Last Sunday (October 1), the friary hosted a group from the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association in the Diocese of Meath, who spent an afternoon of recollection, mainly in the church, but also in glorious warm sunshine praying the outside Stations of the Cross.
There was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church with the opportunity to be reconciled with God in the Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation. Fr Malcolm and I made ourselves available for this service which was availed of by many of the good people attending.
The high point of the evening was the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist by Bishop Tom, himself a lifelong pioneer, who took time afterwards to have a “cuppa” with the members as well as making a quick detour to the Portiuncula Nursing Home to visit our Fr John Kealy.
As the evening came to a close, a lady approached me to ask if I had a leaflet describing the work we Franciscans do in Multy. I was taken aback because, while we have leaflets giving the basic history of the church and pointing out architectural features of the building, there is no account of what the living friars do in this hallowed spot. “I really must do something about that,” I apologised to the good woman!
So, what is it that we do here? A quick riposte might be that “doing” is second to “being” for friars, and that would be a good point. Franciscans are essentially brothers living a gospel life in family, caring for one another in first place, especially as the brothers predominantly belong to the older generation. Here in Multy there are three brothers in their nineties, two in their late eighties and just two in their late sixties, including yours truly. And, as in any family, there is plenty to do for one another before we turn our eyes to the outside world and its needs.
“But” you might say, “that’s all very well, but what do you do to justify your existence?” Well, again, I could question the word “do” and respond that we “let” things happen here or maybe that we are “facilitators of the Spirit,” allowing anyone who wishes to use our church, house, and grounds to discern the spirit at work in their lives.
We like to think of our home as a haven of peace for our visitors and, when we can, we want to be available for a blessing, a conversation and ultimately a sacramental encounter. We would love to be effective signs of God’s grace at work in this little village in a corner of County Westmeath.
One of those lovely sacramental encounters took place in our Blessed Sacrament Chapel last Saturday around lunchtime. Mia Olivia, the first child of our friends Clint and Ciara, was christened in an intimate ceremony, attended by just a few members of the respective families, but also watched on our webcam by family in South Africa, London, and Hungary. Christenings are becoming more and more popular here, with the next two Saturdays already booked.
Then, after Fr Malcolm finished the weekly confessions at 5:00pm, we welcomed the local German-speaking Lutheran congregation to the same place where our newest Christian was welcomed into God’s family. The Lutherans avail of our space several times in the year with a pastor travelling from Dublin to celebrate their divine service. How lovely it is to have that practical ecumenical outreach, to “let” unity happen in small steps.
Then at 7:00pm we held our usual vigil Mass for a small but faithful congregation, driving through the rain and gloom to encounter the crucified and risen lord in the Eucharist.
Sunday Mass was celebrated at 10:30am and then in the afternoon the aforementioned Pioneers graced us with their devout presence, bringing an event-full weekend to a fitting close.
The past Monday evening also saw us pre-recording a Mass for the RTÉ News Channel which was then broadcast for the Feast of St Francis on Wednesday. This must be the third year in a row when the Franciscans of Multyfarnham were privileged to represent the Franciscan Family in Ireland on this great feast of our founder.
So, whether we see our life here in Multy as being or letting or doing, it is certainly very varied, often from week to week. The past week or two have been especially busy while others have been relatively quiet, but one never knows what the Spirit has in store for us in the friary. For, notoriously we are told, “he blows where he wills.”