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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Irish Impressions: The novena ends, the tradition continues

On Friday, I had my turn in the caravan, or the motor homes outside the church in the parking lot. During the novena, they make a Redemptorist available nearly all day long to anyone who might want to go to confession (even during Mass) or seek spiritual counseling.

A woman came in and I noticed her grimace. She gave me some of the blank petition papers that are handed out during the novena and a pen. She told me that she suffers from migraines and can’t even write.

"Would you write my petitions?" she asked.

I felt like a psalmist-scribe, putting words around her needs, worries, hopes and prayers.

Friday afternoon, I had the chance to see a little bit of the beautiful, green, Irish countryside. The rector, Father Adrian, took me to the famous Cliffs of Moher and Kilkee in County Clare. It was simply breathtaking…

There was quite a lot of energy around the last day of the novena on Saturday. The national radio had a half-hour program dedicated to the novena and aired clips of several Redemptorists preaching, including myself, as well as lay people commenting on this annual phenomenon of faith.

On Saturday morning, before the special Mass of the Anointing of the Sick at 11:30 a.m., I was preaching at a neighboring church (St. Mary’s) and met a visiting priest from the next diocese over. I was shocked and proud when, during the recitation of the Prayer to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, he knew the words by heart. The Redemptorists have certainly made their mark in Ireland! 

For the 11:30 a.m. session at Mount St. Alphonsus, the elderly and infirm, in wheelchairs, with canes and walkers, filled the church to capacity. People were sitting on the steps of the sanctuary as there was no more room in the pews or in the overflow hall.

Most of the Redemptorists — perhaps as many as 18 — were on hand, and we went into the pews to bless the sick with oil. I found simple smiles and strong faith, looks of gratitude and postures of prayer so moving, I felt blessed myself. No wonder people of all ages are attracted to these nine days.

For example, I followed Orla and Tadhg out of the church one day. The siblings are in their late teens, and won’t miss the novena. Why?

"Out of gratitude," said she. "Out of habit," said he. Their parents had taken them there since they were small, and despite no parents present, the tradition continues.

— Fr. Daniel Francis, C.Ss.R.

More "Irish Impressions":

The novena begins (6/18/10)
Knowing they’re "not alone" (6/19/10)
A day for the young and the young-at-heart (6/21/10)
Hope for the future (6/23/10)
The prayers of the faithful (6/25/10)