Bishop Leo O’Reilly was the principal celebrant of the Annual Diocesan P.T.A.A. Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Belturbet on Sunday 4 November 2018 which was followed by a Dinner Dance in the Seven Horseshoes Hotel. A presentation was made to the new President of P.T.A.A. Mr Matt Boylan from the Ballyjamesduff Centre.  Matt follows a strong tradition of Kilmore people serving as President of the Association following Padraig Brady (Cloonclare-Killasnett), Seán Coll (Corlough-Templeport), and Shane Kitson (Ballyjamesduff).

Photos are courtesy of Seán MacMahon of The Anglo-Celt, Cavan

The following is Bishop O’Reilly’s homily:

I read an article called ‘Alcohol Facts’ in the internet recently. It detailed the harm that’s done by the abuse of alcohol in Ireland and, at the risk of a bad pun, I have to say it made sobering reading. Some of the facts:

  • Alcohol is responsible for over 1000 deaths a year.
  • One in four deaths of young men – under 40 – are alcohol related.
  • Alcohol is a factor in half of all suicides in Ireland.
  • Liver disease rates are increasing rapidly in Ireland and the greatest increase is in 15-34 year olds, who should have the lowest rates.
  • Drink driving is a factor in 40% of road deaths each year.
  • Finally, the estimated cost of alcohol harm in 2013 was € 2.35 billion euros. You could do a lot with € 2.35 billion!

That’s only some of the facts. When you think about them you have to think: It’s makes a lot of sense to be a Pioneer. You also think that it would pay the government handsomely to give a generous grant to every Pioneer Centre in the country to encourage more people to join. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Nevertheless, I think Pioneers command much greater respect now in the public arena that was the case maybe 20 years ago. The value of temperance and the sheer common sense of sobriety is appreciated much more now than used to be the case. Medical people will applaud your abstinence for very obvious health reasons. Even on the very basic and practical level, people are delighted to have a Pioneer with them if they are going out for a meal or a party. It’s great to have somebody in the company you can rely on to drive home.

Young people are often more conscientious about drink driving than their elders, but that doesn’t always mean that they are models of temperance. Many young people will abstain from alcohol during the week because they have get up early and work hard. But when the weekend or the holidays come they see it as an opportunity to let their hair down and often binge drink to make up for lost time. We have the dubious distinction of have the second worst binge drinking culture in the world.

Temperance is about abstaining altogether from alcohol from spiritual motives, or drinking in moderation. As Pioneers your motivation for temperance is summed up in the heroic offering. The primary motive for abstaining as a Pioneer is to give glory to God: “For thy greater glory and consolation, O Sacred Heart of Jesus…” You make this lifetime sacrifice to give praise and honour to God. It’s literally for the love of  God. Love is best expressed in sacrifice. Abstaining for life from alcohol for the glory of God is a real sacrifice and an extravagant gesture of love. That’s the primary motivation.

The second motivation is about helping others by giving good example, and practising self-denial. That means exercising self-discipline to free you to be at the service of others. It’s also about making reparation for the sins of intemperance – making good the harm done by excessive drinking and praying for  healing for those who are addicted to alcohol. St Ignatius says that love is shown more by deeds than by fine words, so abstaining from alcohol for life in order to help one’s neighbour in these ways is a very practical expression of love of neighbour.

So, you see, the Heroic Offering reflects the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel today.  It’s about loving God and loving our neighbour. The first and the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our strength. The second is to love our neighbour as ourselves. There’s more to keeping those two great commandments than being a Pioneer, but being a Pioneer is a great start. Long may you continue to give glory to God and to give a  good example of temperance by your Pioneer commitment. Your prayer and your example are needed now more than ever in our alcohol troubled society.