The Loving Hands Prayer Blanket Ministry in our Parish is now being extended through the introduction of Pocket Prayer Quilts - essentially mini prayer blankets, each containing a tiny wooden cross, which you can put in your pocket or handbag and carry with you at all times, knowing that you are symbolically “covered in prayer”.
The Prayer Blanket Ministry has been running very successfully in our parish for a number of years now. This Ministry involves members of the Parish making “blankets” and handing them to people in need of prayer - be they sick, troubled or distressed. These blankets are symbols of our faith-sharing and caring, and blankets from this Ministry have not only brought comfort to members of our parish but have also been sent by caring parishioners to family members and friends around the world.
The Prayer Blanket or Prayer Shawl Ministry is fairly widespread among Christian churches internationally, and is one of the more successful and popular ministries here in our home Catholic Community of Kouga, where it was introduced by Sylvia Nunan, some four years ago.
.The Prayer Blanket Ministry involves sewing lap-size blankets or shawls and intercessory prayer. The blankets are given to anyone needing the gift of love and prayer. Prayers are offered for recipients as the blankets are constructed and thereafter by both the ministry and other members of the parish community. All blankets are given free of charge and materials for construction are provided.
The blankets bring the recipients a great sense of peace and joy from the gifts and prayers of a faith community. It also gives them a sense of "family" and confidence in God's infinite love and mercy. The Prayer Blanket is a tangible sign that each recipient is lifted up in prayer by our Faith Community.
The blankets are regularly blessed by our Parish Priest at the Offertory during Mass.
The Prayer Blanket Ministry touches not only the lives of those who receive the blankets but also those who construct and distribute them and those who see them in use. Recipients speak of the impact they have on doctors, nurses, visitors and those who see them and ask about them.
In just over four years, our small community has distributed nearly 200 of these blankets both locally and internationally, to Catholics and other denominations alike. Stories abound of the effect the blankets have on their recipients - we heard recently of a lady, who, in the final stages of terminal cancer, requested that she be wrapped in her prayer blanket when she was cremated. Most recipients receive their blankets with tears in their eyes, and one lady recently insisted she was not "worthy - others were more deserving".
They are a testimony that a community of faith relies on God and one another to accompany us on life's journey. Intercessory prayer is a prayer of petition that leads us to pray as Jesus did.Jesus is able to save those who draw near to God through him. The Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us!
So I say to you: "Ask and it will be given to you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you, for everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, everyone who knocks will have the door opened." (Luke 10:9-10).
In the beautiful act of giving and receiving, blessing and prayer, the threads of these blankets become interwoven with faith, hope and love. Blankets are distributed discreetly, and names are never used. Prayers are said by the community "for the recipients of Prayer blankets", without being specific.
Fr Paul seems to have embarked on a series of pilgrimages to the some of the most important shrines in Ireland and has prayed for us back here in the Kouga at those wonderful places.
These include the Marian Shrine at Knock, in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, and Croagh Patrick, St Patrick's Sacred Mountain, also in County Mayo.
Knock Shrine (Irish Cnoc Mhuire "Hill of Mary), came into being when, on the 21st August 1879, at approximately 8 o’clock in the evening, fifteen people from the village of Knock in Co. Mayo, witnessed an Apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and cross on an altar at the gable wall of the Parish Church.The witnesses watched the Apparition in the pouring rain for two hours, reciting the Rosary. Although they themselves were saturated not a single drop of rain fell on the gable or vision. There were fifteen official witnesses to the Apparition, most of whom were from the village of Knock and surrounding areas and ranged in age from just 5 years old to 74 years old. Each of the witnesses gave testimonies to a Commission of Enquiry in October 1879. The findings of the Commission were that the testimonies were both trustworthy and satisfactory.
Knock is now the National Marian Shrine of Ireland, and Fr Paul was privileged to say Mass there last week.
He then went on to visit Croagh Patrick, the Sacred Mountain of St Patrick.
Croagh Patrick, (also known locally as "The Reek") which overlooks Clew Bay in County Mayo, is considered the holiest mountain in Ireland. It is renowned for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. It was on the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD and the custom has been faithfully handed down from generation to generation. Each year, The Reek attracts about 1 million pilgrims. On 'Reek Sunday', the last Sunday in July, over 25,000 pilgrims visit the Reek. At the top, there is a modern chapel where mass is celebrated and confessions are heard. Individuals and groups come from all over the world and include pilgrims, hill climbers, historians, archaeologists and nature lovers.