Beware of ‘infection’ by 21st Century biases bishop warns on Slieve Patrick

Beware of ‘infection’ by 21st Century biases bishop warns on Slieve Patrick Father Robert Mc Mahon PP of Saul and Ballee parish with first holy communicants Cormac Hanna, Issabelle Farrell, Darcie Mullen, Maria Byrne, Lucian Rose Smyth and Harry McMullan after celebrating the outdoor Mass on St Patrick’s mountain, on which stands the largest statue of St Patrick in the world at Saul, Co. Down. More than 300 people made the pilgrimage to the top of the monument. Photo: Bill Smyth

The new Bishop of Down and Connor has celebrated Mass at the place where St Patrick landed in Ireland almost 1600 years ago.

Bishop Alan McGuckian chose to go to Slieve Patrick, also known as Saul Mountain, Co. Down, to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi and Day 4 of his new novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Bishop McGuckian told pilgrims gathered at Saul, Downpatrick that the novena prayer, inspired by the Dublin-born Jesuit priest, Blessed John Sullivan, was also significant to St Patrick’s mission.

“Our hope and our expectation is that we will be renewed in our hearts, that you will be renewed in your hearts… And we will fulfil the purpose that God had when he sent Patrick here that first day – and we will become the people of God.”

The bishop chose the first Sunday of June, Corpus Christi, to celebrate the Mass although it is traditionally on the second Sunday as this is when St Patrick’s Monument at Saul was first unveiled in 1937.

The monument – the largest in the world to St Patrick – was conceived in 1932 and after five years of effort was unveiled in the presence of an estimated 50,000 pilgrims from across Ireland.

Celebrating Mass just below the monument, Bishop McGuckian spoke to a crowd of local parishioners, some of the children who had made their first communion, and 16 American ‘Young Ambassadors’ who are visiting The Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick.

Bishop McGuckian warned against 21st Century biases when it comes to hearing ancient stories from the Old Testament. He said there is a modern temptation to think of the Israelites as weak or inferior for offering sacrifices to God, as Sunday’s Mass reading included a passage from Exodus about the sacrifice of bulls and the scattering of blood.

“(These stories) were first read in Ireland when Patrick brought them here 1600 years ago. He brought us the truth. The truth about us human beings. We are made to offer sacrifice to God. Sacrifice is giving God everything because God gives us everything and deserves our everything.

“That is who we are. We swim in this 21st Century sea and we are infected by its ideas and biases and we could be deluded by those biases to forget who we are. We are people made for God and we will only be fulfilled in God.”

Concelebrating Mass were Canon John Murray PP for Downpatrick, Fr Robert McMahon of Saul Parish, Fr Derek Kearney SMA, of Crossgar and Killyleagh, and Deacon Jackie Breen.

The novena will end on Friday June 7 with the Bishop celebrating mass at St Peter’s Cathedral Belfast at 7pm.