Pilgrims at the special Mass on the Hill of Slane celebrated by Archbishop Eamon Martin to mark World Youth Day. ALL PHOTOS Courtesy of Damien Scallon.

Archbishop calls on pilgrims to be like 'ambassadors' for the Christian faith

Eamon Martin addressed thousands who gathered on the Hill of Slane for a special Mass to celebrate World Youth Day while Dana sang her new song for St Patrick, ‘Light the Fire’

Thousands of pilgrims gathered on the Hill of Slane on Sunday and were urged to be ambassadors for the Christian faith just like Saint Patrick.

The Archbishop Eamon Martin, Saint Patrick’s successor in Armagh and leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, addressed a crowd of around 3,500 who came to pray, celebrate mass, and to hear Eurovision’s Dana sing her new song for St Patrick, Light the Fire.

Dana, one of Ireland’s best known singer-songwriters, was inspired by the story of Saint Patrick and how as a missionary he lit the first Easter fire at Slane, Co Meath in 433AD in defiance of the High King at Tara.

During the ceremonies, the Archbishop lit a fire on the hillside and four candles to symbolise the four provinces and Archdioceses in Ireland.

Archbishop Martin told the crowd that Saint Patrick could not keep quiet about his faith in God despite great challenges. “Brothers and sisters, we cannot be silent. We have work to do! The work of God. The work of salvation.”

Calling for a new evangelisation in Ireland, the Archbishop acknowledged that the Gospel of faith, hope and love preached by Saint Patrick had been obscured by the “terrible sins and crimes” of past abuse which had so many tragic consequences for victims.

Speaking on what was World Youth Day, and the Feast of the Transfiguration, Archbishop Martin acknowledged that this was a “purifying” and “humbling time” for the Church in Ireland.

“Our need is great,” he said. “Sadly many sons and daughters of Ireland are drifting away from the faith. Some may even have abandoned God. How much our land needs the uplifting power of faith, hope and love today more than ever! The Church in Ireland is also going through a testing time. The terrible sins and crimes of abuse have had tragic consequences for so many victims and as Pope Benedict XVI said to us ‘these sins and crimes have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.

“So this must be a purifying time for the Church in Ireland, a humbling time which brings us to our knees in prayer, and to beg forgiveness for an awful betrayal of a sacred trust in the past.”

But added: “And as we go away from the Hill of Slane today, may we be inspired by the words of Dana’s new song - to Light the Flame in our hearts once again, and the fire will burn in the darkness, as on this ancient hill, the embers burning still.”

Dana sang 'Light the Fire' several times during the day as well as 'Totus Tuus, We Are One Body, and Our Lady of Knock'.

The Derry-born star paid tribute to her husband Damien Scallon for the inspiring idea of having the Light the Fire event at Slane. “This was a joyful celebration of the Catholic faith. To watch the successor of Patrick light the fire again on the Hill was deeply moving. So many people said how this day had lifted their hearts. Men, women and children of all ages were praying and praising God together. We lit the fire! Our faith is alive and we will pass it on.”

Louth-born Poor Clare Sr Briege McKenna, who is world famous for her healing minister and Fr Pablo Escriva de Romani who has ministered in many countries, led a Eucharistic healing service.

Pilgrims were welcomed to Slane by Fr Richard Matthew, parish priest of Slane, said St Patrick knew what he was doing when he chose Slane to light the fire. “We gather in an ancient place. The burial mound of King Slaine lies behind me,” he said.

Padraig O’Rourke who travelled from Cork and met Dana afterward said it was “a brilliant experience.” “There are no words!” he said.

The Archbishop recalled how St Patrick, before his conversion, went through his own bitter and purifying experience as a slave in Ireland, having turned his back on God, his faith and the priests’ message of salvation.

He said that Saint Patrick experienced the power and mercy of God and wrote how he had to shout aloud about what the Lord had done for him.

The Archbishop of Armagh also consecrated Ireland to the Most Holy Trinity through the intercession of St Patrick, St Brigid and St Colmcille.

“It is wonderful for us to be here,” Archbishop Martin told the crowd, recalling in his homily the words of St Peter on Mount Tabor when the Lord was Transfigured, as a promise of hope.

He said many of the key events in the life of Jesus took place on hills and mountains, noting that Ireland had its own holy mountains such as Slemish in County Antrim, Croagh Patrick in Mayo and the historic hill of Slane “where Patrick lit the paschal fire to proclaim the risen Lord and the coming of Christianity to this land.’

“It is indeed wonderful for us to be here and to give thanks today, thanks for the generations of faithful people who since the time of Patrick have lived the joy of Christianity and passed onto us the flame of faith in spite of dungeon, fire and sword.”

He recalled how St Patrick came to Slane to pray and to witness to the Risen Lord and to share the life and joy of the Gospel. “And similarly God has called us to Slane today to give us new life in the Holy Spirit, and to send us out from here carrying the torch of faith with courage and conviction.”

The Archbishop prayed for missionaries to be raised up and for Patrick to continue to inspire the Irish to bear witness to the faith. “Today I call out once more from this historical and holy hill of Slane, St Patrick intercede for Ireland. Come and walk once more among us. Inspire our dream for a renewal of faith, hope and love.”

He added: “My dear friends, we are not here by chance. God has brought us here and it is now our turn to shout aloud the message of salvation and tell others about the difference that faith makes to our lives and the value it brings us.”

He spoke of the importance of standing up for faith and convincing others without engaging in pointless polemics. “Yes we must stand up for faith and yes we must confront falsehood and evils like St Patrick did. “The Gospel cannot be imposed. We must propose it with conviction and with joy. The way to win souls these days will be heart to heart by speaking the truth with love and by attracting others to God by the example of our lives.

Those who meet us must see our lives as if transfigured by faith, hope and love and then they will be inspired to inquire what is that treasure you have, you believer?”

He said Christians must show compassion to all and spread peace and radiate hope through their prayers and actions so others will say: “We want what you have. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people said that about us, as believers.”