The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, has been overwhelmed by the stories and examples of goodness, kindness and mercy he has heard of individuals who put the corporal and spiritual works of mercy into practice in their daily lives.
The Archbishop invited people to share with him the names and work of
individuals putting mercy into practice so that they could be
remembered at a special #BeMercy Mass of Thanksgiving on Saturday
evening in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh.
During the Mass, Mercy nun, Sr Consilio Fitzgerald and Trócaire
director, Éamonn Meehan, received the St Patrick’s medal on behalf of
all those who are ‘doing mercy’ in Ireland today.
The Archbishop said Sr Consilio had shown such powerful leadership in
the work of mercy through her teams at Cuan Mhuire centres all over the
country while Éamonn Meehan and Trócaire had for more than forty years
been doing the work of mercy and justice on our behalf all around the
In his homily, Archbishop Martin said he had been told about people
of all ages who are reaching out in love and charity, for example, to
the poor and needy, to the sick and elderly, to the anxious and the
“At our Mass this evening we give thanks to God that there are
hundreds, thousands even, of people living and working among us who are
doing something beautiful for God, allowing God to write his mercy into
the world through them and in return, seeing the face of God in the
people they serve,” he said.
Of Sr Consilio and Cuan Mhuire’s work, the Archbishop said, “They
reach out to women and men with addictions, particularly to alcohol and
drugs – it is truly a work of God’s mercy. By being merciful and loving
to those who have lost control of their lives and their addiction, Cuan
Mhuire provides a space where people can humbly admit their need for
help and support and for grace outside of themselves to put their lives
back together again.”
Noting that ‘Trócaire’ means ‘mercy’, he said the Catholic agency
helps to restore dignity to those who have to flee their homes and
villages because of war, persecution and violence.
“Trócaire is there in the aftermath of natural disasters like
earthquakes, tsunamis or hurricanes to help people pick up the pieces
and begin again. This is indeed the work of mercy,” Dr Martin said.
But he stressed that Sr Consilio and Éamonn Meehan were not receiving the medal for themselves, or even for their organisations.
“They are receiving it on behalf of the hundreds, thousands of people
who are doing the work of mercy among us every day, often without any
recognition or praise – people that you and I know who are angels of
mercy, bringing love, joy, compassion and hope into our broken world.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin said that he had heard about groups in the
parishes of Armagh and beyond who provide food banks, soup kitchens and
other help for the homeless and those who are struggling with financial
hardship and worries.
“I learned about those who work with adults and children with
intellectual and physical disabilities and special needs; there are so
many people in our homes and nursing facilities who give time to the
elderly, women and men with alzheimers or other forms of dementia – I’ve
heard mention of addiction services to those who struggle with alcohol,
drugs, gambling or other addictions; people have shared stories with me
about carers, nurses and doctors whose daily work is not just a job or
profession, but an act of love and compassion – a work of mercy.”
“Several people spoke about how they and their families have been
supported at moments of tragedy or sudden bereavement; others mentioned
the counselling and helpline services that are available to those who
are struggling mentally, even to the point of considering taking their
own lives – and we have individuals and groups who reach out to families
and loved ones of those who have died by suicide.”
He said he had also learned that there are many good people who are
doing spiritual works of mercy – praying for others in prayer groups and
in Eucharistic adoration; teaching their children and grandchildren
about the faith – sometimes having to challenge their behaviour, but
advising and instructing them in a loving and compassionate manner.
“The work of teachers in our Catholic schools who support parents in
handing on the faith was highlighted to me. Some of you wrote about
people who are there to comfort and console you at a time of loss or
bereavement; others told me about the work of counsellors who have
helped them heal the wounds of relationships in their marriage or
family. It was reassuring for me that so many priests and religious were
mentioned – many people simply wanted to nominate their own parish
priest or parish sister as an example of someone they know who is
merciful, as our Father is merciful.”
He said it was heartening to notice people mentioning their family members.
“One man simply responded to my request for people who do mercy by
writing back just two words: ‘my wife’; a mother told me about her
teenage son who helps her monitor her injections and sugar levels every
day as she has severe diabetes; two young children told me about their
granny who helps them with their homework and teaches them their
prayers; I’ve read about people giving up their work to take care of
their elderly parents and of a woman who sends a card or letter of
encouragement every month from America to her cousin whose husband died
three years ago.”
He observed that a “startling feature” of so many of the examples he
had been given is that most people do their works of mercy without
wanting any recognition or reward – “they care gently behind the scenes,
bringing the merciful love of Christ and the joy of the Gospel to those
who need it most”.
“In particular I am struck by the generosity of spirit which
characterises the voluntarism amongst our young people, our mothers and
fathers who every day, within our very own communities, give of their
personal time in order to manage schools, sporting clubs, youth
associations as well as the Church at parish level,” the Archbishop of