ORDINATION TO THE DIACONATE
Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Pro-Cathedral, Feast of Saint Laurence O’Toole
14th November 2005
Today is a very special occasion. We have come together to celebrate the Feast of Saint Laurence O’Toole, Principal Patron of the Archdiocese, and to ordain to the Diaconate three young men who are on the road towards Priestly Ordination in the service of the Archdiocese of Dublin. I greet on this occasion Cardinal Desmond Connell, Emeritus Archbishop of Dublin, the Auxiliary Bishops, the Members of the Metropolitan Chapter, the priests of the diocese and the representatives of many parishes and organizations here present.
These three men have followed a path of discernment and preparation, of study and of prayer, both in the seminary and within pastoral settings and through specialised training for ministry. Today they have been called to Ordination as Deacons to serve the people of God. They freely assume the state of celibacy, wishing to dedicate themselves totally to the service of the Lord and his people.
They are called to be witnesses to Jesus Christ who is the Good Shepherd, who knows his flock and guides his flock with loving care. The deacon, in the Church, is in a particular way a sign and a witness to Christ who came “not to be served but to serve”. The deacon thus has a particular responsibility to order his life in such a way that he ministers to service and love, that he witnesses in the way he lives not to himself but to the loving kindness of our God.
It is the Lord himself who calls these young men today. It is the Lord who will put into them “a new heart and a new spirit”, as the first reading recalled. The Lord – if they remain faithful to him -will defend them from “all defilement and from all idols”. It is the Lord himself who will give them consistency in their way of life
These men have been called today by the Lord and by the Church to ordination. But that call is in the first place a call to conversion in their lives. The answer to any call of God, to whatever state in the Christian life, must always be an answer of conversion. It is an answer with which we reject the various forms of defilement that can disfigure and have disfigured our lives; it is an answer with which we repent for the ways we have disfigured the image of Jesus Christ within his Church. It is an answer which rejects the idols of our times and calls on each of us to turn back to what is the essence of the Gospel message.
In the sad controversies of these days within the Church, there are some who say that the Catholic Church has been shaken to its very foundations. I would say to that: it is good for the Church to return to its foundations; it is good if we all return to live the Gospel more faithfully. It is Christ himself who is the foundation of what we are as Christians, and that foundation is unshakeable. It is good however if we are all shaken, not just today, but everyday into asking ourselves how our life as individuals, as community and as institution really reflects that Gospel message of divine love which became incarnate in Jesus Christ. It is good if we are challenged to convert and change our lives, all of us.
We all need to remember that the Christian message is not a message which seeks power or political influence, but which preaches goodness and love. It could not be otherwise since the Church is founded on Jesus, who saved us by emptying himself for us. As Pope Benedict XVI stressed in his inaugural address: “God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him”.
The Church does many things in society, but its primary purpose is to teach the message of Jesus Christ. It is that message, that message of a love that is gratuitous which we can unreservedly say deserves a special place in our society and in any society, because it is a message about what goodness is and about what loving means.
The call that these young men receive is a call to continual conversion and to bringing themselves into line with the message of Jesus. These young men who today are ordained deacons are called to a challenging mission in the service of Jesus and of the community. To them and to all who are called to ministry and leadership in the Church I stress that what we are called to is a sacred trust. I say to them: you are not just taking on a job, but you are committing yourself to be witnesses in your lives to Jesus Christ. In the Rite of Ordination we read “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach”.
If you conform your lives to Jesus, you will be witnesses to something which has value at all times and in all places. You must witness to the radical newness which the Gospel represents for each generation. You must learn to disentangle your lives from everything which hinders that radical newness to break through into the realities of our time. In you disentangle yourself in this way you will allow Jesus to appear in and to appeal to the life of each person you encounter.
The Church remains always the same, but is called always to renew herself. Some have declared the Church dead as regards Irish society. The Church as an institution has its faults. But the Church has changed and is changing and has the ability to renew and convert to the essential message of the Gospel. This renewal is going on. The Church is alive, also through the response of conversion of her members Church is the community of the baptised, who hear the word of God and celebrate the mystery of Christ’s saving presence. Everything else in Church life draws from word and sacrament and must be measured by what word and sacrament signify.
On the other hand, we can say that the when the members of the Church do not repent and convert their lives they oppose the life of grace that is in the Church. Living out the message of love is not an easy one. It requires that we reject many things and many paths in life which do not really represent the path of love. Sadly – and we recognise this – the lives of members of the Church, including some of its ministers, instead of witnessing to love, betrayed trust. And sadly at times that betrayal of trust was not recognised for what it is. We must never fail to ask pardon of God and of those who were wounded by such infidelity and wherever possible to be alongside them as they move from woundedness to wholeness.
We give thanks to God today for the Ministry of the good priests of this diocese, who have faithfully served the Lord in holiness and who have served their flock and the community with generosity and intelligence. We pray for the priests of Dublin. We pray that they will grow in their fidelity to the sacred trust they have received, that they will bring the message and the truth and the love of Jesus Christ to a world which needs to be recalled to that which transcends the contingency of the day.
That Church has remained strong from generation to generation in different times, in different situations in different political and cultural settings. Jesus himself reminds us that he is with his Church and that he will be with his Church. That is what gives us confidence. That is what gives us relevance in any generation. The Church is the body of Christ, the mystical body of Jesus who became man and transformed human existence in all its expressions, through his saving power.
The coming years will be challenging years for the Church in Dublin and in Ireland. They must however be years of renewal. I appeal in particular to lay people, men and women, young and old, to follow that path of Christian renewal and to take on the challenge of sharing responsibility for improving the quality of the Christian life in the diocese. I appeal to young people not to be afraid to let the message of Jesus challenge and change their hearts.
Saint Laurence O’Toole was deeply a man of God. He was a person of spiritual integrity. His spiritual integrity and his love for his people made him into a significant figure in the public life of the Dublin and Ireland of his time. May he protect the Church in Dublin in our times. May he lead the Church of Dublin into a time of spiritual renewal, suited to new times. May he protect these new deacons as they begin their ministry .May he protect the priests of Dublin as they continue in faithfulness to serve the Lord and their flock!