Mass on the Retirement of Prof. Gerard Gillen

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 Twenty Sixth Sunday 2018


Homily Notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland,  Pro-Cathedral, 30th September 2018


“The Spirit comes to us in unexpected ways.  We saw that in the first reading from the Book of Numbers.  The Spirit came on the two disciples who were not in the appointed place and with the designated group when the Spirit came down on Moses.  These two disciples receive the Spirit unknown to the others and they begin to prophecy, to the surprise – even to the resentment – of the others, who felt that they had some right to define and to limit the work of the Spirit.

Again, in the Gospel reading we saw how the disciples are angry and perhaps jealous because someone they did not know was preaching the message of Jesus and healing in his name.

There are many ways in which we too can try to imprison the work of the Spirit within our own ways of thinking and acting.  We can be tempted to judge others who think differently than we do.  When we become judgmental, we are actually saying to ourselves that we are somehow better than others are.

The Gospel reminds us that in the plan of Jesus it is the children, the weakest, the most exposed, those who are at risk who will have first place in the kingdom.

There is no place for arrogance in the Christian life.  The Church must resist any temptation to be arrogant.   The Church must be and appear to all to be the place where the weak, where sinners, where those who are struggling feel not just welcome but rather become an integral part of a loving community that supports, sustains and carries.  The Spirit appears in unexpected places, in unexpected ways and in words that come from unexpected voices.

Pope Francis himself, in strong words, warned the Irish Bishops not to repeat “the attitudes of aloofness and clericalism that at times in your history have given the real image of an authoritarian, harsh and autocratic Church”.

We live in times where there is a change in the religious culture of Ireland. For some this causes uncertainty and even anxiety.  There is always a danger in such a situation that some close in on themselves, and develop a siege mentality and rush for comfort in what is familiar, avoiding risk and perhaps failing to allow the newness of Jesus to enter into and challenge our hearts.

An inward looking, a ghetto church would be just a religious sect and not the Church of Jesus Christ.  No matter what circumstances the Church lives in, it must always remain true to the message of Jesus that is a message of love and of good news.

Our message is not just an intellectual message. It is one that must reach out and change men and women into people who reflect, however imperfectly, the God of love revealed in Jesus Christ. The language of the Church community must always be marked by a style that reflects that love.

Jesus still sends the Spirit in unexpected ways and not always, where we expect it.   Sadly, in the Church today one encounters a language of polarization that can be bitter and personalised and at times, I would say borders on being hate-filled and destructive.  It is a polarisation that excludes and divides people and smothers true prophecy.    The truth of Jesus Christ can only be spoken in charity.

This morning we gather to express our appreciation for the contribution to the liturgical life of this Pro-Cathedral and to the liturgical and musical culture of this diocese of Professor Gerard Gillen who retires after 42 years as Titular Organist.  Prof. Gillen has made a truly outstanding contribution.  The presence here of Uachtaráin na h’Éireann, Michael D. Higgins, and representatives of Maynooth University and other academic institutions  are a tribute to the work of Professor  Gillen.

Music open hearts.  Music touches hearts, whether in the contemplative and reflective moments or in brilliant and rousing notes that open our hearts in worship of the greatness of our God.  Prof. Gillen is a maestro of both.

There is something touching of the fact that in his work he has never placed himself at the centre of his attainment.  He uplifted hearts from a gallery from which he was rarely seen. He was a true maestro but never a prima donna.  His humanity and his talent reached out widely with the power of unpretentiousness.

I hesitate to use the term retirement, as I know two things.  Firstly, the work, the presence, and the gifts of Prof Gillen remain in time and will have an enduring place in the extraordinary of the musical tradition of this Church.  Secondly, I am sure that Prof Gillen will continue to dedicate himself to music in many different ways.

Prof. Gillen was a truly talented musician but also a great teacher.  Over the years, he has dedicated himself to instilling in young people a passion for what music means and to an awareness of what quality music brings to worshipping communities.  We thank him for his dedication and we thank God for his talents and for the human gifts that we all appreciated.

Prof. Gillen’s work is set in the unusual framework of two Papal visits.  He played in the Phoenix Park in 1979 and he played here in the Pro-Cathedral on the visit of Pope Francis.  It is an unusual framework that captured a life’s dedication to ecclesial service to the beauty and dignity of music in the liturgy. ENDS