ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
HOMILY GIVEN BY
CARDINAL SEÁN BRADY
SATURDAY 15 AUGUST 2009
At this stage in the ordination, the Church asks the ordaining Bishop to address you, the People of God, and the man who is being ordained on the duties of a priest. This address takes the place of the homily.
Before we speak of duties – we could usefully recall perhaps what a priest is. A priest is someone who is intimately connected to Christ and his saving work, someone who is dependent on Christ – someone who models his life on Christ.
Francis, your brother and friend, is about to be ordained a priest. Francis was ordained a deacon earlier this year and now he is to be raised to the order of priest. It is good, especially in the Year of the Priest, to consider carefully what this means.
God has made all of you, His entire people – a royal priesthood. By baptism we were all given a share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and therefore a share in His work as priest, teacher and king of His people. Jesus is the great High Priest. He chose some of his followers, not all, for another role in His Church. They are chosen to carry out, in public and in the Church, another role, another task and another function. They are to perform and to carry out the work of the priesthood in the name of Jesus, on behalf of mankind.
After He was sent by His Father, Jesus in turn sent the apostles out into the world. The apostles have died and have gone but their successors have not gone away. The successors of the apostles are the bishops. Through the bishops and their co-workers, the priests, Christ continues His work: as a teacher, who teaches; as a priest who prays with and makes holy His people; as a shepherd who directs and guides people to their eternal glory in heaven. Priests and bishops are joined in serving in this work. We are all called to serve.
Francis has been considering the idea of becoming a priest for a long time. He wants to serve Christ through you, his people, the people of the diocese of Armagh. He was, for many years, a teacher here in the College of Further Education. He is now resuming that role of teaching but now teaching the most important subject of all – the subject of eternal life with God. Francis is now going to serve Christ, the teacher, the bringer of Good News.
Francis is going to serve Christ, the priest. He will pray, on behalf of you, at Mass and when he prays the Divine Office, prays the Rosary and celebrates the sacraments. He will pray for himself, his family and extended family. Francis will serve Christ, the good shepherd, the shepherd who knows his people and stays with them and leads them to pastures, fresh and green. The shepherd who does not run away from hard work or hard decisions; The shepherd who, by his sermon and advice, tries to lead people away from the wolves into the safety of the sheepfold, which is the Church of Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ. Christ wants the Church to grow into the people of God, a Holy Temple.
Francis is called into the priesthood of the bishop. He will be, from today, be a co-worker with the Archbishop of Armagh and with the other priests of the diocese. He and I, and all of the priests, are to model ourselves on Christ, who is the Supreme and eternal priest. His priesthood lasts forever.
By our ordination we priests are called to preach the Gospel, in season and out of season. To preach it with love always but also with integrity, whether the message is popular or unpopular, it is always a message of God’s love and mercy. We are to prepare ourselves as best we can to carry out this arduous task. We prepare by study and reading, by devoting the time to preparing the sermon, but we never forget that we also preach the Gospel by the way we live our lives.
We clergy are to sustain God’s people spiritually. Life is a journey and we all need food for that journey – spiritual food, advice, guidance, instruction, direction, pardon, forgiveness and prayer. The Church has all of these in abundance and she relies on her clergy to dispense these to her people generously and faithfully. This is done permanently through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Church and, above all, by the Mass which is the Lord’s sacrifice.
We clergy pray for you our beloved people. It is our privilege to be called to serve you. I in turn ask you to pray for Francis and for all of us, especially in the Year of the Priest, that we may be less unworthy servants of the Kingdom.
Now Francis the instruction turns to you. As a priest you are to apply your energy to the duty of teaching in the name of Christ, the chief teacher. You already know what it is to be a teacher. The challenge here is to keep fit and well so that you will have the health and the energy for the job.
The church gives five direct commands at this stage.
1. Share with all mankind the Word of God which you have received with joy. You have received the message joyfully. Hand it on joyfully.
2. Meditate on the law of God which is the law of love, the law of eternal life. Give the time every day to meditation, otherwise you won’t accomplish much.
3. Believe what you read! It comes to us on good authority.
4. Teach what you believe.
5. Put in to practice what you teach.
The modern world heeds only those teachers who actually bear witness in their own private lives to that which they teach in public.
Let the doctrine you teach be true nourishment for the people of God. The food must be prepared well and presented attractively, otherwise it may be left on the plate and remain undigested. Let the example of your lives attract the followers of Christ. People are attracted by what is good, by what is true and by what is beautiful. Some who may not share our ideas of what is good and true, rarely reject what is truly beautiful.
Francis, you are aware that in addition to the task of teaching; as a priest you receive a mission of sanctifying – the mission of making others holy. There is a basic principle which says that nobody can give what he has not got. So the text says that you must carry out this part of your mission – in the power of Christ. Hence the advice at the beginning, that every priest is connected to and dependent on Christ.
By your ministry you are to perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful. I think it is very useful for all of us priests to remember that. We sometimes hear it said that the life of the priest is lonely. It does not have to be lonely. In all of 45 years of priesthood, thanks be to God, I have never felt lonely. The fact that our job is to see and recognise the many and great sacrifices which the faithful people make is one sure way of not being lonely. We are to perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the people by uniting it to Christ’s sacrifice. To do that we have to really know the people and be close to them – in their joys and their sorrows, in their victories and their defeats, in their hopes and disappointments.
