There’s a pamphlet being distributed at Clonard Monastery, ‘Little Steps on Our Pilgrim Way,’ written by Fr Gerry Reynolds. It details some of the activities of Clonard’s reconciliation mission and informs people of the next ‘In Joyful Hope’ shared Eucharist/communion event, which is set for 17 November at 8 pm in Whitehouse Presbyterian Church. The text of the pamphlet is below.
Little Steps on Our Pilgrim Way by Fr Gerry Reynolds
Since Remembrance Sunday 1994, the year of the Ceasefires, a little group of Belfast Catholics, linked with Clonard Monastery, have gone, Sunday by Sunday, to the Morning worship of a Protestant Church. They go in faith and friendship and call themselves unity pilgrims.
From week to week
Week by week, on Thursdays, from 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm, they spend an hour of silent prayer in the Adoration Convent chapel, 63 Falls Road. They pray there for a new Pentecost in all the Churches, for the Protestant congregation they plan to visit on the following Sunday and its pastor and for the visible unity of Christians in a common Eucharist.
On Sunday 6th September 2015, our unity pilgrims shared in the Morning Worship of Fitzroy Presbyterian church. We are at home there with longstanding friends. The fellowship between Clonard and Fitzroy is now 34 years old. As unity pilgrims we welcomed the opportunity to share with them in the Presbyterian celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
The Word of God was proclaimed first by Clare Andrews, a young Fitzroy member, who read the Beatitudes from Matthew’s gospel. Philip Mateer, one of the Ruling Elders, read Romans 12 and the assistant minister, Rev Jonathan Abernethy-Barkley, preached God’s grace and call to us all: “the only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him”.
Holy Communion in Fitzroy
Rev Steve Stockman announced the Presbyterian welcome to the Lord’s Table for all with faith and love for Jesus. Ruling Elders brought plates of bread and trays of wine to the congregation in their seats. I was sitting between two Fitzroy couples who devoutly took their sacrament of Jesus’ presence as the plate of bread and the tray of wine were passed along.
I took the plate and the tray reverently into my hands, held each of them for a prayerful moment, and handed them on. In the conviction that our obedience to our Catholic Church discipline will bring nearer the longed for day of a common Eucharist, I did not partake of the sacramental bread and wine.
In Joyful Hope is a new step in Eucharistic communion. Some Presbyterians, Methodists, members of the Church of Ireland and Catholics come together, four times a year, obedient to Jesus’ command “Do this in memory of me”. They believe that the joy of being present at the Eucharistic worship of another Christian tradition is greater than the pain experienced by observing this discipline.
At the In Joyful Hope celebration in January 2013 at Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church, I first held the bread and wine in my hands for a prayerful moment. We adopted that practice because it enabled Catholics to be profoundly involved in the Presbyterian Holy Communion ritual while keeping faith with their own Church discipline.
Come on Sunday or Thursday!
In Joyful Hope began in November 2010. The 24th celebration will be in Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, at 8 pm on Tuesday 17th November 2015. The late Fr Jean Marie Tillard OP of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, a long-term patient worker for a common Eucharist, left us this beautiful prayer which sums up the passion of his life and also that of our unity pilgrims:
God our Father, may Christ’s disciples have the grace, through your Holy Spirit, to discover that the most profound joy within your Church, lies in our coming together, in one and the same faith and love, in order to prepare resolutely for the day when we may share in a common Eucharist.
Week by week, the unity pilgrims pray for a new Pentecost in all the Churches. That is a new awareness of our shared responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.
In hope of this transformation, Pope Francis has proclaimed “an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.” It begins on Tuesday 8th December 2015.