Today I was privileged to celebrate mass at Ballintubber Abbey, joining the long line of Catholics who have participated in the Eucharist continuously for nearly 800 years. The Abbey Church has sustained prayer through many dark times and the devoted Catholics who have prayed here for so many years should be held up as an example of what it means to truly understand the value of the Eucharist.
My estimation is that our celebration of the mass today was quite easy in comparison to other times in the 800 year history of the Abbey Church. We arrived by coach, were met by a sacristan and celebrated mass without interruption. The history of the Church has had more difficult times, including being burned by the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell and surviving a time when the Catholic Church was under such persecution that priests were hunted down and killed for doing exactly what we did this morning.
Celebrating the Eucharist in a place where Christians were once under persecution is humbling. It was a reminder to me that I should never take for granted the great gift it is to be free to worship in peace. That same freedom of worship is currently being assaulted in our country. It is my sincere hope that Christians will stand together to protect that freedom. But if we lose the battle, I hope we will have the same courage as those who continued to gather for worship in Ballintubber Abbey, even when it meant risking their lives to do so. Following in their footsteps will lead us to the victory that is won only by Christ.