ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has questioned if the Church’s contribution to society will increasingly be sidelined by the state on the basis of “the one who pays determines the entire tune.”
In his homily at the launch of the visit of the relics of St Anthony of Padua to Ireland, the Archbishop warned that as Irish society becomes less explicitly religious the Church must learn a new path and not simply follow the culture of the day.
This, he said, “may mean robustly defending the Church’s rights.”
The Church of the Visitation in Dublin’s Fairview was packed to overfill yesterday as Archbishop Martin concelebrated Mass with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, and Fr Mario Conte who is accompanying the relics - a small piece of bone from the Saint’s rib and a layer of St Anthony’s cheek skin - around six venues in Ireland.
The Padua-based Franciscan friar said the relics of the Saint, who died in 1231, brought a message of hope to all those in Ireland badly affected by the recession.
“St Anthony was a person who knew the difficulties people had economically. In Padua in the 13th century there was a lot of desperation. People were resorting to money lenders to survive. Anthony was on the side of the poor. He was tough. He battled and challenged those who took advantage of the little people, especially the old people and women.”
After Mass, hundreds of devotees, from the elderly to young boy scouts, waited in line to venerate the relic contained in a gold reliquary of the Saint, who is one of the most popular in the Catholic Church.
One of these was Martin Jim McFadden (50) who travelled with his wife for five hours by bus from beyond Letterkenny in Co Donegal to reach Dublin especially for the occasion.
Explaining why he was willing to undertake a ten-hour round trip to venerate the relics, the former alcoholic attributed his sobriety and meeting his wife Liz to the intervention of the Saint.
“I was a lost soul. St Anthony helps people to find things. He helped me to find my sobriety and my wife and brought me back to the light,” he said.
He also attributed his miraculous recovery from a serious car accident in 1986 to the Saint. But the €90,000 compensation he received resulted in him “going on a continuous bender for over three years” due to his alcoholism.
“When I had it all spent and was penniless and at a low ebb I prayed again and I met Liz. She was sent from Heaven. I found sobriety and we married.”
He and his wife Liz have travelled to Padua to venerate the Saint’s relics and it was there that he had the Saint’s dying words “I see the Lord” tattooed on his arm.
Liz McFadden (50) told the Irish Independent: “There has always been a third person in our marriage – St Anthony.”
The 2013 tour will see the relics visit Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Belfast on 24 October before they cross to Britain.