Mass for Deceased Priests

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Homily notes of

Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop of Dublin


Pro-Cathedral, 9th November 2019

Once again, as we do each year in the month of November, we come together to remember those priests of this Archdiocese of Dublin or who ministered in the parishes of the Archdiocese who died over the past twelve months.  This year we remember twenty-one priests. It is an opportunity for us priests to remember in prayer and affection our deceased brothers and friends.

It is also an important occasion to meet with and renew our thanks to you the relatives and friends of these priests.  Very often, at funerals, there is little time to speak and the emotions of the moment do not permit any conversation in depth.  

This morning offers me an opportunity in my own name and in the name of all the priests of thediocese to express our sympathy to the families ofthe deceased priests.  It is also an occasion to expressour appreciation and gratitude for the way in whichyou supported them throughout their lives and ministry and especially as they got on in years and were afflicted with illness.  I know on the other hand just how much these priests meant to you and to your families over the years.  We give thanks to God for the gift of their lives and ministry.

When I hear their names read out, it brings backso many personal memories and memories of great commitment to ministry in times that have changedin so many ways.  Sheila Pyne, who has recently retired from her work in the Diocesan Secretariat, has tried each year to quantify the length of ministry that these priests together over the years have carried outand this year she estimates a total of 1,250 yearsaltogether.  This represents more than a chapter in the history of the diocese.  

Some of you may be surprised that the texts of the Mass this morning are not the traditional readings of a Mass for the Dead, but are those for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.  It is one of those Feast days which always takes precedence in the Liturgy and the only Masses forthe Dead which are allowed are funeral Masses.

Why does the church in its liturgy dedicate such an importance to this one Church building?  In the first place because Saint John Lateran is the Cathedral Church of the Pope. Most of us would think of Saint Peter’s as the Pope’s Cathedral.  SaintJohn Lateran is called omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput, Mother and Head of all the Church in the City and in the world.

It reminds us that as priests we are never solo runners.  We belong to a communion of priestsspread around the world with the same mission and the same Eucharistic spirituality. This is an occasion for us priests of Dublin to celebrate our unity, in a time where litigious division and bitterness appears too often in Church circles around the world.

There is however another significance in the readings.  When the liturgy proposes as a reading, a text about a Church or a Temple it immediatelydirects our attention away from bricks and mortar to something deeper in our understanding of the Church.    The first reading reminds us that there can be only one foundation of the building and that is Jesus Christ.  It reminds us that, “The Temple is sacred, but immediately adds, However you are the temple.

The ministry of the priests is always one of building up the Church, not however a Church of externals, but a Church focussed on our belief in the Jesus who alone brings hope and inspires us to be witnesses to the God of love.    The measure of theministry of the priest is not in building or fund raising or being a showman or a politician, but in how he discovers for himself and shares with others the a centrality of Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel reading is at the same time the storyof an event and a metaphor.  Jesus cleansed the Temple from all those things that distracted from the real reason its existence.  That true story is also a call that our faith too must be constantly cleansed form distractions and distortions.

The Church at any moment can become a secular market place of vague and superficial things thatbecome called spirituality. The story of Jesus cleansing the temple is a call to us to allow the strength of Jesus to open our hearts fully and trustfully to the Lord.

We celebrate the ministry of twenty-one priests who served in this diocese and who died during this year.  The story of their service is a story of personal fulfilment, of deep faith and of generous ministry.  

Talk about their example, not just among friends, but transmit that message of the worth of priestlyministry to young men to whom the Lord may be encouraging to follow in the footsteps of these priestswho have gone before us.  May the Lord rewards them for their prayerful service.