A pity: I was unable to get to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy last week because of a clashing invitation to talk in Limerick, which I had not visited since the mid-1990s. But the Conference there held under the auspices of Catholic Voice and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest was ...
The Conference was everything ... informative, moving, and happy, and very efficiently organised. If, this year, you were in two minds, and ended up not going, I urge you not to make the same mistake next year! I was glad to meet friends ... from a fortnight ago when I visited Connecticut and New York; from my annual jaunts to Pantasaph in Wales for the LMS Latin Course (I hope people are signing up to that). And to make new friends.
The star speaker was Raymond Cardinal Burke, whom I had not met before. Naturally, I was intrigued by the thought of getting to know him; and I was impressed by what an unaffected, affable and kindly man he is. And by how well he knew how many people. He clearly has a profoundly important world-wide ministry among people and groups who are concerned to restore Catholic authenticity ... for example, after the very taxing Conference he drove off to visit my friends at Silverstream ... whose Prior, Dom Mark Kirby, will by then have got back from the Colloquium of the English Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, at which he was a speaker. And at which my Ordinary and Father in God was one of the Celebrants. A small world ... no! a big and growing world of prayer and sanctity and orthodox witness, but yet with an engagingly 'family' feel to it. How can one not be full of optimism about the future of the Church?
Cardinal Burke was, of course, the Eucharistic Celebrant on Sunday, Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, at the Institute Church of the Sacred Heart. It was originally Limerick's Jesuit Church, back in the generous days before Vatican II when the religious orders all had their city-centre churches and so the lucky Faithful had a rich and generous choice of varying charisms. The Church is beautifully restored, although the Clergy House must still be an immensely spartan environment in which to live. They are at the top of a rather grand street of nineteenth century houses, largely unspoilt, and the Church possesses a fine renaissance facade in rose-coloured stone. Unusually for today, it is kept open for visits and prayer (as all Catholic churches were when I was a boy and learned so much by browsing through the CTS pamphlets at the back). I wonder what O'Connell Street was called before it was called O'Connell Street ... his statue outside the Church reminded me of happy days visiting the Liberator's family home nestling beside Kenmare Water at Derrynane in Co Kerry.
I was grateful to Canon Lebocq, and his brethren, for their Eucharistic hospitality, and for the genuine warmth of their welcome. Having watched video clips of some very accurate marksmanship, I now understand why it is a bad idea to tangle with the Institute! And what a memorable meal! This was my first experience of the Institute, and it was an impressive one. It must be a missionary experience in itself for the people of Limerick to see young clergy in their streets wearing cassocks!