Last Updated:

Given on on 29th June at Westminster Cathedral for the ordinations of Thomas Blackburn, Domagoj Matakovic and Robert Smialek to the priesthood.

My brothers and sisters, today we gather for the ordination of our three new priests, Thomas, Domagoj and Robert. Let us begin by remembering that together we are the priestly people of God. Yes, all of us, a priestly people. Indeed, St Peter, whose feast we usually keep today, tells us to think of ourselves as a ‘royal priesthood’.  

Every baptised person, each one of us, by virtue of that baptism, has been given the character of royal priesthood. This is our deepest identity. Because of this priesthood, we know that our whole life is to be an act of worship of God, an offering made to God, day by day. In this priesthood of the baptised we begin each day with the prayer of a morning offering. In this way every home, every place of work, every moment can be made holy, unfolding in God’s presence. That is our priestly calling: to praise and honour God with our lives. 

From within and into this priestly people, by the work of the Holy Spirit, comes the ordained priesthood, given by God for service of his priestly people. With this ordination today, our three new priests, will bring to us, this priestly people, not only the sacraments by which the Church is nourished but also the mandated guidance and teaching of Jesus, entrusted to them by the Church and the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Now, here in our midst, is the much-venerated body of St John Southworth, a priest who served in these streets four hundred years ago. He persevered in his ministry in times of great difficulty. Arrested and imprisoned on five different occasions, he was finally martyred on 28th June 1654, simply for being a priest. Today our priests seek to follow in his footsteps of service.

To do so is to fulfil the words of the prayer of this Mass: that our new priests will maintain ‘a persevering obedience to your will, so as to gain glory for you in Christ’. St John Southworth did this, and so lies before us facing up to heaven, reflecting that glory. Our priests-to-be, in contrast, will shortly lie face down, beseeching God’s grace that they may do likewise. And we pray for them with great earnestness. 

St Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that we are ‘ambassadors for Christ’. Now an ambassador should never represent himself. He is never there to promote himself. It is not our own words that we are to proclaim, nor our own needs that we are to promote. Rather, as ordained priests, we have one Lord, one Word of life, one source of reconciliation. It is him we are to serve.

Shortly, every priest present in the Cathedral will come forward to lay his hands on the heads of these deacons. A little later they will offer the newly ordained a sign of fraternal greeting. This will all take some time. So please, I ask you all, be patient in these important moments. These actions spell out for us that ordination to the priesthood concerns not an individual, nor three individuals, on whom powers or honour are being conferred. Rather, through this ordination each of them is now incorporated into a ‘collective subject’, a collective identity, the body of priests of this diocese, together with their bishops. We priests are to work together and support each other, not by choice or friendship, but because we are part of each other, a true collective and not, ever, a collection of privileged individuals. 

During these two parts of the ceremony, as we watch and wait, let us pray for our priests, together, as a fellowship, of all shapes and sizes, yet one body of service to us all.

The gifts these new priests receive in ordination correspond to gifts of priesthood given to and shared by the whole Church. But in this ceremony they are received in a special manner, one that enables the ordained ministry to serve the priestly character of all the baptised, in word and sacrament, in holy order and freedom.  So together, priestly people and ordained ministers, we seek to serve the Lord always and to gain glory for God in Christ.

This is our mission of reconciliation, and it’s a tall order. But it is the work of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Listen again to St Paul. He always tells it as it is:

‘For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation.’

Looking round our world today we know there’s a great need for reconciliation. Our homes, our work, public or creative endeavour and political office, are all often marked by polarised confrontation and antagonisms. Of course, we take our share in these activities, each according to our calling. But, as disciples of the Lord, what we have to constantly show, by our words and actions, is that reconciliation, true fulfilment, is to be found in union with Christ, in this new creation. As yet we only glimpse this new reality, above all in the beauty and action of the Mass. Yet we live by the promise of its fulfilment in the glory of heaven, our destiny and our joy.

A final word to these deacons now to become ordained priests.

You will always remain deacons for it is your badge of service. But you will now also be clothed with the ordained priesthood. Be sure about your purpose and be faithful too. Once I sat with a priest, much older than I was, in his kitchen. He had some form to be filled in, which asked him to state clearly his objectives. He didn’t know where to start. ‘Father’, I said to him, ‘what are you trying to do here?’ ‘Well’, he said, ‘I’m trying to help people to get to heaven!’ I said. ‘That’s a thoroughly priestly answer, and it sums up your life! Write it down!’’

Let us pray that these three new priests, Thomas, Domagoj and Robert, will, after many years, be able to give that same answer, remaining clear in their focus, steadfast in their ministry and the finest ambassadors of Christ to whom they now make their promises of service.


✠ Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster