common in Catholic Churches, implies a sense of public responsibility thus increasing the status of the building.
A statue of St. Paul above the portico tops the apex, flanked by statues of SS. Peter and Patrick.
When you think of those three you could not think of three different people, different personalities, and different gifts.
Peter, a fisherman in the family business with his brother Andrew.
Not well educated or even refined…fishing was a tough business and he was tough. In fact there is evidence that he was somewhat rough around the edges…but he had a heart the size of the church. He had a great capacity to respond, to love and Jesus chosen him as the leader.
Paul, or Saul as he was once known when as a very successful and ambitious soldier of the Roman Empire.
Educated, came from good stock, a professional soldier and a pretty successful one at that’ he was passionate…probably about anything he believed or was committed to.
And then he had a personal meeting, a personal experience with Jesus in the period after the crucifixion when Jesus had RISEN. The Flemish painter Rubens captures this moment in his painting reproduced here behind me.
Then we turn to Patrick….kidnapped as a youth ..brought to a foreign land (Ireland) and he is very lonely, afraid and upset. And it is his faith, his belief and his RELATIONSHIP with Jesus that sustains him through this personal crisis and ordeal. Then he escapes and is free…but he hears the call of the Irish, the ignorant, pagan unfulfilled always at war Irish….and returns in 432 and introduces the Celts, the tribes to Jesus and his teachings in the gospels. It was through his suffering, this personal crisis and an encounter within with the Lord that he finds out what it is he is to do with his life.
On Saturday last February 1st we celebrated St Bridget, patroness of Ireland…a strong, powerful not to be messed with Celtic woman…an abbess…who was so inspirational that other young women left everything to be with her and to be part of her mission in bringing people to the hope and person of Jesus and she had a great love for those on the edges, on the periphery of society.
So, what these 4 people remind us is that our faith, our religion is about a person, Jesus of Nazareth. It not about a structure or even a movement…it is and has at its centre Jesus, Son of God…who is God.
We will hear in the reading from the bible this evening that even in his own place of growing up there were some for whom his message was too much of an ask, and not only did they reject the message but they went out of their way to ensure he would have a hard time. The reading tells us that his very life was in danger.
So, it was not and is not easy to be a Christian in the modern world where many are only waiting to mock, sometime even to ridicule and at best not be very encouraging we have to find the courage of our faith to stand up, stand out and not be afraid to say ‘I am a follower of Jesus, I believe’ !
The Pope St John Paul II Awards.
The awards you receive tonight are named after a great man who like you was once a student and who during the war was forced to quarry stone in a labour camp. He decided to abandon a possible career in the theatre as an actor to devote his life to God and to serve his fellow human beings. He became a priest and later bishop of Krakow in Poland and in 1978 became known to world as Pope John Paul II. He had a great respect for young people but also challenged them not to waste their lives. Each person’s life has a purpose, and he warned young people not to drift…live a purposeful life…do not be a poor second hand imitation of someone else’s life.
He said many things…memorable things and I mention two here:
‘The worst prison would be a closed heart’
‘Other people are not rivals from whom we must defend ourselves, but brothers and sisters to be supported.
The John Paul II award affords young people like yourselves real and meaningful opportunities to take an active part in the life of your Church, in the life of your community and society, and become more aware of teaching and the role of the Church in the world. This award provides you with the way of expressing yourself, the practical ways of challenging you to reflect on your role within the Christian community as a member of that community.
The Benefits of the John Paul II awards
Through this Award you are enabled and encouraged to engage at a deeper level with Christ. It will help you to understand that faith and belief, if it is to be real must engage with the real world; faith is not something that must remain in our heads; it must find expression in our hearts and reach out from there.
Special Time for Parents and Family
This is a special evening not just for yourselves who are being honoured with the John Paul II Award but also for parents and families. They are contributing to making you the kind of person you are today and for that reason we are all indebted to them.
The awards are administered here by the youth outreach team here in St Paul’s a church at the centre of the city of Dublin. I want to thank the people I work with Siobhan, Kirsten and Gerard who have worked to make the St John Paul II awards a success and such a positive experience for all involved.
Conclusion and Good wishes
To conclude – I again warmly congratulate you all – on the work you have done and what you have achieved to be able to receive your bronze, silver, and gold medals and Papal Crosses this evening. Congratulations and well done to your parents and local parish and school personnel that assisted you in any way. Like Bridget, Peter, Patrick and Paul, please God, you will continue to grow in your relationship with the person of Jesus remembering that he came to show us what