IEC2012: Ireland carves a prayer for healing in stone

2012-05-18 Vatican Radio

In his 2010 Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of his hope that the 50th International Eucharistic Congress would be part of the process of healing and renewal for the community in the wake of the abuse scandal. When the week long Congress opens in Dublin’s RDS arena Sunday, June 10th, a large granite rock hewn from the Wicklow mountains will be unveiled, engraved with a prayer composed by a survivor of clerical abuse. Listen:

It has been called ‘The Healing Stone’ and it will remain as a permanent reminder of the human toll of the abuse of children, a lasting memorial to the bravery and heroism of victims, a constant prayer for reconciliation within the Church in Ireland, carved in stone.

Fr Kevin Doran, Secretary General of IEC2012, told Emer McCarthy that “stone speaks of permanence. To say something is ‘carved in stone’ is to say that it is here to stay rather than just a passing thought. The stone represents the firm determination to work for healing and renewal.

Stone is highly symbolic in Irish culture. Megalithic monuments such as passage tombs, forts, dolmens, standing stones and stone circles are an integral part of Ireland’s landscape and testimony to past cultures, how they lived and how they worshipped. The first missionaries to Ireland understood this and used the medium to teach the Irish about Christ and his Gospel message, giving birth to the iconic Stone, or Celtic Crosses, tall monumental sculptures that narrate Christ’s life, death and resurrection and which can still be seen today. Moreover, when religious ceremonies were outlawed during Penal times (17th Century), Irish Catholics used stones from church ruins, with a simple cross carved on their top, to mark the rural locations for the clandestine celebration of the Eucharist. These became known as Mass rocks.

But, Fr. Doran adds, stone also has a deep significance in our Christian tradition: “The stone which covered the tomb of Jesus, symbolises both the end of His earthly existence and the fact of His Resurrection. We are conscious of the fact that, for many who have experienced abuse, either themselves or to a member of their family, the pain of abuse can sometimes be like a stone weighing heavily on them. It is a stone that, in some way or other needs to be rolled back so that they can be set free.”

The text of the prayer, which we be recited at the Opening ceremony by all participants, reads:

“Lord we are so sorry,
for what some of us did to your children,
treated them so cruelly,
especially in their hour of need.
We have left them with a life-long suffering,
this was not Your plan for them or us.
Please help us to help them,
guide us, oh Lord. Amen”.

Work on the Healing Stone project began in early 2012. Following consultation with various people, including abuse survivors, it was agreed that the stone would be an appropriate symbol for the Congress.

Fr Doran concludes: “It is planned that after the Congress, the Stone will be given a more permanent home on an accessible site, where people can pause and pray, and so that there will be a permanent public reminder of our need never to take safeguarding for granted.”