31 March 2010
Homily of Bishop Willie Walsh, Bishop of Killaloe, for the Chrism Mass
My brother priests and dear friends we gather this evening for several purposes:
- We gather to celebrate the Eucharist together believing that Christ is present with us as we do so.
- We gather as priests to celebrate the birth of our priesthood to recommit ourselves to that priesthood.
- We gather to bless the oils which we will use in the coming year in the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism, confirmation, ordination and the sacrament of the sick.
On the very night that Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples he had shared his final meal with them and there he took bread, blessed and broke it and said “this is my body”, He took the cup of wine and said “this is my blood” And then he said “Do this in memory of me”. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist we do this in memory of him – in memory of his death on the cross and his rising to new life.
And as we celebrate our priesthood on this night we cannot but be conscious of the cloud of darkness that hangs over our priesthood and our Irish Church at this time. The scandal that some of us have betrayed the sacred trust give us by people through sexual abuse of children has been and is a source of pain and shame for us. That pain and shame has been increased by the failure of us bishops to respond in an appropriate manner. Our pain however is little compared to the pain of the victims of such abuse.
We as priests and bishops and you the loyal people are on something of the road to Calvary this week. I believe it is an invitation to us to try to journey together on that road, uniting our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ. If we can truly share in the suffering and death of Christ then we can hope to share in the joy of the resurrection and new life.
There can be no new life without a degree of death …. I do believe that our Irish Church at this time is experiencing a degree of death. We hope and pray that this degree of death will lead us to new life, will lead us to a Church more deeply inspired by the example and teaching of Jesus Christ, will lead us to a Church where truth and justice, compassion and forgiveness, solidarity and love prevail.
Can I say to you as brother priests ; I know that at times you feel discouraged and perhaps unfairly treated because you feel tainted and even guilty by association with colleagues who have abused. You may feel angry at our failure as bishops to respond appropriately. In this holy week Jesus took upon himself not his own sinfulness for he was without sin. He took upon himself the sins of others – our sinfulness. If you can have the generosity to take on yourself the sins and failures of our colleagues then truly you are accompanying and uniting yourself with Christ on that road to Calvary.
Can I say to you as laity : I know that you rightly feel let down and sometimes angry at our betrayal of trust. It is all the more painful for you who have been so loyal and supportive to your Church over the years. Can I assure you as I have done before that there is no priest ministering in this diocese against whom there is any ground for suspicion that he might have abused a child. I invite you too on this week to try to unite your pain, your sense of betrayal with the sufferings of Christ and the very sense of betrayal that he must have experienced on his road to Calvary. We need your support and your prayers at this time.
Calvary is of course always followed by Resurrection. May our Calvary lead our Church to Resurrection and new life for us. Above all may the Calvary and Resurrection of Christ lead to new life for all who have suffered abuse and indeed for all who have perpetrated abuse.
All of us priests and laity can pray for each other that the darkness that envelops us at this time will eventually lead us into new life.
Killaoe Diocesan Office, tel 065-6828638