28 May 2007

An anniversary

Two years ago today, the Most Reverend George J. Lucas ordained seven men to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ for priestly service to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. I am one of those seven.

These two years have been good and filled with many blessings and joys. Of all of the words I heard and spoke that day these stand out in my mind:
Receive the obation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord's cross.
This I strive to do each day and some days I do so more faithfully than others. Nevertheless, the Lord is most gracious and generous to me, a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God.
I thought today I might offer you the homily preached by Bishop Lucas that glorious day:
During the pontificate of Pope John Paul II the canonization of saints became almost routine. He added so many to the Church’s list of recognized saints. The canonization masses in recent years, though, were anything but routine. They were festive and involved people from many nations and many cultures.

Pope John Paul was teaching us by a beautiful repetition what the Second Vatican Council highlighted and what was taught by Saint Paul in the first generation of the Church: all who are baptized are called to be saints.

Each of us shares in an important way, in an irreplaceable way, in the saving mission of Jesus who is priest, prophet, and king. John Paul not only told us that we should become saints, he showed us how to do it. More importantly, he demonstrated in so many ways that it’s something that can be done. It doesn’t require money or good looks. It does require integrity and courage. Even in the face of great adversity – and especially then – we can follow Jesus, we can grow in holiness, we can change the world, even as we are being transformed ourselves by the power of the Holy Spirit.

From the midst of this whole community of believers who are called to sanctity, the Lord calls men to the ordained priesthood. Our seven candidates for ordination today can also take special encouragement from the life and ministry of John Paul II. He has done so much to shape the Church of which you men are being called and to which you will be sent.

Thomas, Michael, Joseph, Aloysius, Jeffrey, Daniel, and Daren, we have learned from the late Pope that not only are men called to the priesthood in our time, but also that it can be done and we can respond and do it with the help of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t take good looks or money or all the things that seem to add celebrity in our time. It does take integrity and courage and the Pope demonstrated in so many ways to the world. If you live with integrity and preach the Gospel courageously, people will listen, people will notice. As they did with Pope John Paul, some will certainly object to what you say and to what you do, but you will change the world, even as you are being changed and being conformed more and more to Christ the High Priest.

My brothers and sisters, these seven men are being ordained in the year of the Eucharist, a particular part of the legacy of Pope John Paul. The Eucharist is God’s gift to us in the Church. These new priests are clear signs that this is truly a year of favor in the Lord.

The altars at which God’s people come seeking the presence of Christ will not be abandoned. God’s people will not be left starving for the Word and the Bread of Life. At the altar, in the pulpit, in the confessional, and on the streets, you will recognize your sons, your brothers, your friends. Our new priests come right from your families and from your towns and your parishes. You have helped them, helped form them in faith, hope and love.

We acknowledge with particular gratitude the faith and love of their parents, some of whom are with us today, some of whom pray for us halfway around the world, and some of whom have gone to the Lord.

My dear brothers in Christ about to be ordained, I exhort you, as the Lord himself exhorts you: feed the flock of Christ. Care for the people who have shown already and will continue to show such special care for you. Feed them, feed us, with the Word of God and with the rich tradition of Catholic teaching. After your own study and prayer, help us to recognize both the blessings and the challenges of the present age so that we can respond to them in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Nourish God’s people with the Liturgy of the Church. Give special care to your celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy and give special energy to making straight the paths that lead people to the altar. Help us not to be indifferent to this communion with and in the Risen Christ.

Be ready every moment to extend the mercy of God in Jesus to those who suffer the guilt of their own sins, as well as those who have been hurt by the sins of others. Be humble enough to admit that some have been hurt by the sins of bishops and priests. Give special care to anyone who carries a heavy burden or who has become isolated. Jesus has a special affection for them and you should, too.

I hope you will be particularly convinced that these days the community of the Church will be strengthened and fed as much by who you are as by what you do. You become now a living sacrament of Jesus Christ. You are an integral part of the presbyterate of this Diocese, this wonderful presbyterate; so many of our priests are here today to welcome you.

You are a valued coworker with me in the proclamation of the Gospel. In the years ahead I’m going to depend on you for many things. Much of what I will ask of you will be shaped by our prayerful reading together of the signs of the times as the needs of our whole Church become more clear. We cannot see the future now in all of its details.

I do know this much, though: I will depend on you everyday to live your priesthood without compromise. Our people are depending on you, as well as I am, to live virtuous lives, and to let them see what virtue looks and sounds like. You are not perfect. You will fall short as priests have done the since the Apostles. Still, we must never plan to cut corners or strip our excuses for compromising virtue ahead of time. When we do that we poison the flock that rightfully comes to us looking for the Bread of Life.

If you let them, God’s people will teach you, too. They will teach you the ways of virtue if you are willing to watch and to listen. After all, we are all called to be saints, and no one vocation ever grows in holiness at the expense of another.

In this Diocese we look to Mary as our heavenly patroness and as our model of virtue. Today I ask her to be the Mother of our new priests, as we know she wants to be, because the sacramental character of her Son is now imprinted within them.

May she bring the many needs of our Diocese, the needs of our people and priests, to Jesus, our High Priest. And may she bring us to him in our homes, in our parishes, and finally, when life in this world is ended, may we join her and all the saints in the Liturgy of heaven.
The Catholic Times also had some fine coverage of the ordination here and here.

4 comments:

  1. Happy Anniversary Father Daren. God must be saying to you :"Well done my good and faithful servant."

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  2. Happy Anniversary of your Ordination. Thanks for sharing the Ordination homily and the links with us.

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  3. Thank you, and you're welcome :)

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