2013 May Novena – Homily 8

Fr Kevin Conway SMA spoke on the penultimate night of our annual Novena in honour of Our Lady (Friday, 24th May 2013) which was particularly dedicated to praying for students who are undergoing exams in the coming weeks. Using the theme, Our Lady, Help of Christians, Fr Kevin shared the following thoughts with the congregation at St Joseph’s SMA Church, Blackrock Road, Cork.

Mother Mary is the help of every individual Christian. When a child is frightened or hurt or in any need it runs to its mother and mother always helps. When a child cries for help their mother rushes to its assistance. That is just what Mary, Help of Christians, does for each one of us. When we are attacked by the enemies of our soul or body, she hurries to our help.

As Mother of God’s children, Mary has responded by helping Christians throughout the ages. She has done this by coming to the aid of individuals, families, towns, kingdoms and nations. 

We have all heard of how Mary, Our Mother has helped Christians all over the world when she appeared to many people in different situations.

After proving her maternal help, throughout the centuries, Our Lady has continued to appear in hundreds of places throughout the world mainly during the 20th century, Lourdes and Fatima being the most famous apparitions and of course Knock here in Ireland. She has brought help from Heaven, and has warned her children to be active in prayer and penance as a formula for peace. She has stressed that her children must pray the Holy Rosary daily.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine responded to my Facebook status, where I had mentioned something a friend of mine had written to me in a card. Another friend of mine, who is a teacher, said that when she had to leave the school where she was doing her student teaching, one of the students sent her a card that said, “I don’t want you to live.” Of course, the child didn’t intend it as a death threat, but she really meant to write “I don’t want you to leave” but she lacked a little in the spelling department. Sometimes the sentiment gets lost when it’s written down.

This is why when God wanted to save humanity from sin, He didn’t just send messages, He sent His Son. When Jesus wanted to continue His mission in the world after His ascension, He didn’t start a letter-writing campaign, but He sent people to testify to what had happened to them. When the Apostles passed on their faith to those who would succeed them, they didn’t do it simply by writing it all down for others to memorize without thinking about it, but they sent people. Paul, Barnabas, Judas, Silas were all sent to the start-up Christian communities not to pass on what Jesus had written, because Jesus didn’t write anything except what he scribbled in the sand in front of that woman who committed adultery. But they went to pass on the experience they had with the person of Jesus and how he had changed them. Educating people about the person of Jesus was the most interesting and difficult adventure in their lives because it wasn’t a matter of teaching them what to believe, but it was a matter of offering themselves.

We don’t need more people in this world to parcel out facts and deliver the rules, but we need authentic witnesses who have been changed by the person of Jesus through Our Lady, help of Christians. We need them to be bold and to be faithful to what has happened to them. We need people who are capable of seeing farther than others…people who have the ability to see life in all of its beauty.  Someone like the Late Donal Walsh, who inspired many people in the way he lived his life through the suffering of terminal cancer. He inspired many people to see the beauty around them and to embrace life rather than take their own lives.

He said that he always looked at life from the top of God’s mountain; here we have a spirituality of prayer, openness and full of beauty for life.

I know that at the beginning of exams it is always good to pray, prayer relaxes us, prayer allows us to stop and enjoy God’s company and love.

What do we discover when we pray? That God has given us so much more in life that we can ever imagine. That when we trust Him, we are completely safe.

Sometimes the pressure of a looming exam can seem overwhelming. It may be that your test is the culmination of a year or even more of study. Perhaps your future college or university place depends on the outcome. In such circumstances it can feel like what you are about write will decide the outcome of the next chapter of your life.

Praying before an important exam enables us to gain perspective on our life.

No matter what the result of the examination, God will still love us, protect us. and walk with us. We can trust Him with our lives because he has created us and ultimately knows what is best for us. And he promises to be with us, forever.

I have always thought of Our Lady as a constant means of help in my studies even before I built up a relationship with her in the seminary. I think of her as Our Help all the time. And now I commend her to all those who are studying or about to sit exams. Mary, having spent her years in the temple as a young girl studying the scriptures, has always been made as the patron of studies, has she not?

This seems to me, at a time like this, as a very great role for her to play, because the things we now have to study in the world are rather tremendous and new.

She is not only a Mother, and Help of Christians, but a mother of all the joy and all the excitement and satisfaction to be found in study and in understanding. Her own relation to these things was joyful, and her whole being is playful and joyful. She is also Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mercy, but in this relationship with studies there is that of joyful discovery.

We live in a world in which discovery is not only a source of joy but discovery is now possible on a fantastic new scale. In the Electric Age, the amount of information available to man about himself and about the rest of mankind and about the world we live in – the amount of information available instantly and totally at all times is beyond anything that previous ages ever knew. So I think of her as having an especially important role to play in this age of tremendous learning.

Let us continue to call on Our Lady, Help of Christians, in these sorrowful times, in this time of exams, or wherever our journey in life is at now, tonight, so that her Immaculate Heart will triumph and her Divine Son Jesus will reign in the hearts of us all.

Our Lady, help of Christians: Pray for us!