Ordinations to the Permanent Deaconate

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          Over three days recently, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin ordained 7 new permanent deacons for service in the Archdiocese of Dublin.  The ceremonies took place in three different venues.  This brings to a total of 33 permanent deacons ordained by Archbishop Martin since he introduced the permanent deaconate into the Archdiocese.

           The following is the text of the homily preached at the ordination ceremony in the Parish of Saint Cronan, Brackenstown on 28 August.



” We live in changing times.  I remember entering into the seminary in Dublin in 1962 and seven years later being ordained into a different Ireland and a different Church.  The change was striking, but I could never have envisioned then the further changes that would take place in my life and the life of the Church over the years that followed.

Dear candidates, you began your preparation for the deaconate only four years ago and the pace of change in Irish life and in the life of the Church in Ireland has been such that you could never have imagined a situation like the one this evening in which your ordination would take place under the heavy restrictions we experience.

Change challenges.  To some change may appear exciting and encouraging.  For others change may bring uncertainty and anxiety. Again for some change may appear simply negative and disheartening.

Change belongs to the DNA of the Church.  The message of Jesus and the authentic teaching of the Church do not change.  Yet that message is ever new.  We must constantly deepen our understanding and our love for that message of Jesus in times that change.  Today, at a time of rapid change and of challenge to so much of what is fundamental in life, each generation has to discern what the Spirit is saying in our time.

We are never free to reinvent the Church at our will.   If we attempt on our own to reinvent the Church then the Church will remain our Church rather than the Church of Jesus Christ.   In the same way if we simply acquiesce in the way things are, we fail to allow the Spirit to break through our structures and renew the Church.

The Letter to Timothy that we heard in the first reading is an appropriate one as we reflect on our Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin at this moment in which you begin your ministry of service at the table of the Lord and of the preaching of the word of God.

Paul says that he is experiencing fresh hardships.  New hardships arise daily.   Paul stresses however that in the midst of all these hardships he has never lost confidence.  The advice of Paul is the same advice that I give you this evening: “God’s gift is not a spirit of timidity.  You have been trusted to look after something precious, guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit”.

People today very often find it hard to know where to find God in their lives.  The demography of faith in Dublin is changing.  Our Church is not attracting younger people to embrace the message of Jesus Christ.  The overall culture of Irish society is certainly indifferent if not at times hostile to faith.

It is important to look at and analyse the context in which the life of faith takes place.  Paul does not try to hide the hardships that he had to face.  There is no point in us trying to ignore the hardships and troubles of our days.  We have to recognise them and not deceive ourselves.

We must be careful not to attribute all our hardships to factors external to the Church.  The truth is that people do not come to embrace the life of the Church of Jesus Christ if they do not experience the Church as the warm embrace of Jesus in all the vicissitudes of their lives.

Dear candidates, the order of deacons is not just about doing things; it is a call to be configured in a special way to Jesus who cares, the Jesus who serves and to represent in a special way in the life of the Church Jesus who serves.  Being a deacon is not an honour conferred on you, like an honorary doctorate recognising your service.  The ministry being conferred on you is a deep calling to Diaconia, to service, which must now become a fundamental dimension of your personal existence, a dominant characteristic not just of your ministry but of your lives. When you receive the book of the Gospels today, the sacred rite reminds you of the nature of your ministry as a Deacon:  “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach”.  This is a mandate to live a life of integrity and coherence with the Gospel.

What is the fundamental criterion to evaluate how authentic our ministry is? We must go back to that “something precious” that is entrusted to us, of which we heard in the first reading.  It is easy to become fascinated by the many things that have to be done. It is interesting to get lost in trying to identify what is negative in the way we live as Church.  True reflection on the life of the Church is however never a study in negative pathology.  It must be marked by a fascination with understanding and loving that “something precious”, the person and message of Jesus Christ, otherwise we will miss the point and become fixated on irrelevant or marginal things .

Evangelising is not the imposition of a sealed package of ideas to be simply accepted.   It is about accompanying men and women, young and old, in their personal search for what is good and loving.  People learn from example and witness.  In your ministry do not expect miraculous flash conversions.   Do not be surprised when those who embrace the Christian faith continue have doubts and do not join us to the full.  We have to sow the seed of the message of Jesus.  We have to accompany and tend what we have sown, but we must always realise that the growth is the work of God himself and that God may respect the difficulties and doubts of these we work with, than any impatient timetable of ours.

Dear candidates, I thank you for responding to the call of the Lord.  I thank your spouses and your families for the support that they offer you.  Your ministry as deacons will be nourished by the Christian life of your families.  Be convinced rather that the precious gift entrusted to you is something that serves the good of individuals, the good of our society and our world.  May the Spirit accompany you in the years to come.”