Given at the diaconate ordinations at Westminster Cathedral on 10th June 2017
A vocation to the diaconate and the priesthood is a strange thing. It slips into someone’s heart and initially the one who has received this vocation does not know what it is, sometimes it is present in a longing of the mind, in a desire which cannot be named. But when it is present it can grow and eventually it is recognised for what it is and the one who has received this vocation know the will not have any peace until it is explored and followed. Those to be ordained deacons have been following this call for some time; they have preparing for this moment for some time and when they leave the sanctuary today they will be different men, set apart for service in the Church. It is a day when freely they give themselves. For the whole people of God it is day of joy not only because we share in the joy of these men but because we see Christ keep his promise to the Church that he will not leave us.
You eight men know the truth of which Christ spoke in the Gospel, you did not choose me, I chose you. When Christ chooses us he sometimes he has to pursue us until we accept his call. The time of formation as you know is when we make Christ’s wish for us our own wish until there comes the point when our will is aligned with his. Today we come to that moment and now as we shall hear in the Prayer of Consecration that henceforth you will be asked to imitate the Son of God who came not to be served but to serve.
It has been said that when Christ calls someone he calls them to die. That is die to themselves. Unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies it remains a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest. One of the promises you make today is that of celibacy. For many in this world such a promise seems like death without hope, a bereavement which brings only sadness. For you who have been given this grace of celibacy it is rather a source of joy in that it is a covenant between you and God which manifests the giving of yourself to him. For others, it is a sign to them, a reminder that you have given your heart and your life to God. Like all worthy promises, as married couples know so well, it is a promise that has to be renewed on all sorts of days, on good days and on the grey days that find their ways into everyone’s life. This constant renewal wins for us the favour of God which restores and lifts us up.
You will promise to pray for the world. How easily we say to someone, yes I will pray for you. Henceforth you will be obliged to pray at different times of the day for the world, for all people. Your days will be punctuated by times when you will cease from activity and imitate Christ the man of prayer, and so bring God’s grace to the world in ways that we will never know. Through these prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours you will unite yourself with Christ and all ordained ministers and hold before God his world with all its joys and sorrows. I call you friends, Jesus said. By being faithful to this rhythm of the Prayer of the Church you return his friendship.
In the Gospel of Mark when Christ called the Apostles he gave them a twofold mission: to be his companions and to go out from him. Each is important. To be Christ’s companion in prayer is how one prepares to speak the word which finds its way into people’s lives and gives them faith and hope. Always remember that the word of God is not like the word of man: it moves slowly but decisively. And the words we speak are not our own words but God’s. Through them the lives of people are changed.
You will promise obedience to your Ordinary, your Bishop. That includes, among other things, learning the importance of working with others. For a cause greater than your own. So that others may come to know the truth which is God and his love, the one thing that lasts forever and never wears out. So observe what is effective, what inspires and moves.
In the midst of all that happens Christ is working too; you are the sign of that.
I am sure you will agree that many had a hand in your formation, for them this is a proud moment and I thank all of them, the parishes to which to you were sent and the staff of Allen Hall.
And of course we are grateful to the families of the Ordinands: you have provided them for the Church and helped in a way that is perhaps unknown.
PATRICK, ALLAN, MARK, DANIEL, ROBERT, LEO, JONATHAN AND JONNY today is a joyful day. There will be other days when things go wrong. On those days keep faith with and stay close to the one who chose you. By relying on God in difficult times, times of temptation the soul grows stronger and we become ready to do his work.
For it is really God who lays his hands on you this day in the form of the bishop, he does so because he wants you. We rejoice because you have responded to his call. It is his mission; we ask only for the grace to be faithful.