THE anonymous prayers and requests at the annual St Gerard’s Novena in Dundalk are always a fair indication of what people are facing in their daily lives.
The novena is about people supporting one another, as human beings with a common make-up, and it is also the individual’s private consciousness speaking to what they feel is the positive element behind the dark meaningless universe we live in: what they unapologeticly call God.
It’s surprising, that in an age when we are told to live for the moment, and are bombarded with My Little Pony type therapies about how to get the best out of life, that up to 10,000 people a day will gather at the sessions in St Joseph’s to profess their much vilified faith.
It’s an expression of all our human vulnerability and strength. For many people are giving thanks for the spiritual strength of mind that helped them or their family come through a physical or mental illness.
People from all over Dundalk, Louth, Armagh, Down, Monaghan, Cavan, Meath and further afield, including England.
For in the words of Fr Michael Cusack “this novena belongs to the people and is about the people”.
Fr Cusack still believes that the original message of the Church - to accept the opportunity to be nourished by the word of God - is still something that’s relevant.
“We still need God in our lives,” he said. “We need to spend time listening to God’s word and equating it with the reality of other people’s lives.”
The reality of prayer or meditation is like that of modern psychology. It is about training the mind to be strong in the face of life.
The Burmese leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest and silenced for years, said meditation taught her how to be calm and deal with reality.
It all works the same way, because people are the same the world over, and always have been.
A lot of the success of the novena depends on the voluntary workers and Fr Cusack is very grateful for their great help.
Finally, don’t forget to park safely and responsibly if going to the services. Car pooling can help, but please don’t block anybody’s way, especially all those people living and working in the vicinity of St Joseph’s.