Young Catholics Start Novena Prayer for the Church in Ireland

image Yesterday I received an invitation from the ‘Living Church’ Facebook page about a ‘Novena for the Church in Ireland.’ Living Church is an initiative of the Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor, an effort at renewal which has included the ‘listening sessions’ I blogged about several months ago.

I was quite taken by the Novena’s Facebook page, which includes an explanation from Ryan Connolly, one of six founders of the page. I was especially intrigued because the proposed novena is a direct response to the abuse scandals and because it appeared to be instigated by young, lay Catholics. The Facebook page reads:

“This was an idea I had while I was praying during the week.

More or less all of the events that have been going on over the last while, between the Cloyne report, Enda Kenny’s speech, scandal in the Church, media reaction to it all (some of it very hostile) and listening to people talking had me feeling pretty low for a while there.

So I thought that what we need is a lot of prayer for the Church in Ireland at this time. For me and for many, many others I know that the Church has been a powerful force for good in our lives and it really kills me to think that others did not have that wonderful experience of it, in fact they end up abused and mistreated by the very people who were meant to bring the light and love of Christ to them. It’s something I know that the rest of us find distressing and difficult to understand.

So my idea is to have a large novena for the Church, beginning Sunday the seventh of August (last day of the Youth Festival in Clon for those who are going) and ending up on Monday 15th of August (the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, because who better to look after us at this difficult time?)

It’s quite simple, there are three intentions:

  1. We pray in atonement for the sins of the Church in Ireland and for all those hurt by them
  2. We pray for all of our priests and bishops, the guilty that they might find God’s mercy and the innocent that God might support them in this difficult time
  3. We pray for the healing and renewal of the TRUE Catholic Church in Ireland
    If everyone who wants to join in could just pray the rosary each one of the days (or even just a decade of the rosary) for those intentions and if you can at all the Pope’s prayer for the Church in Ireland, which is here:

And then just offer up your Mass on the feast of the Assumption (it’s a holy day of obligation I’m quite sure!)

And finally invite everybody you know who would be interested in joining in to this event so that we can get the word out!
Thanks and God bless!”

I contacted Connolly through Facebook, and it turns out he is a 20-year-old third-level student of English Literature in Dublin. He described himself as ‘a devout Catholic’ who has ‘over the last few years … [been] trying to take the faith I was raised in more seriously.’ He provided me with a fuller explanation of the initiative:

“The novena was an inspiration I had while praying during the week about the whole situation in Ireland, both regarding the Church and the State. I felt that what was needed was prayer for the Church in Ireland, prayer for its victims, prayer for its leaders, prayer for its people, prayer for the healing and renewal of the Church in Ireland. It occurred to me that it was very important that the whole Church be united in prayer: young, old, lay, clergy and religious, right across Ireland.

I discussed the idea with a group of fellow young Catholics (so yes, this is an initiative of youth within the Church) to hammer out some ideas and eventually we came up with the novena that is on the facebook event. We’ve been working to promote it through various avenues since: facebook, Catholic media (both online and in print), mailing lists, local churches, religious orders, the dioceses, various lay groupings and word of mouth through family and friends.”

I know from the research my School is conducting through our Visioning 21st Century Ecumenism project that young Irish Catholics can be quite an elusive group. They were the least likely of any age or religion to respond to our survey of laypeople in Ireland, for example. There has been much speculation that this is a generation that is slipping away from the Catholic church, alienated by the abuse scandals and seeing the rigid faith of their fathers as irrelevant to post-modern, post-Celtic Tiger Ireland.

Our research has of course tried to interrogate that assumption. To that end it has featured a case study of the dynamic Slí Eile (now called Magis) organisation, a Jesuit initiative for young adults.

Connolly and his friends’ enthusiasm seems akin to that of the young Catholics we interviewed for the Slí Eile case study. He also told me that the other young Catholics who are involved with the novena initiative are friends from college and Youth 2000, another Catholic youth organisation.

Connolly adds:

“Although the original organising team would have all been people in our early twenties, many more of all ages have come on board to help, lay and religious both. I feel like there has been a great response to the initiative thus far, I feel like it’s really touched a chord with many Irish Catholics and to be honest I’m a little overwhelmed by the enthusiasm that I’ve encountered in many people for the idea.”

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am not Catholic. But I am married to a Catholic and we attend mass at Clonard Monastery. Clonard is of course famous for its summer Novena, which I have come to have a deep appreciation for – especially its ecumenical day.

This novena is understandably a call to prayer for Irish Catholics, but as a Christian on this island, I think it’s something worth joining in.

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