The Bishop of Ferns has remembered “with gratitude” the men and women of 1916, reminding people that they were fathers, mothers, sons and daughters and faith played an influential role in their lives.
“On this centenary anniversary we remember all those who lost their lives on that fateful Easter week, the men, women, and children who died on the streets of Dublin, the equivalent number of Irishmen who died that week on the Western Front, the British soldiers and R.I.C. who perished in the Rising, many of whom were Irish,” said Bishop Denis Brennan during his homily on Monday, 28th March in St Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
Bishop Brennan recalled a number of defining moments in Irish history, including the 1798 Rebellion, the Great Famine of the 1840s and the 1916 Rising. “The men and women of 1916 dreamed of a social order which recognised and promoted the material needs of people but they also understood that in the words of scripture ‘man does not live on bread alone’.”
The bishop noted how the 1916 Proclamation is explicit in its recognition of the transcendent, beginning, ‘In the name of God’ and concluding, ‘We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God.’
He pointed out that the personal lives of the public figures that were involved in the Rising were sometimes forgotten. “We are so used to seeing them in their public role we forget how they loved and were loved, belonged to, and are still missed by their families.
“The poignant lyrics of songs like Grace, describing the love of Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford and their wedding in Kilmainham jail seven hours before he was executed, brings this home to us in a very moving way, especially the chorus line ‘there won’t be time for us to share our love, for we must say goodbye’.”
Bishop Brennan added that although the men and women of 1916 are gone from us physically and separated from us in time, their memory remains, as does their love of country, their love of freedom, and their willingness to risk everything for what they believed in.
“In looking at the 1916 leaders and their motivation let us not be afraid to acknowledge the influential role faith played in their lives. As Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has observed recently, ‘each of the leading figures had a personal story of faith which accompanied them on their journey’.
“We owe it to the legacy of 1916 to do it in the spirit of the Proclamation itself which states ‘its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation…cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’.”