Our parish was delighted to host the annual Service of Prayer for Christian Unity at The Church of the Immaculate Conception this week.
We were honoured that Abbot Brendan Coffey,OSB, Abbot of Glenstal was the guest preacher at the ceremony. He was joined by Very Rev. William Coleman, Director of Ecumenism for Meath diocese, Rev. John O’Donnell, of Ervy Presbyterian Church, Canon Ian Horner of Baileboro and Rev. Martin O’Kelly of Kingscourt.
Thanks to the Parish Pastoral Planning Team who prepared the service and to all who attended. Our Parish will host the ecumenical Women’s World Day of prayer on Friday 1st March.
The Homily Of Abbot Brendan Coffey, OSB:
Kingscourt Ecumenical Service
Have you ever heard of a man called Charles Blondin? In his day, he was very famous. He was a Frenchman who lived in the mid-nineteenth century. On 30 June 1859 he walked a tightrope 160 feet above Niagara Falls. He crossed from the American to the Canadian side and back again. He repeated the stunt on other days, each time being more daring as huge crowds on both sides looked on. He became a real sensation. If you don’t believe me you can google him when you go home.
On one occasion he crossed on stilts, another time he even carried a stove, stopped mid-way across, cooked an omelette and ate it. Finally, he walked backwards across the tightrope to Canada and returned to the American side pushing a wheelbarrow. When he got to the US side, he said – “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The all shouted back ‘Yes’!
Then he said – “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?” Silence! They weren’t expecting that. Nobody volunteered on that day.
Blondin did eventually get one volunteer who trusted him, Harry Colcord, his manager. He wasn’t brave enough to get into the wheelbarrow, but he was willing to clinging to Blondin’s back. Blondin gave him the following instructions: “Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do, we will both go to our death.” They crossed safely.
It’s rare to find that level of trust between people. In some ways it’s not even very realistic, but the story is true and it does illustrate one important point – when we work together we can achieve much more than we ever imagined possible.
Every year we come together during these days to pray for Christian unity. The very first week of prayer for Christian Unity took place in 1908. We have come a long way since those days. However, has the week of Prayer for Christian Unity become rather perfunctory? Is it now such a stable part of the annual calendar that it has lost its punch?
If Charles Blondin simply walked across Niagara Falls in the same way, repeatedly, the crowds would soon have vanished. How many of us are actually willing to get into the wheelbarrow or for that matter, climb up on the Lord’s back and hang on for dear life. Precious few, I suspect.
Think of Abraham who without hesitation provided for his angelic guests. Think of the apostles who followed Jesus. That is what they had to do. They really risked everything, there were no guarantees and in many, if not most, cases, it cost them their lives. Perhaps, just perhaps, the path that will bring us together is not a new path at all; perhaps it is a very old path with an old rusty wheelbarrow, which we have all left behind long ago. A path that leads me to recognise my neighbour. Who is my neighbour? Always, the one I least expect. What is most important? To love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves! We can so easily forget that we are all in this together. There is only one world and trying to exclude some people from my little part of it will only result in all of us falling to our deaths. If we don’t balance together, we don’t balance at all.
So, will you get into that wheelbarrow? Will I? St Benedict in his Rule for monks says to the new arrival, “Friend, for what have you come?” Maybe we can ask ourselves the same question about our presence here this evening. Friend, for what have you come?