Today, during the Apostolic Visitation to Tuam, there was a visit to the Carmelite Monastery Tranquilla at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.
Following the Eucharist and a light break_"fast" (not the "black fast" the sisters were following), we had a wonderful exchange on the challenges facing the Church in Ireland and some suggestions from contemplative nuns who have a remarkable feel for the pulse of the country's faithful.
Msgr. Joseph Quinn is the Administrator (Rector) of the Shrine and concelebrated the morning Mass with Father James Conn, S.J., my assistant, and me. When it came the time to bless the ashes, I was slightly unsettled when I saw what seemed a paste that I was to bless and impose on the foreheads.
The matter was resolved when Monsignor took up a cork which had been shaped to represent a cross, dipped it into the paste and applied it to my forehead with the words, "Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return".
These corks imprint striking representations of the cross on brows of young and old, lay, religious and clergy alike; they are of various sizes and shapes and eliminate the need to thoroughly rinse one's thumb as happens in Canada.
Here are two of the cross imprints:
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Msgr. Quinn told me of his roster of twenty-seven confessors who labour at the Shrine greeting all who come to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and, when I expressed a desire to make a Lenten confession, he offered to take me over to the Reconciliation Chapel where several priests were on duty.
Not only was I impressed with the celebrant's warm welcome and good advice, I delighted in the beautiful structure of the complex, which allows up to fifty confessors to be on duty for penitents at any time (this is especially appreciated on the occasion of national and diocesan confessions when as many as 5000 confessions are heard at the Shrine).
|The entrance to the Reconciliation Chapel|
|The chapel in the reconciliation centre; Mass is not offered here, but there are penitential services|
|The reconciliation rooms ring the room; there are 2 rows of pews with kneelers and seating outside each "confessional"|
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To one and all a Blessed Lent, whose observance includes fast & abstinence today and on Good Friday, prayer and works of self-sacrifice, as well as almsgiving as each will determine for himself or herself, so that after 40 days--and not counting Sundays--we may celebrate the Easter mysteries with "mind and heart renewed"!
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Prayer for Ash Wednesday
Grant O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that as we take up the battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord.