26/2/14 Emmanuel 2014

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Speaking Notes of Archbishop Martin


Crosscare Migrant Centre, Dublin, 26th February 2014


“Before coming here this morning I wanted to check that I had my facts and figures correct and that I was on-focus about exactly what Emmanuel is, both in its original inspiration and in what those who participate in it consider it to be.


So I asked around my own staff what they understood Emmanuel to be.  I was told, quite correctly, that it is an initiative of the Archdiocese of Dublin on liturgical music, in which almost 60 second level schools from right across the diocese take part, from Arklow to Balbriggan, from Dunlavin to Swords and many schools in Dublin city and county, including this year Saint Mary’s Girls School for the Deaf.    All correct information!     But the best answer I got was: “What is Emmanuel?  It’s learning Church music in a fun kind of way”.


There is a sense in which in so many ways the Church has lost its sense of fun.  Pope Francis never lost his sense of fun, which he skilfully uses to disarm those who would want to make the Church a place for the dull and the stolid.


My first hope this morning, therefore, is that those who take part in Emmanuel this year will thoroughly enjoy themselves.  It is one of the biggest annual gatherings of secondary school pupils across Ireland, in which all take part, not as spectators, but as active and enthusiastic participants in a common project.  It is good to see that this can be achieved within a specifically catechetical and religious context.


There has been controversy recently about the place of religious education within the busy current school curriculum.  But if we get stuck just in discussions about the hours and minutes – and I am not saying that this is not important – we may assert our legitimate rights, but miss out on the enthusiasm and the participatory dimension which religious education should foster.


Faith is not conformism.  Faith must be creative and imaginative.  Faith formation involves not passive learning, but an involvement where the young person can establish bridges between his or her own life and ambition and talent, and the message of Jesus Christ and his truth, which truly makes us free.


The challenge for the faith community here in Dublin is to ensure that our faith education is not simply passive provision of knowledge and information but something challenging and deeply personal.  Faith education must however also lead beyond the purely personal into commitment inspired by the Christian faith to be lead a different life style – a demanding one, a counter cultural one, a generous one, one in which excellence in education and the flourishing of personal talent break out into an understanding that the gifts we have are to be used to create a different world.  Education does not begin and end with just myself; education is about how I flourish through giving myself and my talents for the common good of all.


A gathering around liturgical music can lead to a deeper understanding of the basic roots of that music and the wisdom it contains, especially the wisdom of the psalms which have been the songs of believers for centuries, as they reflect on how God cares for his people on their life’s journey.


Finally there can be no real understanding of liturgical music which does not lead the young person to a sense of prayer and participation in the worship life of the Church.  Liturgical music can make a good concert, but the real concert must be a concert of worship of God in the liturgy of the Church, which must not be dull and stolid, but must also pass through fun to true joy and fulfilment in Jesus Christ.” ENDS