ORDINATION TO PRIESTHOOD
ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, ARMAGH
SUNDAY, 26 JUNE, 2005, 2.30 PM
MOST REV. SEÁN BRADY, DCL
ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH
I welcome you all most cordially to St. Patrick’s Cathedral today for the Ordination to the Priesthood of our Deacon, Rev Liam McKinney.
I welcome Eugene and Colette, Liam’s father and mother and I thank them for giving Liam to be ordained a priest and for all the support and encouragement they have provided for Liam over the years. I welcome his sisters, Ann, Colette and Bernadette and his brothers, Michael, Gerard and Eamon and all his nephews and nieces and extended family. I thank you also for all your help to Liam. How could we begin this ceremony without remembering Mary and Thomas Joseph. Our belief in the communion of saints tells us that they too have played their part.
I welcome Mons Liam Bergin, Rector of the Irish College, Rome where Liam has studied for the last five years. I thank him and the staff for all their help on Liam’s road to priesthood.
I welcome all of Liam’s friends and relatives who have come from many places and travelled many kilometres to be with us today. I hope no-one will mind my singling out one or two in particular. Father Cassian, is a student in Rome and comes from Burundi in Central Africa and is most welcome.
I also welcome Father Malachy Hanratty – who needs no introduction from me, in Armagh. He is a Columban Father and a neighbour of the McKinney family. Father Malachy you are most welcome home from Japan and I wish you a great celebration of the Golden Jubilee of your priesthood. You and all our visitors are most welcome.
I welcome the people of Armagh Parish. This is a wonderful and joyful day. As Liam aptly says, “This is your day as much as mine”.
Every priest has been taken out of humankind and is appointed to act for them in their relations with God – to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Every priest lives with all the limitations of weakness that are part of human nature. For he has to make offerings for himself as well as for the people. That is why we begin every Mass – priests and people – by humbly confessing our sins and imploring the Lord to pardon them……….
At this point in the ordination the Church asks the Bishop to explain what exactly is taking place. Liam is now about to be ordained a priest. Let’s pause for a moment to consider what exactly a Catholic priest is.
It is true that at our baptism God has made His entire people – that is, each one of us, and not just the ordained Deacons, priests and bishops, but all of us, a royal priesthood. Jesus Christ has called us – all of us – to the glory that has made us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.
And yet, it is also true, that Jesus chose some of his followers – not all – to carry out publicly – not in private – but publicly – for all to hear and see – the work of a priest – in His name and on behalf of humankind. And we, we priests and bishops, do our best to act, not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus, that is, the holy name by which all people must be saved.
We act in the name of Jesus and on behalf of mankind – not in our own interest – not on behalf of our families but on behalf of the whole human race. For Jesus Christ himself, sent by the Father has sent, in turn, his apostles, Peter, James and John and all the others, out into the world. Out to the ends of the earth. Through the apostles and through their successors who are the bishops, Jesus continues and carries on His work, His work of sending people to the ends of the earth. That is why Father Malachy went to Japan and his colleagues like him.
During his lifetime, Jesus went about teaching and preaching. He prayed often and long and fasted and towards the end of his life, at the Last Supper, he took bread and wine and changed them into His Body and Blood and asked the apostles to do likewise in his memory. He said, ‘I am the good shepherd who leads the flock to grass and water and protects them from the attacks of wild animals’. That is the kind of work which clergy – bishops and priests who are co-workers – that is the kind of service which we try to offer to you, in God’s name and to you, who are God’s people.
Liam McKinney has seriously considered the step he is taking today. After his graduation in Maynooth – before he became a seminarian – he decided that he would like to be a priest. So he presented himself to begin the long period of discerning whether that was what God had in mind for him also. And if so, to embark upon the programme of preparation and formation. He spent in two years in Maynooth studying Philosophy, which literally means, love of wisdom. Then he went to Rome where he spent the last five years studying Theology, which literally means the science and knowledge of God. During the final two years he specialised in Liturgy, which is the study of the worship of God. To all of this he devoted himself wholeheartedly, earnestly and patiently.
Of course the study is only one part of the course, an important part yes, but not the most important part. The prayer, the reflection, the spiritual direction, the counselling, the pastoral work, helping out in parishes over the summers, learning from other priests, this is by far, the most important part.
Remember he was preparing, and is now about to begin, to serve Christ. Christ – who is all the time present and active and at work in the Church. For the Church is the body of Christ. And Christ is at work in His people to help us grow into the People of God. Christ is always present, building us up into a Holy Temple and each one of us is a building block in that Holy Temple.
And so, Liam, like every priest and every bishop, is called to grow and become more like Christ. He is called to take on more and more the values which Jesus had and make his own, the attitudes which Jesus showed to friends and foes alike.
Today Liam is being set apart, to preach and explain the Good News – to sustain, support, encourage and console God’s people in their efforts to live that Good News. He is set apart to pray with and for people, to forgive them their sins and, above all, to celebrate the Holy Mass.
Liam, you are now to be ordained a priest. As you know well, you are called to apply your energies to preaching and teaching in the name of Christ – to writing sermons – preparing talks – explaining the Readings – preparing people to celebrate sacraments worthily and fruitfully. The faith formation of our people is a number one priority. Faith comes from hearing. So, share with all the people at every opportunity, the Word of God, which you yourself have received with joy over all these long years of preparation. Give interesting and attractive examples from your own experience of life and of study and meditation. Take time to meditate on the Law of God. Jesus did not come to abolish that law but to bring it to completion. Pray constantly for the gift of believing what you read because, after all, God is the one and only infallible truth which can neither deceive nor be deceived. And, teach in turn what you yourself believe. Try your best always to practice what you preach.
The Roman Pontifical says that the doctrine you teach should be true nourishment for the people. Make sure they can digest it and that it gives inspiration and consolation. Flavour it with real-life examples. Throw in the sauce or dessert in the form of a good story that has a moral to impart. The examples of your own life will be crucial. People are most impressed by those teachers who model in their own lives what they advocate in their sermons.
When all is said and done, every priest is called to make people holy – not with his own power – but in the power of Jesus Christ – who is the Holy One. So, when you offer Mass and you raise up the host and the chalice – the body and blood of Jesus Christ – the fruit of His sacrifice on the Cross on Calvary. Remember you are also offering up the countless sacrifices of the people – their pains, their sufferings, their hurts, their crosses. Listen to them as they tell you about them and unite them and your own sacrifices to the perfect and all-powerful sacrifice of Jesus Christ. At every Mass the one great sacrifice which each one of us is called to make is to die to sin in our own personal life and to try to rise up living the new life of Christ.
When you baptise you will bring men and women into the People of God. in the sacrament of Confession, you will forgive the sins in the name of Christ and the Church. In your preaching, remind the people of their need to have their sins forgiven. With Holy Oils you will offer praise and thanks to God throughout days you recite the Divine Office, praying not only for the people of God but for the whole world. Remember that you have been chosen, from among God’s people and appointed to act for them, in relation to God.
Finally, always try to bring people together in God’s family and to lead them effectively to Christ and in the Holy Spirit to God the Father. Always remember the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served, but to serve and to seek out and rescue those who are lost.
The good shepherd is the one who has loved your and chosen you. He is now commissioning you to go out and bear fruit – fruit that will last. He is the one who brings joy to the world and to you and to your family on this holiest of days. May God guide and bless you always as you travel the road of life.