Priestly ordination of Paul Ludden
Homily Notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Saint Sylvester’s Malahide, 2nd June 2012
One of the most significant moments in the life of a bishop is when he is called to ordain a priest. A vital responsibility in a bishop’s ministry is that of ensuring from one generation to the next a succession of ordained priests to continue the celebration of the Eucharist and so to build up the communion of the Church.
The joy of a bishop in ordaining a priest is even greater when it is the case of a priest of his own diocese, who is incorporated into the one presbyterate of the particular Church the Bishop is called to shepherd. I am very pleased to be able to ordain this afternoon a son of this Archdiocese of Dublin, Paul Ludden, who has now completed the long years of preparation. It is also a special joy to ordain Paul here in his own parish of Saint Sylvester in Malahide where his faith was nurtured and I am especially pleased that Paul has chosen to be ordained here in his home parish.
I thank this Parish for the manner in which, together with his family, it has nourished the call that Paul has received. I thank the priests who have encouraged him, especially in Malahide. We have present here one of our two most senior priests, Archdeacon Macarten Brady, with Canon Randles, Father Gerry Tanham and Monsignor Peter Briscoe the current Parish Priest and the entire Parish team and the team of the group of Parishes to which Malahide belongs. I greet Paul’s family and his friends. I greet his classmates and colleagues from Maynooth and with them the team who were responsible for his formation in the seminary together with Father Liam Rigney who ensures the liaison between the diocese and the seminary and who is a constant support to the Dublin students. This is truly an occasion for all of us to rejoice.
Paul today you are being ordained here on your own, but your priesthood belongs within the family of the diocese and of the priests of the diocese. At this ordination all the priests present will impose hands with me and welcome you into the family of the priests of Dublin. During this ordination you will concelebrate the ordination Mass with me and become incorporated into the presbyterate of Dublin built around the Eucharist. I ask the priests present to welcome you today but also to continue to welcome you day by day as you exercise your ministry for the entire people of God within this diocese.
Paul, you are called to be a member of a presbyterate which has long roots of service and care and commitment of which the Church can be proud. I have so many occasions to observe the affection that the people of this Archdiocese have for their priests and I ask all here present to continue that prayerful support. All of the priests present here today, myself included, can find in today’s ordination a call to renew in ourselves that enthusiasm and commitment to ministry in Jesus’ name with which we embarked on ministry at our own ordination.
Paul, you are called now within this presbyterate to serve the people of God who over the various stages of your life have nourished your faith. But the call you receive comes from God. We heard in the Gospel reading: “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me.” How does God draw people to himself? He does not do so by diktat. God does not remove our freedom or our need to make choices and commitments. He accompanies us along our path and is always near to us. We are drawn closer to him through our ability to listen. Those who come to Jesus, priests and lay men and women alike, are those who in the midst of all the noise and bustle of our daily life in today’s world find moments of silence in which prayerfully to read the scriptures and in prayer open their hearts to them. They are those who “hear the teaching of the Father”, as the Gospel tells us. They are those are nourished through a sharing in the bread of life.
That bread of life, as the Gospel reminded us, is “flesh given for the life of the world”. It is bread given in sacrifice, bread given in love. When we search for of God we must turn to Jesus and to the way in which he revealed God as love. Despite the ingratitude and even the rejection of the people he had chosen, God’s immeasurable love for humankind is never set aside. God sends his son who takes upon himself the fruits and the burdens of the failures of human love. Through his death and resurrection Jesus destroys sin and restores to their original dignity those who were victims of sin.
The priest is a shepherd and a teacher. He is called to proclaim the word of God in word and deed and in how he lives. The Rite of Ordination tells the new priest: “apply your energies to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief Teacher”. It urges the priest to “share with all humankind the word of God you have received with joy…” It calls on the priest to “Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe and put into practice what you teach”. In order to be a credible preacher of the truth the priest must also be a credible witness to the truth.
Priesthood involves witnessing to the truth. But we must witness to the truth as Jesus did. The Jesus who presented his claim to truth in an absolute sense – “I am the truth” – was also the one who wished to be among his disciples as a servant.
This is so well summed up in that beautiful scriptural hymn from the Letter to the Philippians. “Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to the grasped, but emptied himself humbling himself, even unto death on a cross”. The Jesus who is the truth in himself chose to reveal that truth through a life of service. He attains Lordship not through clinging to the outward trappings of sovereignty, authority or power, but through total self giving. He attains “the name that is above every other name, so that every tongue can confess him as Lord” through self-giving love unto the end.
Paul, you are called now to ensure that through your ministry the great law of love is encountered by all who meet you on your path and by all whose journey you will be called to share. You have to bring that love to those who have never encountered it. You have to bring that love to those who have rejected Christ’s message because they never encountered it as a message of love. You have to bring that love to those who have been hurt within the Church by those who failed to witness to love. The Christian life is not a collection of rules and formulas which are imposed on the individual, but the message about a person – Jesus Christ – who reaches out – filled with love, compassion and forgiveness – to meet us in our sinfulness.
Through ordination you will receive from Jesus Christ the power of acting in his name, in persona Christi. This means that you are called to become identified with Christ through an exemplary life.
Ministry in the Church involves participation in the Sacrifice of Christ. The preacher in the Christian community is never the minister of his own words, but of the Word. The preacher must live in his life the abnegation and self-giving of Jesus. Without such renunciation of self, our preaching will only be a projection of ourselves, of our words, rather than the proclamation of the Word of God. Vatican II’s Constitution on Divine Revelation (#25) reminds priests of the constant need to immerse themselves in the scriptures lest they become, quoting Saint Augustine, “an empty preacher of the Word of God to others, not being first a hearer of the word in your own heart”.
The abnegation and renunciation required in following the way of Jesus is not repression, but fulfilment, since belief in his name gives us power to be children of God. The words of Jesus – as we heard as we greeted the Gospel – are spirit and life. May the Holy Spirit be with you Paul so that your ministry will be one of a fidelity to the Word and a witness of the joy that that liberating Word brings with it. May your ministry bring you personal satisfaction and fulfilment as you journey towards holiness.
In just a few days we will celebrate here in Dublin the 50th International Eucharistic Congress on the theme “Communion with Christ and communion with one another”. In these days we pray for the Congress that it will be moment of renewal. I have spoken of the Congress as a Congress for the Church in the Ireland of today. My hope is that it will be a congress where all those who, despite differences, love the Church will find an occasion to meet in a context not of discontent but of hope, in the spirit of the words we heard in the second reading: “Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is faithful. Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”.
As we now invoke the power of the Spirit on our brother Paul Ludden let us pray that his ministry will always be one of love and good works springing from the faithful, sacrificial love of Jesus which he will celebrate day after day in the Eucharist.