You unite the spiritual sacrifice of the people to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary – which is offered through you hands sacramentally every time you will offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Here the instruction is quite direct. Know what you are doing, imitate the mystery you celebrate. It is not just a case of putting on the vestments and reciting the words properly. It is that, of course, but much more. It is a case of imitating the mysterious reality that lies hidden therein.
Here the words of the Rite:
• In the Mass, which is the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection: Make every effort to die to sin – hence the confession of sin at the beginning of every Mass.
• Make every effort to walk in the New Life in Christ. It is not enough to talk the talk we must also walk the talk as they say.
• When you baptise you will bring men and women into the People of God.
• In the sacrament of Penance you will forgive sins in the Name of Christ and the Church
The sacrament of Penance is being neglected at present by some people – it is a great pity because it is absolutely essential for all who want to really walk the New Life in Christ. We priests must lead the way – by ourselves preaching, practicing and providing opportunities for all. Where that happens, e.g. the centres of pilgrimage – the practice is still fairly strong. This morning at 5.00 am in Knock I am told there were lots of people waiting for confessions.
With Holy Oil you will relieve and console the sick.
You will celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in the Divine Office. In so doing you will be offering thanks and praise to God through the various hours of the day. In so doing you will also be praying not just for yourself, not just for your parish but for the whole people of God and, in fact, for the whole world.
Remember that you did not choose this on your own. You have been chosen from among God’s people you are being appointed to act on their behalf. You are to act on their behalf – not about some foolish things but in relation to God. It is quite a responsibility, but be of good heart. You will be sustained in that responsibility by the prayers of so many – not just in your native County Tyrone or your adopted County Armagh but, I am sure, by your wider circle of friends, so well represented here today.
The Church tells us priests to do our part in the work of Christ with genuine joy and love. For that to happen we must make sure that we always keep in contact with the sources of genuine joy and love. They are not necessarily the same as what the world calls love and joy.
Attend to the concerns of Christ – the Rite says – before your own. That is something that I think you would wish to do in any case.
Finally, the Church reminds us that the priest shares in the work of Christ – the Head and Shepherd of the Church. The shepherd guides the flock away from danger towards pastures and safety.
Here there is great emphasis on unity. It is a work carried out in unity with, and subject to, the bishop. It is therefore done in unity with the rest of the clergy and indeed with the religious and lay-faithful of the diocese. The solo run is practically banned. The idea is to bring the faithful together. They are to live in communion as in a unified family. The idea is to lead them effectively through Christ and in the Holy Spirit. It all happens through the working of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of the Risen Christ.
The Instruction ends with a reminder to be ever mindful of the example of the Good Shepherd. He came not to be served but to serve. He came to seek out and rescue those who were lost. May you, in all your work, Francis, do likewise.
En France, le quinze aout est votre jour patronal, comme ici le dix-sept mars, parce que votre patronne est Notre Dame, assompté au ciel. Votre Sanctuaire a Lourdes est un grande lieu de pélerinage pour les Irlandais et il y a un vrai lien entre les francais et nous a cause de cela. La visite du Pape Benoit XVI a Lourdes pour célébrer le centcinquantieme anniversaire des apparitions a Bernaette était impressionante pour nous!
The ordination ceremony is taking place on the beautiful Feast of the Assumption of Our lady – body and soul – into the glory of Heaven. There is more than a hint of that beauty and glory in Musillo’s painting of the Assumption which is shown on the front of your Ordination booklet.
Where Mary has gone – we hope to follow for we are all made for glory. But we will not go there on our own. May this ordination help all of us on that journey towards eternal glory and may the work, life and example of our newly ordained priest, with the help of many, lead many on that path to glory.
REV FRANCIS COLL
ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
SATURDAY 15 AUGUST 2009
Today is a day of great joy for many, many people. I welcome all of you to share in the celebration of that joy and the celebration of the Ordination ceremony.
It is a day of great joy for Francis Coll and for his sisters, Anne and Margaret, his aunts, Agnes and Annie Coll and for the extended Coll family.
I welcome all who have helped Francis to reach this day of ordination.
• His former teacher, Vincent McGill,
• Staff members of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth;
• The President and Vice-President of St Joseph’s Young Priests Society, Marie Hogan and Pat Denning;
• Seminarians of this diocese and other diocese from Maynooth and Rome;
• Members of the Committee for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Eucharist at national and diocesan level.
Cet après-midi nous acceuillons aussi une groupe des dix-sept francais, le plupart Breton, dans notre cathedral de St. Patrick. Nous vous remercions pour cette acte de communion entre les eglises de la France et I’Irlande, unis sous l’autorité de notre Pape, Benoit Seize. C’est tres gentil venire en ce moment pour l’ordination a la pretrise de Francois Coll.
We also have people from Kenya and Nigeria to underline the university of the Church and, of course, a strong contingent from the parish of Drogheda – where Francis completed his priestly formation over the last year and where he will serve after ordination.
I am pleased to see the clergy of this diocese and of this parish well represented as we welcome into our ranks a newly-ordained priest. What a blessing this is for the Year of the Priest.
Today we thank God for the decision of Francis Coll to offer himself for ordination and service as a priest of Jesus Christ.
We give thanks for the many generous people who have helped in so ma y ways to sustain Francis in his resolve and on the long journey to becoming a priest.
We ar here to pray for Francis that he may, at all times, model himself on Jesus Christ – the Great and Eternal High Priest.