On the 25th of June 2022 we held our National Pilgrimage Mass at the National Marian Shrine at Carfin Grotto. With the kind permission of Bishop Toal, it was a pleasure to end the 2021-22 session with a Missa Cantata for the transferred feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. Our National Pilgrimage Masses at Carfin bookend the academic year and provide a wonderful opportunity for all those around the country who are devoted to the Traditional Roman Rite to gather together in prayer and fellowship.

In spite of the train strikes, it was uplifting to see members and friends from Glasgow, Motherwell, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Stranraer! The sun shone as Fr O’Connor sang Mass, assisted by our own Schola Una Voce and servers from across the country. After Mass it was wonderful to see all of the young families and so many children playing and enjoying community with each other.

High in the minds of many was yesterday’s victory for the rights of the unborn in the USA. Many have noted that such a momentous development took place on the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in a year when it fell on what would have been the feast that we kept today- the Nativity of St John the Baptist. Fr O’Connor gave a beautiful homily which is reproduced in full below.

The 2022-23 session will open with our next Mass at Carfin Grotto on the 17th September, 11am Rosary and Confessions, 11.30am Missa Cantata.

Homily for the UVS National Pilgrimage Mass, Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, 2022. Fr Liam O’Connor. 

One place where we are familiar with hearing the name of Saint John the Baptist ring out is in the Confiteor as recited in the traditional Mass of the Roman Rite, his inclusion, an over millennial long custom, is a fuller invocation of heaven to present our need for mercy before Almighty God.

Probably most of all in Advent and at the Feast of the Visitation we are accustomed to consider this great figure, this precursor.

Today we consider his birth.

In the introit of the Vigil for this Mass we hear the text from Luke’s Gospel, ‘Fear not Zacharias; thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John; and he shall be great before the Lord, and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb; and many shall rejoice at his birth.’

How we should marvel at this figure, how we should seek to know his ways, to heed his cry that rings-out down the centuries, ‘prepare ye a way for the Lord!’

The Baptist is great before God, he was always humble seeking only the glory of God. ‘There was a man sent from God whose name was John, this man came to bear witness of the light, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people,’ we hear these words spoken in the Prologue of John’s Gospel, known to us also as the Last Gospel, and recited before the priest leaves the sanctuary after the blessing.

John witnessed to the truth, to the Light. His own supernatural life was above all a light, a permanent miracle. To the most spotless life and the harshest penance he added also the light of his fearless and unwearied preaching.

He announced to all the people of the First Covenant who awaited a Messiah, ‘Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccatum mundi,’ words that prepare us and invite us to the heavenly banquet.

Around the circumstances of his own birth, we see a miraculous hand of God. The Archangel Gabriel announces to Zacharias the priest the divine promise that he will have a son in his old age and his name shall be John.

We see then a special place held by John in the history of the Divine Incarnation.

The introit for today’s Mass tells us: ‘The Lord hath called me by my name from the womb of my mother, and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword: in the shadow of his hand, he hath protected me, and hath made me a chosen arrow,’ if this is true of the Baptist let us not forget that God too has called us by name to proclaim the truth about our Lord Jesus Christ, to welcome in our soul the one whom we name the Lamb of God. The giving of a name in ancient culture shows God claiming that person, the name John means dove! And do we not see that dove descend from heaven, the Holy Ghost descends from heaven at the moment of baptism.

The people of Zion receive this grace from heaven, John calls them to recognise the Messias in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I hope it is the case for each of us that we believe in the intercession of the saints, their power before God, working too in the fight for the un-born in our world, this silent holocaust happens on an epic scale and at times there is something truly demonic. Before Our Lady sent graces from heaven to Juan Diego it was all too common in Mexico at that time, and also in the first centuries in Pagan Rome those first believers in Christ rescued discarded new-borns from the street, the confrontation between good and evil is found in this cause to promote and live a culture of life in our day, do we not need the witness of the Baptist who announces the light of Christ?

Do we see the working of providence in this auspicious feast of St John the Baptist, in the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that we celebrated yesterday, bringing hope that many hearts that have longed for a time when our culture will turn away from darkness and strive for light. ‘The Lord hath called me by my name from the womb of my mother!,’ the Gospels tell us Saint John the Baptist leapt with joy in his mother’s womb, the new dawn of the life of grace fills us with hope.