“There is no doubt that genuine service brings its own joy, but it costs. Every diocese has difficult appointments that demand courage and immense patience. The needs we have to be successful, to be liked, to avoid criticism, to be noticed, are often not met. There are many who would gladly serve God in an advisory capacity. A more humble approach recognizes that there is no limit to the good we can do provided we don’t mind who gets the credit. The call to serve, to be where the Lord wants us to be will always be a challenge.” – Bishop Drennan
God is great. That is our prayer on this very happy occasion. For Michael and John it is a goal reached. For your families, friends and for all who have been part of your story it is a day of joy. As a diocese we feel privileged and blessed. God continues to call and to give men the courage to follow and commit their lives to him. As we pray that we may live worthy of our calling we remember the Lord’s mercy that heals the wounds caused by our sins.
Earlier this week an old but very beautiful film was shown one more time on one of the TV channels. The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of a fisherman who went out to sea and caught a magnificent fish. He strapped the fish to his boat and set off for home. On the way several hungry fish attacked his prize so that when he reached harbour all that was left was a carcass. When he was asked what happened he said, ‘I went out too far’. The Magi in today’s gospel story risked getting out of their depth in following their dream. In coming forward for ordination to priesthood John and Michael are launching out into the deep, responding to their search and trusting in the Lord who has called them. The Magi trusted the light God gave them. It brought them to Jesus, led them to honour him as king, to be captivated by him and offer him their finest gifts. John and Michael have put their trust in the call of the Lord, they have trusted the light that has guided them. Today they commit themselves to Jesus as the king they wish to serve and place their gifts and themselves at his service.
Like the Magi we give thanks for all those who by word and example have led us to Jesus. We will be forever grateful for the light of their wisdom, for their ongoing encouragement and their trust that has brought us to where we are today. The support they give and the high ideals they have inspire us to aim to be the best we can be. We priests know that if we could come anywhere near the standards our loved ones have for us that we would be examples well worth following.
Jesus gives us back our best selves. In his presence the Magi felt capable of great generosity. Those who have met a generous God can afford to be generous and usually want to be generous. The precious gifts offered by the Magi were of gold, frankincense and myrrh, gifts fit for the king they felt privileged to serve. In priesthood the gold we offer is the gift of a life of service, the frankincense we offer is our prayer, the myrrh we bring is our profound reverence for every person.
During the ordination ceremony the men about to be ordained promise obedience to their bishop. It’s a statement that we are available for the service of God and the people of this diocese. Sometimes the Lord asks us to launch way out into the deep where we seem to be out too far, out of our depth. There is no doubt that genuine service brings its own joy, but it costs. Every diocese has difficult appointments that demand courage and immense patience. The needs we have to be successful, to be liked, to avoid criticism, to be noticed, are often not met. There are many who would gladly serve God in an advisory capacity. A more humble approach recognizes that there is no limit to the good we can do provided we don’t mind who gets the credit. The call to serve, to be where the Lord wants us to be will always be a challenge. Where that challenge is met people die fully used up and that’s the best way to complete a life of service.
The frankincense we offer is the prayer that rises up from our hearts. Central to our service of our people is our prayer with them and for them. Sister Wendy Beckett describes prayer as ‘standing unprotected before God’. Our struggle is to let God be God, to give God what he wants not just what we want to give him. Life is a letting go, so is prayer. When we go to prayer we carry people on our hearts, we stand beside them in God’s presence, we want what is best for them. In this Year of Mercy we are encouraged by Pope Francis to let our prayer be a real meeting with the mercy of God that dresses our wounds and heals our pain points. God wants to heal us where we are hurting, to give us the peace that makes us whole. He waits to be gracious to us.
In prayer God fills us with his compassion. That compassion is intended to be a gift for others. In my first appointment I worked with a wonderful parish priest. One of the first things he said was, if you are kind to the sick then you will be forgiven for most of the mistakes that you make. People recognize genuine compassion. The gospel tells us that it was the starting point for Jesus’ ministry. Everything he said and did was done out of compassion. It showed itself in reverence for people. It takes many forms. It means respect for ourselves, for the gifts given to us and for our limitations. I once heard Cardinal Hume say, ‘If you receive praise, enjoy it but don’t inhale it’. Very sensible.
One of the things that I have noticed over the years is how people who meet to share the gospel and pray together go away more joyful. ‘To be loved and to love, what joy!’ (Saint John Vianney). We get a real glimpse that joy. More, we have the ingredients that will keep it alive. May we remember them as we journey together into the future.
+ Martin Drennan
Notes to editors:
- Bishop Martin Drennan is Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora.
- Biographies of Rev John O’Sullivan and Rev Michael King:
John O Halloran is a native of Killannin. His mother is Bridgie and his father is John and he has two sisters and a brother. John attended Saint Annin’s Primary School in Rosscahill, Saint Paul’s Secondary School in Oughterard and GMIT. John worked as a greenkeeper in Oughterard for seven years and also worked for a short time at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne. John began his studies for the priesthood in August 2009 at Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth. During his time in Maynooth he was involved in various pastoral placements during term and during summer holidays including a long stint in hospital Chaplaincy.
Michael King is from Renmore in Galway. He is the youngest of six and has four older sisters and one older brother. Michael attended Renmore Primary School and Saint Enda’s Secondary School. Michael’s first job was in Park House. In 1999 he went to work abroad in Dubai for a year and when he came home he joined Galway Youth Theatre where he acted in many plays over the years. Michael has worked in several other establishments as a barman. Michael’s sister Shirley joined a religious order (The Franciscan Sisters Minoress) in England and this caused him to reflect about his own life and vocation. Michael spent six years in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he completed his formation. During his time Michael completed several pastoral placements including spending time with retired sisters, worked with recovering drug addicts, visiting prisons and he also taught in a secondary school. He also spent two summers working with the L’arche Community in Callan Co.Kilkenny.
- The ordinations took place in the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas, Galway, on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January 2016.
- Anyone interested in finding out more about diocesan priesthood can access contact details for Diocesan Vocations Directors on vocations.ie.
For media contact: Father Diarmuid Hogan 00353 (0) 86 888 8642 or Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444.