Ordination to the Priesthood, Jamie Twohig, SAC.
Church of St. Joseph, Little Island, Cork, July 16th 2016.
Good afternoon to you all. To repeat the words of Peter, James and John, disciples of Our Lord Jesus, on Mount Tabor, “it is good for us to be here”, it is truly good to participate in the ordination of Jaimie Twohig to the Priesthood. Thank you Bishop John Buckley for agreeing to ordain Jaimie in his home parish in Little Island, it means a great deal to him to be ordained here among his own; thanks to Fr. Ted Sheehan and Fr. John Heinhold, the priests of the parish for organizing the ordination, and to Fr. Tom Deenihan, the Master of Ceremonies.
Priesthood as established in the early Church came from the close relationship Jesus formed with the 12 Apostles during the course of his ministry. Following on from the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost, the 12 apostles assumed a role and a mission among those who believed in Jesus; they became responsible for keeping his memory alive, they taught what he had taught them, they animated gatherings of believers and they preached and thus ensured that the Message of Jesus Christ spread. There were others who shared these functions, the larger group of disciples Jesus gathered around himself.
The origin of priesthood in the New Testament era came from the priesthood of Jesus Christ, he distanced himself from priesthood as lived in Old Testament times, and while he did not use the word ‘priest’ in referring to himself nor did he call the apostles ‘priests’, he clearly communicated the reality of what it entailed: an awareness of self as being sent by the Father; one who was holy and had an awareness of being holy in regular communication with God the Father; one who consecrated himself to God with a level of self-consecration that increased throughout his life. Jesus in his ministry was essentially Shepherd, in caring for people; he sacrificed himself for others; he committed himself to service which is nothing other than love for humankind. Jesus, the one priest, exercised his priesthood through the Word; through giving himself in the Institution of the Eucharist for all time, and through a life of service in love. These elements all remain part of what a priest is today and what he is expected to be and to do in the Church of Jesus Christ. On presenting for ordination today Jaimie is in effect stating that this is his understanding of priesthood and is committing himself to growing throughout his life in this calling and life choice.
Jaimie chose the readings for the Mass today, and they communicate something of his person and his vision for his life. The first reading from the book of Zechariah presents us with the promise of God to “Come and dwell in the midst of you”; an affirmation that this world, this universe is ‘shot-through’ with the presence of God. Zechariah is convinced that not alone does God live among his people but that he also acts among them. This is, I believe, your vision of the world and of humanity Jaimie, the dwelling place of God where he is present, alive and active.
The second reading is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians and is a further development of what is contained in the first reading, it is St. Paul’s conviction that the very nature of God is somehow shared with the person, that God not alone dwells among his people but that he dwells within each one and each one has the Spirit of his Son, i.e. of Jesus Christ, in his or her heart, enabling us to perceive and sense God in us. The priest himself grows into fuller awareness of this and if he is in tune with the spirit of Jesus in him then he will surely hear what Jesus himself knows the ministry of the priest to be.
The Gospel reading is the beautiful reading from St. John, Jesus on the Cross entrusting his beloved Mother to John, and in turn, John to his Mother Mary. From this entrustment we see that Mary is the Mother of the Church. In reading the passage, my attention was drawn to the line “the disciple made a place for her in his home”; it was a choice John made, he could have refused, he could have ignored the instruction/request, but he chose to accept and honour it. It was an option, to make a place for Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, in his home, in his life. It remains an option for us, since Mary is not God and so does not dwell within us, but we can opt to make a place, a space, and a role for her in our lives. Jaimie is following in a strong Pallottine tradition, which started with St. Vincent Pallotti himself, of inviting Mary to be a central part of his life and ministry. Remember, Jaimie, that for Vincent, Mary was a ‘teacher of the spiritual life’, she shared with him her intimate knowledge and understanding of Jesus; she cooperated with God in the work of salvation and did so to a heroic degree; and so she was recognized as, and acclaimed as, Queen of Apostles. You have made a place for Mary in your life, may she protect you and through her example of apostolic spirit be your model.
