Over 120 readers, promoters and friends of the Sacred Heart Messenger magazine from all over Ireland gathered at Mount St Anne’s, Killenard, Co. Laois on Saturday 18 June for the annual ‘Messenger Day of Joy’. The day long event was a wonderful success as all present joyfully mingled and shared conversations with guest speakers, staff members and contributors to the magazine. Bishop Denis Nulty and Fr Peter McVerry SJ were the keynote speakers on the day, delivering talks on ‘the Joy of the Gospel’ and ‘the God of Compassion’ respectively, while a variety of workshops addressing different aspects of faith were also part of the programme. Sr Mary Threadgold spoke about the issues that are encountered in later life, and strategies for coping with them; Eileen Kane gave an illustrated presentation on ‘The Arena Chapel Padua’; Fr Paddy Byrne spoke about ‘Faith and the Young’; while Fr Paddy Carberry SJ and Fr Donal Neary SJ led guided prayer sessions in the Chapel and prayer garden of the retreat centre.
Delivering his keynote address Bishop Nulty said it was a great joy for him to be present in the beautiful surroundings of Mount Saint Anne’s, “to applaud the promoters, readers, and friends of the Sacred Heart Messenger”. The large attendance present from all over the country was “a huge endorsement of our faith and what we believe in”, the Bishop said. He then recalled his own memories of delivering the Sacred Heart Messenger at the age of ten to parishioners in the village of Slane, and remarked “here I am 43 years later celebrating all that is good about our Gospel, about our faith and about that little Messenger”. Referring to Pope Francis’ exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (‘The Joy of the Gospel’), Bishop Nulty said that the Pope has made the Gospel of Joy “his mantra”, breaking down “in its simplest of terms what it might mean to be a follower of Christ, Christ person, Christian”, and giving an “overwhelmingly positive” message.
Outlining that Catholicism “is not a collection of prohibitions”, the Bishop said that the Church “is at her best is when she says yes to all that’s noble, decent, good and life-giving”. He explained that “when on occasion the Church has to say no to something, somewhere in its subtext, it’s because of a greater good”. He said that often the media today portrays the church, “as only being being interested in a few moral issues”. Therefore, the Bishop remarked, the Messenger “is more important today that at the time it was first published in 1888”, because “it creates an environment where the Church’s voice can be articulated and heard”.
During his keynote talk Peter McVerry SJ shared some of his reflections on the God of compassion, from working with homeless people. He said that Pope Francis “is bringing us back to the God of compassion that Jesus revealed in the Gospels”. According to Peter, the reason the Pope initiated the Year of Mercy was “to get the concept of the God of Compassion rooted in the mindset and consciousness of every Christian, and in the mindset and consciousness of every parish, and of every Christian Community”. What should unite us as Christians, according to Peter, is that “we share Jesus’ dream of building a world of justice and peace, of building a world where everyone can live in harmony caring for each other, sharing with each other and respecting each other”. We are called to try and love everybody he remarked, “not just those we like, not just our families, but every human being made in the image and likeness of God”.
Peter said that the poor offer us the greatest gift that anyone can give us, in that “they invite us to open our hearts to include them in our love”. If we do so we become more like God, Peter remarked, stating that “there is no greater gift can anyone offer us than the gift of becoming more like God”. He also explained how young people today, even though they may not go to Church, “show the real characteristics of Christians in their willingness to reach out to those who are in need”. Citing the example of students from Belvedere College who sleep out in O’Connell Street every Christmas raising money from homelessness, he said young people have “a great sense of fairness and justice”.
The day concluded with Mass celebrated by Bernard McGuckian SJ. During the Mass prayer intentions written by those who attended the day were prayed for, while silver and gold promoter pins were also presented to a number of promoters, in thanksgiving for their long service to the Messenger. The homily was given by Donal Neary SJ, editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger, who thanked all those who attended the day and expressed gratitude to those who read the magazine, who promote it, who sell it in various ways and pass it on to others. Describing the The Messenger as “more than a magazine”, he said that it seeks “unashamedly to make the love of Christ known, loved and served in our lives”. Donal explained how The Messenger is an icon that says more than just the picture. “It has a memory and a message of itself to people of faith”, he stated. It is a publication that always tries to be connected with human life and “to introduce to the wide love of God”, he remarked.
Referring to the 1916 editions of the Messenger Donal said there were not only faith based articles but the contents also included articles on ‘how to get the best out of your hens’ and ‘how to iron a blouse’. The Messenger gave a generation of Irish mothers home hints and costing a penny a month it was the only magazine many people could afford,”, said Donal as he explained how the variety of content is continued in the present day Messenger through the cookery and gardening features. The message of Saint Ignatius has always been “searching for God and finding God in all things, not just in the holy”, he said, explaining how “prayer is associated with life”. The Messenger, Donal remarked, has always been associated with the devotion to the Sacred Heart which “is part of our culture and part of where we have come from”. He outlined how the magazine has always tried to advance “that spirit of kindness and prayer”. “We are all one in Christ”, he concluded.