Nine grace-filled days

March 12, 2024 in Featured News, News

A large number attended the popular annual Novena of Grace, held in Gardiner St Church, Dublin, from 4-12 March 2024. Even more people from all over the world attended online. The guest speaker this year was Fr Michael Simone SJ, from the USA. He led the congregation daily in what one participant, parish manager Iva Beranek, described as a novena, ‘filled with the goodness of God.’ Read her full account below.

Days Filled with God’s Goodness

This year’s Novena of Grace was filled with so much goodness that, for the most part, it has been an exhilarating experience. It was very encouraging to see the church full every day, especially at 11 am Mass. People have let us know that they were following online from Chicago, Massachusetts, Toronto, the UK, and various parts of Ireland. There was a real sense of community and of deep devotion to God, prayer, and trust in the intercession of St. Francis Xavier SJ.

Fr. Michael Simone SJ’s homilies were touching, deep and very applicable to our daily life. Every day I was eagerly waiting to hear what he was going to say next. A thread in all the homies was deciphering what makes St. Francis Xavier a saint, how he became one, and what are we to focus on in ourselves if we are to grow on a journey of hopefully becoming saints ourselves.

One homily stuck with me in particular, when Fr. Michael quoted from James Broderick’s SJ biography of St. Francis about a severe storm that Francis Xavier experienced at one point.

“On that voyage from Malacca to India we underwent manifold perils from a great storm which lasted three days and nights. I never experienced a worse storm at sea. The people aboard wept and wailed for their own deaths while still alive, and mighty were the vows they made never to put to sea again, should God deliver them. We jettisoned all the cargo we could — to save our lives. While the tempest was at its height, I commended myself to God our Lord, taking for my first intercessors on earth all those belonging to the Company of Jesus, and the friends of the Company, blessed of God. (…)

“I could never convey to you the consolation I received from thus commending myself to God our Lord through the intercession of my brethren of the Society, living and dead. (…)

Finally, I put all my trust in the infinite merits of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord. With all this protection and help about me, I think I felt happier in the thick of the storm than afterwards when delivered from it” (J. Broderick SJ, Saint Francis Xavier, 301-302).

This last line made me think. How is God sustaining us during our own storms in life? Am I perhaps also happier in the thick of the storm than when God delivers me from it? I never thought of it this way. This is just one example of how Fr. Michael’s homilies impacted on those of us who have been following the Novena of Grace this year.

A person who was watching online commented, “Father Michael is a truly inspiring and memorable speaker. His strength of faith and determined character, together with humour and compassion are inspiring. God bless him.”

The music during the Novena greatly contributed to the beauty of the experience. Cecilia Byrne sang a few heart-wrenchingly beautiful songs in Irish, and even though I didn’t understand the meaning, something in my heart resonated; as if my heart understood even beyond words.

The highlight of the week was Belvedere College SJ choir and Gonzaga College SJ choir – they each sang once at 11am Mass. Truly beautiful! We are also very grateful to the boys from Belvedere who served during the Novena Masses and helped us throughout the week.

On Monday, 11 March, we took up the special collection during Masses. Fr. Niall Leahy SJ, our parish priest, says, “This year we will support a small local charity called H.O.P.E. that helps people break free from addiction. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is robbing the inner city of its soul, but the team at H.O.P.E. are bringing life back to individuals, to families and to the community. When I called into their office in Buckingham St. last week the first thing that struck me was all the thank you cards on the walls.”

Thank you so much for all your generous contributions during the Novena, especially for this special collection.

During the Novena, we have been selling a new book on St. Francis Xavier, The Great Dreamer, by our own Fr. Brendan Comerford SJ » If you didn’t get a chance to get your own copy, you still can as copies are available in the parish shop.

We have recorded 11 am Mass during the Novena, so if you want to listen through any of the homilies again, you can find them here on our website »

I leave you with Fr. Michael Simone’s words from the 8th day of the Novena; “Saints, like St. Francis Xavier, are so caught up in the love of God that what they do, who they are, what they say, is what God would do, be and say if God were standing in front of us, in vision, in the fullness of life.”

He also said that reflecting on Francis’ life over the past week or so reminded him that everyone he meets can become like him (Francis), can become like Christ, can become a saint. “This is the deepest way, I think, that the great saints are windows into Heaven,” said Fr Michael. “They show us what God created us to be. If these days of prayer teach us nothing else, it is that through the intercession and inspiration of St. Francis Xavier and of other saints like him, any person we meet, no matter how degenerate they might seem, in a moment they can become something great, something beautiful, something that allows God to be present in the world.”

And that includes you, and me.
How amazing is that!

Iva Beranek

Parish Manager in St. Francis Xavier’s Church, Gardiner Street