Joy is to be had in this life and not just in heaven. Happiness begins here though tainted by a little bitterness from suffering the joy of the spiritual life can begin in this life." These were the words of Fr. Griego as he introduced the theme of the June 2016 youth outing that took place in county Laois.
The weekend began with youth coming from all corners of the country and as far as the border between Mexico and the U.S. We were also fortunate to have Fr. Ockerse and Brother Columba who joined us from Bristol help kickstart the weekend in the spirit of joy and prayerfulness in our hostel accommodation in Mountmellick. When all parties arrived we had a pleasant dinner followed by a game of Articulate testing our knowledge and ability to think on our feet. The game was won hands down by Brother Columba who was able to get his team correctly guessing words using the least amount of words, sometimes just motioning with his hand. An entertaining evening all round that was closed by a communal evening prayer.
On Saturday we opened the day with morning prayers and a quick drive to Athlone for mass at 8.30am where we were joined by Fr Griego who introduced the theme of the weekend as well as a new apostolate of the Militia Immaculata that is to begin soon. The Militia Immaculata was started by Maximilian Kolbe in response to the sacrilege against Christ taking place at the time in particular by the Freemasons who openly mocked God. This apostolate was to make reparation for the sacrileges as well as be a medium through which we can pray for the enemies of the Church. By joining the Militia Immaculata one becomes the property of the Blessed Virgin Mary who protects her children. The apostolate began with 3 priests and after about 12 years grew to 723 members. Their initial circulation was 1 newsletter a week but soon increased to millions of copies in circulation in over 6 languages around the world. Joining the Militia Immaculata is simple. One must consecrate themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary, wear the Miraculous medal and recite a simple prayer, if possible, every day
O Mary conceived without sin,
Pray for us who have recourse to thee,
And for those who do not have recourse to thee,
Especially Freemasons and for those who are commended to thee!
To join this apostolate please see Fr Griego for more details.
After a hearty breakfast and a production line style lunch making process we were soon in the cars making our way to the shrine of Our Lady of Clonfert. Upon arrival we gathered around the entrance all eager to learn the story behind this pilgrimage with our curiosity soon being quenched by Valentin who gave us a brief history.
In olden day Ireland religious statues were made of wood but when the Protestants came they began burning religious statues and images. In order to protect them, faithful would hide the statues in trees. One day many years later when a farmer was cutting branches in a wooded area he came across an oak tree. After chopping a few branches to his surprise noticed that the tree was bleeding! After a brief investigation he discovered the statue of Our Lady of Clonfert hidden in the branches and he had inadvertently chopped Our Lady's arm off from whence the bleeding originated. The statue was brought down and can be found in the little church dedicated to Our Lady of Clonfert. It is estimated the statue had been hidden in the tree for around 200 years. The youth group lead by Fr Griego were able to pray the rosary before the shrine leaving our prayer intentions at the foot of Our Mother.
The morning was to be followed by a trail walk in the enchanting Slieve Bloom mountains for what we planned to be an adventurous day. God had other plans... As we approached Slieve Bloom the heavens decided to open up bringing nourishment to the vegetation. After a few minutes we had to seek refuge at Kinnity Castle where we ate lunch and had an interesting conference delivered by Brother Columba on his patron saint, St Columba. The virtues of the saint are clearly reflected in his servant who delivered the conference with such humility and simplicity, a clear reflection of how souls can be transformed by maintaining close companionship with their patron saints.
Eventually the rain gave in and we were guided by Valentin into the woods entertained by Fr Griego's stories. With daylight still on our side we were able to take advantage of the local bowling alley in Port Laoise where Fr Ockerse showcased his bowling skills. The adventures of the day helped work up an appetite that was soon satisfied by Vincent's impressive culinary skills and Helen Jenning's tasty dessert. Conán then entertained the group with Irish songs with his talented voice. Exhausted from the day's events, Br. Columba led the evening prayers and we trudged up to bed.
Sunday morning met us with glorious sunshine as we attended a high Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi. A feast that fell providentially at a time when the Militia Immaculata is to be launched amongst our faithful as a means of repairing the injustices and sacrileges committed by the enemies of the church.
The ethereal voices of the choir encouraged a spirit of prayer as we carried Our Lord in procession through the streets of Athlone. "...that was really something for pagan Ireland to see in this day.." As was rightly remarked by one of the youth. It is not in fancy speeches or many words that souls are converted but by actions. Our Catholic action continued when we shared lunch on the shores of the Shannon followed by a mini conference from Niall. Niall introduced Our Lady of Good Success and the truly Catholic president she promised that is believed to have been Gabriel García Moreno of Ecuador. He also related the story of a miraculous healing of a friend of his from osteomyelitis which he attributes to Mother Mariana de Jésus Torres. We soon caught the attention of tourists who decided to join our conference albeit through curiosity.
After a competitive and very enjoyable tournament at the local pitch and putt, the youth outing was ended by ice-creams at sundown and prayer as we knelt in the car park to thank Our Lord for a truly blessed weekend. We would Iike to thank our priests Fr. Griego and Fr. Ockerse for continuing this holy apostolate, Br. Columba for being so patient and kind as to take the time to be with the youth, the organizers and all those who attended. Our next outing is scheduled from the 1st of July in Westport and we hope to see you all there! Viva Maria! Viva Cristo Rey!