It’s that time of year again in Ireland, in County Kerry when the Rose of Tralee comes around. Some of you may know the song…some of you may have watched the selection nights on the television and others may have even been to the festival weekend in Tralee.
Each year in recent times the Rose of Tralee has sparked much debate about what it is…is it a beauty contest…NO is it a talent competition…NO is it a celebration of women…MAYBE…
Some commentators believe it is outdated and should be stopped now.
This morning at Mass here in Tralee we welcomed some of this year’s contestants in the Rose of Tralee…young professional women from around Ireland and around the world who come to represent the Irish centres in their country or to represent their county. They have been touring Ireland for the last 10 days – meeting people…experiencing our culture and our hospitality and they have been welcomed. We had great crowds at Mass this morning and it’s not just the Roses…they come with their escorts…their rosebuds and their family and friends.
As I watched the people gathered it said something more than what we read on the surface…it spoke of how Ireland has spread its influence around the globe…and how Ireland has been enriched by those who come here, to live…to work and to visit. The Rose of Tralee unites families from across oceans…it brings people together and new friendships are formed. It celebrates all that is good about Ireland. And as I looked on I witnessed the excitement of little girls with their autograph books collecting signatures from the Roses and the Escorts. So the Rose of Tralee contestants become people looked up to by today’s children…they are watched by them…young girls who one day may aspire to be part of this festival. The festival creates memories…indeed people who came to day can recall coming to the town and to Mass for the festival since they too were children.
So whatever the media may say about it, the Rose of Tralee has potential for good…for gathering people…for uniting families…for celebrating Ireland and its welcome and hospitality and on Tuesday night when the winner is announced, she will be one among many who have enjoyed the experience, who have gained by their participation and who will have memories to share for the rest of their life.