Brendan McManus SJ was the homilist for the Sacred Heart Novena in Gardiner Street, 26 May-6 June. Though not as well-known as the Novena of Grace, it drew modest numbers to its twice-daily masses. The novena finished on the feast of the Sacred Heart. Brendan drew on themes from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius to explain the devotion in contemporary terms using story telling based on his experience and using examples from his own writings.
Having a long history in Jesuit spirituality, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is described as a heart overflowing with love, ‘inflamed with love’, he said. As Parish Priest Gerry Clarke puts it: “the goal of the novena is to understand the love of the Sacred Heart for each one of us personally, and most importantly, to respond to that love by doing what Jesus did and by putting that love into practice in our lives. True devotion to the Sacred Heart is deeply apostolic.”
A member of the Down & Connor Homiletics Commission, Brendan was putting into practice the approach recommended by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gadium. The Pope recommends Lectio Divina for reading scripture and a dialectic approach to homily delivery – personal integration first and then prayerful consideration of language and method of communication. Accordingly, the use of story-telling and narrative was a way of presenting religious experience and allowing people to read their own life experience into the stories.
Reading out people’s petitions at the beginning of the Eucharist was a powerful testimony to the complexity of people’s lives and the seriousness of their prayer intentions. Fr Gerry Clarke introduced a meditation and time for reflection after communion, which people found helpful.