The annual commemoration of St Oliver Plunkett took place on Sunday 5 July in Loughcrew.  The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael Smith and the preacher was Fr Padraig McMahon.

During his homily, Fr McMahon said:

In his life and ministry St. Oliver Plunkett was dedicated to serving and pleasing the Lord.  His diligence in study, charity to the poor, fidelity in prayer, his constancy and courage in the face of the obstacles to his ministry and the lies and injustice heaped on him by his detractors, all point to a man whose sole wish was to serve God and serve his fellow Irish men and women in the Catholic faith.  When forced into hiding in 1673 St Oliver did not give up on his mission but wrote, “We would rather die from hunger and cold than abandon our flocks.”

In the words of the first reading from Ezekiel, the Lord assures his flock that he will keep them in view, rescue the lost, lead them to nourishing pastures, bandage the wounded and watch over them.  In the Gospel of St John, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd who will lay down his life for us.  Not merely a hired man, the care and concern of the Good Shepherd for his flock reflects the care and concern God has for each of us and it is seen in the life, generous love and sacrifice of people like St John the Baptist, St. Oliver Plunkett and Blessed Oscar Romero who sought always to serve the people entrusted to their care.

Through the past two millennia countless of men and women have given their lives to witness to Jesus Christ and to the truth of his message. Since the earliest days of Christianity there has been opposition to the message of Christ and to his Church.  The Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium said “Martyrdom makes the disciple like his master, who willingly accepted death for the salvation of the world, and through it he conformed to him by the shedding of his blood.  Therefore the Church considers it the highest gift and supreme test of love.  And while it is given to few, all however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the cross amidst the persecutions the church never lacks.”