Take up your cross and follow me are the words of Jesus to us today. This highlights the importance of acceptance as the way forward. It is only in the acceptance of what is that we can take the next step and when we can’t its then that we remain stuck. The reality is that life can throw us in at the deep end with seemingly unacceptable situations being put in our path. What can we do then? The answer must still lie in that little word acceptance but this time in the acceptance of the seemingly unacceptable. That means letting go with an attitude of surrender, and that’s what opens the door for the grace of acceptance to flow into our lives. Where our will power can’t succeed grace will always give us the victory.
For 2000 years the Cross has been the central symbol of the Christian faith. For Christians down through the ages the Cross has spoken of love and forgiveness, of suffering and pain, of death and resurrection, of peace and victory over death and so much more. There’s hardly a Christian home anywhere in the world where you won’t find a crucifix on a wall somewhere.
On the walls of this church we have two that go back hundreds of years. They link us to two very significant periods in history. I would like to share with you something of the history of both of them because they are such wonderful artifacts. If you have never been to Our Lady’s Island Church you might like to put a visit on your bucket list and then come and have a look at them yourself.
The first dates back to just after America was discovered when a young boy by the name of Duffy was martyred crossing Ladys’ Island Lake. Cromwell had arrived in Wexford with 10,000 soldiers that needed to be fed so he sent out a foraging party to try and get some of the cattle that the people had driven behind the castle walls on the Island for safety. On the way the soldiers ravaged and plundered all before them. As they drew close to the Island the then parish church St Ivor’s was an obvious target and the locals scrambled to remove anything sacred that they could. A young boy took the Cross from over the tabernacle and tried to wade to other side of the Lake when the soldiers arrived and shot him dead. His body was recovered but the Cross was lost in the mud for 200 years. Then another boy with my own name of Cogley, and who still has relatives in the area, was fishing for eels and in the mud he found the Cross but with the arm missing. He brought it to the Parish Priest who recognized it for what it was and asked him to go back and look for the missing part. This was a tall order! You can just imagine the chances of finding something, just two inches long, lost in mud for 200 years. It was nothing short of miraculous that he succeeded in finding it and the Crucifix was repaired. Its now on display and lit up on your left as you come into this Church of the Assumption. A lot of people have devotion to it and it certainly is a remarkable piece of history. That young boy Duffy is beyond doubt our own Lady’s Island Martyr but has never been recognized as such. Had his killing taken place on the Continent he would certainly been venerated as a saint.
Another famous cross here forms an enormous link to that darkest period of Wexford history, the 1798 Rebellion. This Cross was carved in quartz stone by a Rev. John Corrin, who was parish priest of Wexford during the Insurrection.
John Corrin Cross
The story is that a drunken sea captain named Dixon, aided by his wife ‘Moll’, led a vengeful lynch mob to corral dozens of protestant prisoners on the old wooden bridge across the Slaney. There they were being tried and hanged, in a public spectacle, as enemies of the Rising. Thirty-five had been killed and many more were about to be executed when Fr. Currin intervened and pleaded for their lives. According to tradition he was first treated with ridicule and scorn by the infuriated people who refused to yield to his entreaties for mercy. He then requested that they would go on their knees and join with him in praying for the souls of those whom they were about to send to eternity. This they did, and he then held aloft that crucifix and called on the executioners, that they would pray to God to grant themselves, at the hour of their death, the same mercy that they would that day show to their prisoners. It was a message they couldn’t ignore and this time they listened. While it was too late for some he succeeded in saving many more lives.
It was fully believed that the sight of the crucifix softened their hearts. It is fair to say that the descendants of those who survived, amounting to many thousands, owe their existence to this cross. There are many walking around today, who without knowing it, are here because of it, which is quite remarkable.
Fr Corrin died in 1835, aged 86 years. If you ever visit the Franciscan Church in Wexford you will see his tomb designed by the great church builder Pugin. The crucifix was passed to a Fr Thomas Murphy who was a native of Carne and it was through him that we have it here in Our Lady’s Island.