Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
This Mass at which the Chrism is consecrated and the oils of the sick and of Catechumens are blessed has become a special day in the life of the diocese. It is a Mass in which a large representative group of priests concelebrate with their bishop to signify the unity of our priesthood in the service of the Church in Dublin.
I cannot express sufficiently my own gratitude to the priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin. Day by day I witness and learn more of their commitment to their ministry. When I visit parishes I see the huge appreciation that parishioners express towards their priests. I thank God for this great work of our priests, diocesan and religious, who are untiring in their ministry, at a time in which they could have many human reasons to feel tired, as fewer priests are called to undertake more tasks.
This is also a Mass in which lay people and religious come from each and every one of our parishes as representatives of the many forms of ministry which exist in the diocese. I greet the representatives of the parishes, from counties Kildare and Wicklow, from Laois and Wexford as well as from all over Dublin county and city. I thank God for the many signs of renewal in the Church. The Church in Dublin is changing.
In this context, I would like to express my thanks to God for an extraordinary renewal in the commitment of our lay persons to service in our parishes, in diocesan agencies, in schools and through their presence in society. I express my thanks to Christian parents. I express my thanks to teachers. It is encouraging to see lay people emerging today as co-workers in pastoral care willingly, generously and with competence. I know that there are many who are only waiting to have the opportunity to do more and do things differently. In this I discern the Lord speaking to us and challenging all of us.
Some will say that we are opening up to lay involvement as a stop-gap solution to the shortage of priests. I would respond. If we look on lay involvement as a stop-gap solution it will simply fizzle out. Our plans for working together in mission will only work when they are rooted in an understanding of the calling of all Christians to the ministry of witness to their faith within the ecclesial community and in the world.
This ceremony of the blessing of oils teaches us something about ministry in the Church. The oils are symbols of the centrality of the sacraments in our Christian lives. All ministry in the Church is linked to the sacraments and above all to the Eucharist. This is the difference between ecclesial ministry and any other form of service to the community.
All ministry is linked to the Eucharist. For those of us called to the ordained priesthood, Holy Thursday is obviously a day on which we remember how the Lord entrusted to the Twelve the priestly task of celebrating the Sacrament of his Body and Blood until he comes again. Jesus replaced all the sacrifices and practices of the Old Covenant by the gift of his Body and his Blood, the gift of himself.
The priesthood which Jesus instituted on Holy Thursday is thus something new: it is no longer a question of lineage or title or privilege, as in the Old Covenant, but of identifying oneself with Jesus Christ as the one who emptied himself and became obedient unto death.
In his homily on Holy Thursday last Year, Pope Benedict noted that: “Jesus alone can say: “This is my Body… this is my Blood”. The mystery of the priesthood of the Church lies in the fact that we by virtue of our ordination can speak with his “I“: in persona Christi. It is Jesus who exercises his priesthood through us”.
As ordained priests we always have to bear in mind that priesthood is not our private possession. Our priestly activity must always reflect that reality. Our style of life and priestly ministry must reflect that reality. We must know Jesus. We must have the same mind as him. Our priesthood is not a construction of our own. It is the fruit of a communion of our thought with that of Jesus, God’s Anointed One, who brings good news. We must shape our lives to be like Jesus, as the second reading reminds us. We too must empty ourselves so that we too can make our lives available as service, to Jesus and to his mission.
Following Jesus requires in a special way that we follow him in his pattern of prayer. Jesus frequently withdrew – at times for entire nights – “to the mountains”, to pray alone. All his major works are preceded by such prayer on the mountain; his great sermon, his law for life, was given from the mount; that means, it was given in the context therefore of prayerful reflection. We too need these “mountains” in our lives. We need the space to be alone with the Lord. Our entire priestly ministry – indeed all ministry in the Church – must be carried out in the context of prayerful reflection.
For many of us there is so much to do. Being busy is no harm. It can even be something which deserves merit, but when speaking of ministry we must always remember that external action is fruitless and loses its effectiveness unless it is born from inner identification with Christ. We can see many examples today where well-intentioned frenetic activism in every direction only ends up loosing all direction. The time we spend in prayer is truly a time of pastoral activity, authentic pastoral activity. The priest must above all be a man of prayer.
