Homily of Archbishop Charles J. Brown, Apostolic Nuncio in Ireland for the Ordination of Bishop William Crean
St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him” (Luke 4:20).
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we have just seen a scroll unrolled, and we have listened as it was read, informing us that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has named Canon William Crean as Bishop of the Diocese of Cloyne. And now the eyes of all of us are fixed on a priest sitting here with us in this magnificent and historic Cathedral, just as the eyes of all in the synagogue in Galilee that day were fixed on Jesus of Nazareth. And the words of the prophet Isaiah, read by the Lord in the synagogue, apply as well to the priest sitting in our midst: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me” (Luke 4:18). Indeed, the Spirit of God, working in and through the Church, as discerned in prayer by the Holy Father, has chosen him for this mission.
For that reason, today is a day of immense joy for the Diocese of Cloyne and indeed for the Catholic Church in all of Ireland; a new Bishop to lead the Church in Cloyne begins his ministry today, following upon the ministry of Bishop John Magee. On behalf of the Holy Father, I would like to thank in a special way Archbishop Dermot Clifford for his generous and tireless work as Apostolic Administrator over these last three and a half years.
The joy we feel today underlies our experience of the liturgy. The normal rhythm of the celebration of Mass is interrupted, as it were, by the Rite of Ordination, and that interruption has already begun, even before the reading of the scroll from the Holy Father. It began with the Church’s calling upon the Holy and live-giving Spirit of God, “Come creator Spirit,” in the words of the ancient liturgical hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, a sung prayer in which Church asks the Spirit of the Lord come upon Canon Crean with fire, with love, with spiritual anointing, so that enemy of our souls may be driven away. The Church entrusts herself to the power of the Holy Spirit. The very first verses of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, speak about how the Spirit of God hovered over the formless waters (cf. Gen 1:2), before there was anything at all. That presence of the power of God was the prelude to the work of creation, even before God said “let there be light.” That same Spirit of God overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary, and God became man, the Word became flesh, as a tiny and defenceless child in her womb. It is that Holy and creative Spirit of God, which makes all things new, that now comes upon a man, a priest, our brother and our friend, and makes him something new: an apostle, a shepherd, a Bishop of Christ’s Church.
The ordination of a new Bishop is the one of the most sacred actions accomplished in the Church and this is because the Church herself is formed and constituted by followers of Jesus Christ gathered around a Bishop, united by the Holy Eucharist and in communion with the Bishop of Rome. There are different roles and vocations in the Church and, as Saint Paul writes, no member of the Church is more a member than any other, because we are “all baptised into one Body” (1 Cor 12:13). All of us are called to holiness, and that is the most important thing. But in the multiplicity and variety of the vocations which make up the Church, that of a Bishop is central, because it is he who is for us in a preeminent way a visible “icon of Christ” (Pope John Paul II, Address, 6 May 2004, n. 2). This reality is expressed in a powerful way in the Rite of Ordination by the anointing of the Bishop’s head with Holy Chrism; he shares in the high priesthood of Christ. Indeed, the central role of the Bishop is reflected in the way we use the term “Church.” A Diocese, like the Diocese of Cloyne, is not just any gathering of Christians; a Diocese is a group of Christians, but it can be called a local Church because of the presence of a Bishop. That is why it is a day of immeasurable joy when a new Bishop is ordained for a Diocese. That joy comes from the recognition that the Church continues in time; this local Catholic Church of Cloyne has existed for some fifteen centuries since Saint Colman himself. And today that Church continues.
And what does the Church ask of a Bishop? There are many images given in the tradition of the Church, all of which derive from that central reality of the Bishop as the icon of Christ. A Bishop is to be a teacher whose words are anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach the constant Catholic faith, the faith of Palladius and Patrick, of Gobnait and Ita, of Matt Talbot and Edel Quinn, a daughter of the Diocese of Cloyne. A Bishop is to be father and a brother who leads the family of God in the path of holiness and truth. A Bishop is to be shepherd whose crozier symbolizes his shepherding role of keeping the wolves of division away, and of going out in search of the lost members of his flock. A Bishop is a guardian whose ring symbolizes his commitment to preserve the Church’s purity of faith, to serve and protect the Spouse of God, as Joseph served and protected Our Lady, the Mother of God. A Bishop is a leader whose mitre symbolises the authority which comes from holiness, not an authority of domination and power, but an authority which flows from the holiness of love, which “is patient and kind…never jealous” because “love is never boastful or conceited, never rude or selfish… Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins, but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes” (1 Cor 13:4-7). That is the authority of Christ, and that is the authority of a Bishop.
Three weeks ago today, together with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, I participated in a liturgy in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome in which Pope Benedict XVI ordained four new Bishops for the Church. The Holy Father’s homily that day was particularly powerful and moving, coming as it did from a man who has given and continues to give his entire life in the service of God and his Church. The Holy Father spoke that day about courage, the courage that a Bishop must have as Successor of the Apostles. He spoke about courage, however, in the context of humility. He spoke of “the humility of faith” of sharing in the faith of the Church of every age and of how “anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church” will on many points be out of step with the dominant ways of thinking, even in our own day. Today’s reigning agnosticism, he said, has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant of anything that might call it into question. “Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous.” This courage or strength does not consist in wounding others or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be wounded, while remaining steadfast in the face of the dominating opinions. “The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends…” as Bishops (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 6 January 2013). Let us pray for the courage to proclaim the truth of Christ even when that is difficult.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the Spirit of God makes all things new. Bishop Crean has chosen as his Episcopal motto a phrase which comes from the Prophet Ezekiel “I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you” (Ez 36:26). Let me say today that I believe that the Holy Spirit is indeed bringing forth something that is new and strong and beautiful here in Ireland. Certainly, the Church has gone through a period of difficulty and sorrow, but something new and radiant is emerging. I want to thank in a very special way the priests who are here in the Cathedral today. You have carried the light of Christ through moments of difficulty and even darkness, and for that the Church is deeply grateful to you. I want to thank the religious sisters and brothers for having responded to the Lord in your vocations. I want to thank the laypeople of the Diocese of Cloyne for your spiritual gifts and for your great faithfulness. During the months of waiting, many of you told me that you were praying for your new Bishop. Today, we see the results of your prayers. And I want to say to young people who may be here today or watching this inspiring liturgy on television. Listen to Christ speaking in your heart. He is calling some of you to leave your everyday life and to follow him as a priest, just as he called Canon Crean and the other priests here today. In the depths of your heart, you will know it when he calls you, even if, for a time, you try to ignore it. Don’t be afraid. Be courageous and follow his call and you will find a joy that the world cannot understand.
As I have said, today is a day of great joy in the Diocese of Cloyne. But it is also a day of unspeakable sadness and loss for the Donohue family in Dundalk, because of the appalling murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohue, a husband and a father. Our thoughts and our prayers are with his family at this terrible time. Let us all pray for him and for them during this Mass.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me” (Isa 61:6). Brothers and sisters, let us ask the Spirit of God to bless and sustain Bishop Crean in his service to the People of God in the Diocese of Cloyne.
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