Mass for 25th Anniversary of the Death of the Servant of God, Frank Duff
Homily notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Pro-Cathedral, 19th November 2004
We come together on the twenty fifth anniversary of the death of the Servant of God, Frank Duff. We remember his life and his work. We remember his devotion to the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. We remember his devotion to Mary, Mother of the Church, and Queen of the Apostles.
Frank Duff was someone who had a passion for the Church. I would love to have heard him speak about how he felt when he was called to be among the first lay auditors at the Second Vatican Council, an extraordinarily visible honour for him personally and for the work that he had initiated.
I would love to have heard him speak about his reactions to the debate at the Vatican Council and especially his thoughts about the discussions on the role of the laity, which bore fruit with the promulgation of the Constitution on the Church and the Decree on the Lay Apostolate. It must have been a source of great satisfaction for him – not to see himself recognised, that was not his style – but to see recognised and developed into the teachings of an Ecumenical Council – such a rare and significant event – the insights that he had developed through his own commitment, his own prayer, his own study and indeed his own suffering.
Frank Duff had an extraordinary intuition into the role of the laity in the Church. The vocation of the lay person involves apostolate. The Council Decree on the Laity of Vatican II (#3) sets this out in unambiguous language: “The laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical and kingly office of Christ; they have therefore in the Church and in the world, their own assignment in the mission of the People of God”. The entire Church is missionary. The entire Church is called to apostolate, to active witness in their lives to the kingdom of God.
One day, when I have time, I would like to look into my archives to see something of the relationship between Frank Duff and my predecessors, especially Archbishop Byrne, who was Archbishop in the nineteen twenties and thirties. It seems that their relationship was not an easy one. Archbishop Byrne was a man of astonishing pastoral zeal. He was Curate here in the Pro-Cathedral for many years and was extraordinarily loved by the people of the parish. He had a noble vision of the ordained priesthood and he put that into practice in his own life and expected it from others. It seems, however, that he had some difficulty in seeing lay persons taking a lead in the work of evangelization.
It may have been that it was not the Archbishop but his advisors who had this fear, because Archbishop Byrne gave his support, even if cautious, to the work that Frank Duff was initiating. It was only with Vatican II, however, that a certain timidity concerning recognition of the role of the laity was removed.
Frank Duff was “post Conciliar” decades before the Council took place! He had early on an intuition of what the Vatican Council was later to say: “On all Christians rests the noble obligation of working to bring all people throughout the world to hear and accept the divine message of salvation.”
Frank’s intuition is more than ever valid today. My hope and prayer is to see a diocese where this statement of the Council becomes reality, a diocese in which lay persons – not because of shortage of priests, but on the basis of their own specific vocation -take on the task of evangelization in every sector of society and take on responsibility for the quality of the Christian life of the community.
Frank’s intuition, like that of so many of the holy men and women who have changed the Church, came from a sense of mysticism, of entering personally more profoundly into the mystery of Christ and then of sharing that with others. We can well apply to Frank Duff the beautiful words of Pope Benedict XVI in his inaugural homily, which serve also as an appeal to all of us: “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him”.
Tomorrow the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. It is interesting to recall that the term “king” appears at the very first moments of the life of Jesus on earth and at the very last moments of his life. The angels announce to the shepherds that a king has been born. On the cross of Jesus is written “Jesus of Nazareth, King”.
Jesus is anointed priest, prophet and king. And each of us is called share in that same mission, in those same three tasks.
His kingdom is not of this world, but it is not outside this world entirely either. The kingdom is already present in seed within our world, through the redeeming power of Jesus death and resurrection. It is a kingdom which can and must be anticipated, even in our time, through grace and holiness, when we as believers attempt to shape our lives in terms of that truth and life, that justice, love and peace which are the signs of the kingdom and of God’s presence.
In a particular way the Feast of Christ the King is a special Feast for lay women and men. It is the responsibility of committed lay Christians to bring that message of Jesus into the complex situation of the world in which we live, so that the kingdom may be realised in the lives of ourselves and others and in contemporary culture.
God’s kingdom must be realised within the social and cultural structures in which we live. But this will only happen when we bring to that world the values of transcendence, of a God who in his goodness and in his love created the world to be a true home, worthy of the dignity of each woman and man, created in God’s own image.
Such a mission which aims at transforming the world in which we live will draw its inspiration from the Eucharist. It is in the celebration of the Eucharist that the kingdom is realised, through the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is in the Eucharist that Jesus prepares us to go out in service. Living the kingdom means “giving ourselves up”, as Jesus did, so that in our world there may be life and authentic life.
It is within the sharing and celebration of the Eucharist that we “become one body” through the power of the Holy Spirit. Celebrating the Eucharist inspires us to ensure that the true unity of humankind in Christ becomes a reality in our day. Celebrating Eucharist renews our commitment to building a more just and fraternal society, thus anticipating that kingdom of justice, love and peace, for which all humankind longs.
May Mary, who thorough her Fiat, her acceptance of God’s word, enabled the incarnation of her son to become reality, help us, in the spirit of Frank Duff, to be “incarnations” of the truth and love of Jesus in our lives and to witness to his name with renewed depth and vigour.