While today at this Mass we celebrate the special call to the ministerial priesthood, we do so in the company representatives of every component of our diocesan community and aware that our ministry as priests, though specific and irreplaceable, requires the other charisms and ministries which the spirit grants to the Church.
In looking forward, as priests, religious and lay people, to new forms of working together in mission we recognise immediately what we all have in common. We recognise firstly our one baptism. We also must recall our one call to holiness. One of the central teachings of Vatican II is that all Christians, in whatever state or walk of life, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of love. The call to holiness is common to all ministry in the Church and once again sets ministry aside from any other form of service within a community. Holiness is also constitutive of the original contribution of the believing community and its members to social endeavour. Our holiness offers contemporary society a new manner of living.
Renewal is not just a renewal of structures but a renewal in holiness. This call to holiness is universal, it applies to all. The call to renewal goes out to all, young and old, laity, clergy and religious. We urgently need to renew all our efforts to bring the message of Jesus right into the hearts of our young people. We need to place the message of Jesus’ love at the heart of marriage and family life. We need to bring to our world that unique message of truth, justice and love witnessed to by Jesus.
This morning I wish to announce a series of initiatives to foster a broad programme of renewal in all sectors of diocesan life which will begin in the coming weeks
Renewal in the diocese means reaching out to as many people as possible in a missionary spirit. Today there is a true sense in which the Archdiocese of Dublin is mission territory. A few years ago many would have thought that type of affirmation somewhat exaggerated. But today so many of those who were baptised as Christians no longer really know Jesus and their way of living demonstrates that the message of Jesus touches their lives only in a marginal way. I will be inviting every parish in the diocese to join in a common programme of missionary outreach and evangelization during the year 2009, like that which has been carried out in a number of European capitals over the past years. Every aspect of diocesan life and of the diocesan administration will be focussed on that programme.
The project to establish parish pastoral councils in every parish in the diocese has exceeded my own expectations and I thank all those who have ensured that these Councils are seen not just administrative or procedural bodies, but true instruments of evangelization. It is my intention to establish, by this summer, a Diocesan Pastoral Council which will be to me as Archbishop what a Parish Pastoral Council is in a Parish, particularly in assisting me in the process of renewal and mission across the diocese.
The current Parish Development and Renewal, which has done such great work since its introduction, will be integrated into a new Diocesan Office for Evangelization, which will provide technical and resource back-up for the new missionary outreach and will help coordinate the work of education in the faith, liturgical and scriptural animation, outreach to young people, and our work for justice and charity. This office will maintain its roots in the five pastoral areas into which the diocese is divided, while working in a coordinated way to address the common cultural challenges of the day.
In autumn I hope that we will be ready to receive our first candidates for the permanent diaconate, another of the significant elements of Church renewal desired by Vatican II which has been very successful in many dioceses around the world. At the same time a programme will be launched beginning in the summer for training lay people who wish, on a full-time basis, to enrich our pastoral service within parishes through their specific charism as lay persons.
All of this renewal will take place within the context of the National Year of Vocations which I will have the pleasure of launching on behalf of the Episcopal Conference here in the Pro-Cathedral in April. I thank Father Eamonn Bourke for his work as Vocations Director, together with his team. We need priests. We need good priests. This assembly this morning witnesses to just how much the role of priests is essential and is appreciated by the entire diocesan family. I appeal to priests not to hide the light of the fundamental personal happiness and fulfilment that their mission brings them Share it with the coming generation. Speak about it to young people.
Our consumerist world needs an injection of idealism and generosity. Our world needs God. It needs a true understanding of God, that God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, the God who loved us to the point of dying for us, but who rose and who restored life to us in our weakness and fragility.
May the Lord accompany this diocesan family as it heads out on its path of renewal through a new partnership and sharing of charisms. Let us place out trust and our hope in the Lord, and the Lord alone.