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Mission in Ministry at Knock Shrine, Ireland: ‘That They May have Life in Abundance’

Mission in ministry at Knock Shrine is based very much on being available and accessible to people who are attempting to taste the possibilities of life in abundance. Pilgrims come to the National Shrine at Knock from all over the world. Ireland at this time of its history represents the world in a way that can only be described as a prism of nationalities and cultures seeking life in abundance through what I call a connected spirituality.

The pilgrims who come to the national Shrine at Knock share their open wounds, their damaged lives, and their fractured spiritualties. They have a great desire for inner healing, a longing for rejuvenated spirituality, and a yearning for gentle restoration emotionally. They have expectations amid the pain and the hurt. The main artery for fulfilling these expectations and possibilities is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the sacrament of listening, the sacrament of empathy and the sacrament of revealing the love of God. This process of personal outpouring within the confines of the sacrament allows people to begin to glimmer the possibility of life in abundance.

As a Mill Hill Missionary it is a privilege and yet a huge responsibility to accompany people in this spiritual search. It is an immense grace to feel another’s pain, another’s brokenness, to gently bandage the open wounds of years of brokenness through the grace of God in his Sacrament of Reconciliation and Healing.

As a Mill Hill Missionary, I think it is a blessing to be an ear for the horrible stories of violence, sexual abuse, some of which were committed by a few fellow priests, and this a very raw lesson in practicing humility. I hear the entrapment of people in lives of slavery where men and women are drowning in a sea of addiction to online pornography. It is a blessing to be able to encourage those addicted to alcohol, cocaine, and other mind altering substances to seek treatment and the possibility of new beginnings.

It is a challenge to understand religious movements who devote their energies to questionable practices, devotions and beliefs, people who are consumed by restoring the church to a place of their imagining and to an illusory theology of their own making. These religious movements are driven and sponsored by agents of fear submerged beneath theologies of damnation and judgement where the abundance of life struggles to be born in their hearts.

It can be overwhelming to share in so much graphic pain and misery. I find myself asking, “Is it possible that all these people who have seen and experienced so much suffering to experience life in abundance”? What is life in abundance within the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How does a Marian Shrine offer life in abundance to its pilgrims? Do we the Mill Hill Missionaries bear witness to the abundance of life in the wounds of others in our mission ministries?

We are all looking for but we only find what we are looking for by being looked for. All of us are both accompanier and the one who is accompanied, we are both listener and the one listened to, we are both patient and doctor. The abundance of life is allowing ourselves to be found in the wounds, the struggles and the joys of our fellow pilgrims. The abundance of life is the realisation that as pilgrims we know that standing still is nowhere, and that we need to keep moving one step at a time in the abundance of God’s grace.

The ministry at Knock Shrine is a ministry of enabling people to begin experiencing the abundance of life and this indeed is a truly missionary activity. It is a huge responsibility and yet a humbling privilege to engage in the possibilities of the abundance of life and it’s materialisation in the life of a fellow human being that was created in the image and likeness of God.

The abundance of life in isolation is futile. Our sharing in the abundance of life, our prayer, our ministries as missionaries have to be connected to who we are and to what we do and to where we are going as we journey on the pilgrimage of life. The abundance of life is all about fraternity in building the presence of the Kingdom here among us, the word made flesh in the wounds of each other.

All Missionary Life has to be connected life. Our missionary lives have to enter the wounds of our ordinary daily lives; we have to enter the streams of pain and the oceans of hurt caused by a few of our fellow priests and their evil actions, “the thief comes to steal, and kill and destroy” John 10:10.

All Missionary Life has to be connected because connected life is forever evolving and changing through what we say and through what we do and by how we live and seek the abundance of life, and by how we share that abundance of life in a connected way.

Mission in ministry at Knock Shrine is being part of the prism of a broken humanity that seeks the abundance of life. In sharing in the deep wounds of society we as missionaries participate in and live that mission in the sense of “Ministering In Society Sincerely Inviting Other Narratives”. We must always find ourselves sincerely rooted in the narratives of others to deepen our own understanding of what it means to be missionary. The abundance of life is all about sharing in the ordinary not the spectacular. It is in the deep wounds that we feel the possibilities of healing, that we feel the possibilities of change and that we feel the possibilities of connectedness that makes us missionary.

At the Shrine at Knock our ministry through the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Healing provides the gateway to the abundance of life as it is a visible means to the possibility of new life in a connected way.

“The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I come that they may have life, life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). It is time for us to stop being the hired hands and develop the heart and the soul of the good shepherd in our mission ministries. Let the abundance of life flow through our lives. Let us be the possibilities of life in abundance by our missionary lives.

Denis C Hartnett MHM

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