The Beatification 3rd September 2000
Speeches / Homelies
Speech of Mr Woods, Minister
of Education and the Sciences of Ireland
Irish Embassy to the Holy See
September 2000 (english)
Reverend Fathers and Sisters
Ladies and Gentlemen
I want to welcome you all tonight to the Villa Spada, the Embassy of Ireland at the Holy See. Many of you have come a long way, from Belgium, from the United States, from Ireland and elsewhere. To you and our Roman guests I say "Céad Míle Fáilte", a hundred thousand welcomes.
We are celebrating the beatification of an Irishman, Dom Columba Marmion. But like many other Irish holy people in the past, Dom Marmion chose to live a large part of his life abroad, in Belgium. The name, Columba, that Dom Marmion took in religion, is the name of a great Irish Saint, who in the sixth century went into voluntary exile for the glory of God, and died as Abbot of Iona in Scotland. Throughout the ages, the Biblical call to Abraham to go "from your country and kindred" to another land was a powerful stimulus to Irish men and women in the religious life.
The Irish word for "pilgrim" is "deórad. That meant someone who departed from the homeland to seek moral perfection. This was not to go on a pilgrimage in the usual sense, but rather to be in a "state of pilgrimage" for years or for a lifetime abroad. So also Dom Marmion sought perfection in the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium. That eminent Benedictine scholar, Dom Louis Gougaud, in his book "Gaelic Pioneers of Christianity" chronicles the lives of earlier Irishmen and women who sought that "state of pilgrimage" in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe, - St. Romault of Mechlin, St. Fursa of Peronne, St. Dympna of Geel and many others. Indeed, the great St. Benedict, the father of Western Monasticism, built on the contribution made by those Irish pioneers, especially St. Columbanus.
If Dom Marmion spent his mature years as a priest in Belgium at Maredsous, the memory of his work in Ireland is also very much alive today. In his youth, he was moulded by the Jesuit Fathers at Belvedere College in Dublin. He was a student at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Dublin. He took his primary degree at the old Royal University, later to become the National University of Ireland. He went on to live and to study at the Pontifical Irish College and to take further degrees at the College of Propaganda here in Rome, where he was ordained. As a priest of Dublin diocese, he ministered to the parish of Dundrum. After a year in that parish, Dom Marmion was appointed Professor of Philosophy at Holy Cross Seminary, Clonliffe.
In all of these Irish places Dom Marmion is remembered and revered. Marmion House, a large Day Care Centre for the aged and infirm in Dundrum is named after him. The Marmion Society, represented here by their President, Mrs. Olive Daly and by many of their members, are doing excellent work to support the Centre.
The Benedictine Abbey at Glenstal in PaleGreenrick that has provided Irish youth with quality education for many years, commemorates the life and spirit of Dom Columba Marmion in a very practical way. As the Minister responsible for education, I can say how much we appreciate the contribution that Benedictine education and scholarship, in the past and in the present, have made to Ireland - in particular the Benedictine Fathers in Glenstal and the Benedictine Sisters at Kylemore. I should mention here that Father Mark Tierney of Glenstal has recently published a biography of Dom Marmion that it as readable as it is timely.
It is an honour for me to have been selected by the Government of Ireland
to represent them - and through them the Irish people - at the Ceremony of
Beatification. I say the Irish people, because in coming here I represent
all Irish men and women of good will, who in the words of the Irish
Constitution "respect and honour religion". These are the citizens of what
the poet Séamus Heaney calls "The Republic of Conscience", a non-sectarian
Republic with "no porter, no interpreters" and where one's only Custom's
allowance is oneself.
In our time and especially in Europe, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue have become established, in an irreversible way. That great Pope, John XXIII, now also beatified, set us firmly on that road. We may all occasionally feel frustrated by disappointments and by the slow pace of progress, but it is indeed encouraging to note the developments in ecumenism internationally and especially in my own country, Ireland, where this has been and will continue to be an important factor in the process of peace and reconciliation, north and south.
In the new Europe, as well as the new Ireland, which has become increasingly multi-racial and multi-religious, I welcome, also, progress in inter-religious understanding. I commend the strong moral voice of the Holy See in promoting such progress. This is of very great importance for the present and future social harmony of all our societies. The visit to the Holy Land by Pope John Paul the II, his "Pilgrimage to the Places Linked to the History of Salvation", earlier this year, has given encouragement and support for increased dialogue within the Christian House, itself, and between the three great Abrahamic religious - Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
This year is, of course, a special year, the Year of the Great Jubilee: it registers two thousand years of Christianity and the beginning of a new Millenium. From Ireland, as from all over the world, pilgrims have flocked to Rome. I like to think back a thousand years ago to those Irish pilgrims in very different times who found hospitality at the Benedictine Monastery of the Trinity of the Scotti or Irish, on the Palatine Hill. In the Annals of Ulster, there is mention of one Abbot, "Eoghan Head of the Irish Monks in Rome" under the year 1095. And so through the ages, Irish religious in Rome in their turn have given hospitality to Irish pilgrims to this City. Today, the Irish Houses in Rome and their active Jubilee Committee are a testimony to that tradition. In Ireland, we cherish that long Irish connection with the Holy See and with Rome.
Margot, my wife, and I, personally, were very moved by the Ceremony on Sunday and by our reception by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. I should like to take this opportunity to thank those at the Curia, at the Pontifical Irish College, at our Embassies - Belgian and Irish - and all who have made our visit to Rome, and that of all the Irish visitors, a memorable one.
Dom Marmion has been called "the thinking person's saint" and his works and writings would suggest this. I will think of him as a saintly diocesan priest who became a monk and who set out "to bring God to people and to bring people to God".
Note : For the reference to S. Heaney's "Republic of Conscience", see "The Haw Lantern".Next