An Irish pilgrim’s progress

An Irish pilgrim’s progress Cecil Hyland with his wife
Journeying in Faith: A Walk with Christ

by Cecil Hyland (Church of Ireland Publishing, €12.50)

This book is something of a profession of Christian faith, in all its aspects, which Canon Cecil Hyland distils the experience he garnered from a variety of ministries in the Church of Ireland.  Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim he has “earned the right to be a pilgrim”.

Following Hyland’s ordination in 1963 he was appointed a curate in the parish of St Nicholas in Belfast.

A few years later he was serving in the same capacity in Monkstown, Co. Dublin, alongside the much-esteemed Canon Billy Wynne, founder of the Samaritans.  Cecil was back in Belfast in 1967 as the Church of Ireland Youth Officer.

It was a time when his studies at the Irish School of Ecumenics stood him in good stead, as his work for young people involved his collaboration with the Youth Officers of the other Christian denominations.

From 1973 to 1978 he was a chaplain in Trinity College, Dublin, where he and Fr Brendan Heffernan were a harmonious and successful twosome in caring for their respective charges.

He held two incumbencies – that of Carrickmines from 1979 to 1990 and that of Howth from 1990 to 2005.

Following his official retirement in 2005 Cecil continues to be active in the ministry, ‘standing in’ for colleagues when the need arises.

Cecil lays out his ‘Walk with Christ’ in the format of a teacher’s manual.  In ten chapters he reflects on the seminal teachings of Christ.  He begins each chapter with an appropriate quotation.  Chapter 1 – The Starting Point – has Jeremiah’s consoling words: “When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your whole heart.  I will let you find me, says the Lord.”

In the final chapter Cecil discusses compassion. For him it is at the very heart of Christianity.

He cites the infinite mercy of God, the stories of the Good Samaritan, the forgiving father in the prodigal-son narrative and the many occasions when Christ expressed compassion for people.

Cecil emphasises the need for Christian compassion in today’s Ireland. Apart from Portugal, of all the countries in Europe Ireland has the greatest gap between the rich and poor in society.

The most glaring symptom of this, as it is for other serious inequalities, is the high incidence of homelessness.

Cecil urges the authorities to bring to bear on this grave social evil actions rather than mere words.

Cecil concludes his inspiring memoir with the following grace-filled profession of Faith: this is what I believe. We are a people of Faith, trusting in God. We are a people of joy, celebrating our lives in the presence of the living Lord, here and now. We are a people of hope, knowing that ultimately God is in control and that out of darkness, light will come.

The journey starts and starts again as we respond to the invitations of Jesus, ‘Follow me’ with all that his call implies.

Let us travel in confidence, in joy and in hope, our hearts filled with the love of God.

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