Fr. Brian Kavanagh’s Homily at Knock

| June 17th, 2010

We are gathered in this sacred place where Our Lady apeared and where we could say there was an apparition of the Holy Family of Nazareth-  Joseph, Mary and Jesus as the Lamb on the Altar. We could say it was an apparition of the Church in its infancy when we include St. John. Mary was so much part of the life of the early Church, and when Jesus gave Mary as mother to the Disciple when he was on the Cross he wanted his Mother to be part of the life of the Church from then on. Jesus wanted Mary to be part of each of our lives. The apparition here in Knock had not even happened by the time Pierre died in 1861,  but I believe he is with us here today at the place of the apparition of the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph and St. John.

I first learned about the Holy Family Association in 2004. Are there people here who have never heard about the Association?  Put bery briefly its founder, Fr. Pierre Bienvenu Noailles, was born 1793 in France during the time of the French Revolution; at the age of twenty (1813) he received Holy Communion; 1814 he decided to become a true Christian; in 1816 he went to Paris to study Law, but while visiting a Church and praying in front of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus he had a deep spiritual experience; shortly afterwards he began his studies for the priesthood; in 1818 he received the idea in the Chapel at Issy of forming a Society , dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto; 1818 ordained a priest; mother died in 1819; 1820 foundation of the Association of the Holy Family; 1822 Miraculous Benediction.

The Holy Family Association is represented by a tree with branches presenting the various groups of members; lay associates, religious, contemplatives, consecrated secular women and priests. Today, we celebrate the branch representing the lay associates. It struck me this morning that it would be a mistake for me to say that the founder was a person before his time in that he wanted all people to be involved in the mission of the Church long before Vatican II encouraged it. In actual fact his inspiration came from God Alone and so it was God who wanted the involvement of all.

I wish to speak personally to the lay associates present today. Fr. Pierre Bienvenu Noailles, known as the Good Father, wants you to love, seek and desire only God Alone in your personal lives, in your family life and in your parish communities. He wants you to draw from God Alone all the lights, all the consolations and all the strength you need for fulfilling your vocation. Just as the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph loved, sought and desired God Alone in all things while they lived on earth, your Founder wants you to imitate each member of the Holy Family according to their mission. You know the identity of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. You are familiar with the personal relationship with each of them individually. They appeared here in Knock in 1878, seventeen years after Fr. Pierre had died, along with John the Disciple. Mary and John represent the early Christian community…. and we remember how after Jesus’ resurrection the first believers were known as the followers of The Way! The way of the Holy Family Lay Associates is to love, seek and desire God Alone in all things following in the footsteps of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Pierre was born during the French Revolution and when he was ordained in 1818 he began to respond to the after effects. Today all believers are living through an institutional revolution – the institution of the Church, the institution of the state and the institution of the family. We together – laity, clergy, religious – need to be inspired in the same way as Fr. Noailles.

He wrote words that each of us could take to heart today: “I looked among human beings for what can only be found in God Alone…It is in You Alone that human beings can find that life of the soul that is eternal, that life of the heart that is an immense love. You are the Way; You Alone are the Truth; You Alone are Life and Happiness” (p. 120 – Fr. Noailles : A Prophet for Today).

The revolution that is now needed is a revolution according to God Alone and Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The leaders in every institution need the courage to think, speak and act in accordance with God Alone, or to put it in a different language – in accordance with justice, respect, dignity, truth, healing, reconciliation, peace, charity, kindness, hope and love. For the followers of Christ we can take to heart Fr. Noailles’ words on the feast of Pentecost: “Get away from the crowds as the Aspostles did, talk to God about your needs, and his Spirit will descend on you to enlighten you, purify you, console you, and lead you along the road to heaven.”

To seek God Alone in all things was Fr. Noailles’ motto and is the motto of the Holy Family Association ever since. Once again to Lay Associates present I say to you as you are inspired by your founder, place the participation of the Eucharist at the centre of your spiritual life where you are nourished by the bread of Life and the Word of Life. The Eucharist is above all the Sacrament of God’s love. His devotion to the Eucharist is closely linked to devotion to the Sacred Heart, the symbol of God’s love – thanksgiving for God’s infinite love which is symbolised in a “heart burning with love for us.” The Eucharist is the sacrament of union with Christ. We become united with Jesus in a wonderful way and we are transformed into him and become other Christs in our world today. It is also a remedy for weakness and a well-spring of power for us. It is the source of every good, of every happiness. It will lead us to live in God, for God and for our brothers and sisters.

Lay Associates of the Holy Family – be the visible sign of God’s love for humanity. Live your lives for God Alone. Remember often the Miraculous Benediction and time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament opening your hearts to Jesus’ divine love for you. At this Mass of Our Lady of All Graces turn often to your heavenly Mother who cares for you with a motherly love beyond all imagining. Talk often to her and ponder the mysteries of her Son in your heart. May Joseph, the worker, provider and supporter, full of love and humility, standing by the side of Mary – may he give you the strength to work tirelessly with and for the poor and needy in our own country and thoughtout the world.

I finish now with a prayer from Fr. Pierre, your Founder :

O Jesus, my love and only portion; grant that I may esteem and seek only you alone. Be my strength in struggles, my consolation in troubles, and my refuge in desertion by creatures. Be everything for me in this life and in the next…. O God, grant that I may love You and only You alone; take my heart and the hearts of all my daughters; set them on fire with your love! Love, O Love of Jesus, how beautiful you are!