Vincent Pallotti was ordained a priest on 16 May 1818, he wrote a letter to his good friend, Gaspar del Bufalo, a few days later, and we are fortunate to have it; in this letter he expressed his belief that ordination was a gesture of God’s infinite mercy, raising him to a dignity he neither deserved nor was prepared for. He asked del Bufalo to “recite the Magnificat in thanksgiving for the benefit received”. Vincent’s response to ordination was to give thanks to God, something which never stopped throughout the remainder of his life; and in reciting and having others recite the Magnificat, he was identifying himself with Mary, the humble servant of God who responded with humility and joy to what God asked of her in bringing Jesus into the world. Jaimie, we join with you in thanksgiving for the gift received today, and we will pray the Magnificat knowing that it is a hymn of praise and acknowledgement.
Down through the years I have been an admirer of Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, and in particular I have followed his homilies at the Chrism Masses in Buenos Aires. In them he speaks directly to priests, he appeals to their minds, hearts and souls, to live fully their vocation. I will share some of the points from these homilies which stand out for me, and of course Jaimie, they are for you!
1. Jesus Christ is the one Priest, the Great Priest, and each priest after him is but a “poor priest” in him; the priesthood is that of Jesus, each one shares in it.
2. Anointing: Jaimie will be anointed with the oil of chrism during this ceremony. Oil symbolizes strength, goodness, healing and growth. Anointing signifies consecration and dedication and, as Cardinal Bergoglio, Pope Francis returned to this concept year after year. The priest is anointed with God’s goodness, in order that the Spirit of God working in him prepares him to anoint others. In other words priests become anointers, we are anointed, not to set us apart, not to make us feel chosen or different, but we are anointed in order to anoint in ministry, so that all persons whom we anoint may experience the goodness and tenderness of God.
3. Anointing in the ordination ceremony seals the man with an identity, that of a priest of Jesus Christ, and in the ceremony the one anointed receives from the Word a mission, that of preaching and teaching the Word, unlocking the treasures of the Word, for others.
4. Grace, understood as the very life of God, passes through the words of the anointed priest, passes through the hands of the priest. A sobering realization and awareness that keeps us always alert and aware that we are but earthenware jars, in which, and through which, God can and does communicate life (grace).
5. “Keep your eyes focused on Jesus Christ” was his appeal in 2006. Jesus Christ was a Faithful Witness to what he had received; so too the priest should remain focused on Jesus Christ in order to be in turn a faithful witness.
6. “Allow the wise eyes of the People of God to engage your eyes” was his request in 2007. In meeting the eyes of the people of God there is communication and a response is sought. Eyes that are asking for something, seeking something; eyes that express gratitude; eyes that communicate suffering and help us to work and make ourselves available; eyes that look patiently and that implore us to be agents of union, communion, peace; eyes that shine with holiness and invite us to be men of prayer and worshipers of the Blessed Sacrament.
These are but a few of the points he makes, but what is central is his conviction that the priest is anointed and therefore anointing is to be his trademark, and Pope Francis is not merely referring to physical anointing as in a blessing with oil by hand, but is referring to all the priest does so that the other may experience interiorly a presence and blessing of divine goodness.
Jaimie, your life as a priest starts today and I think I should let Cardinal Bergoglio express what is expected of you, by the people of God and he does it in very plain words:
“Our people need priests who are anointers, priests who know how to move out from their self-complacency and efficiency and give themselves with simple gestures of goodness.
Outgoing priests, who know how to approach the other, welcome him cordially, give time so that people feel that God has time for them, wants to attend to them, to bless them, to forgive them and to heal them.
Priests who anoint without messianic expressions nor with mere functionality.
Outgoing priests who are close to the Tabernacle and who return to the Tabernacle to replenish their lamps with oil before going out again.”
Jaimie, welcome to life and ministry as a Pallottine priest; our community will support and accompany you as you occupy your place in it; our common life will be a shared joy; our vision of the Church and the active participation in the apostolate of all the faithful comes from our founder St. Vincent Pallotti and forms our heritage. And, may the daily celebration of the Eucharist be an unending source of awe, reverence, nourishment and faith.
Derry Murphy, SAC.