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Homily of Bishop Denis Nulty for the Mass of ordination to the diaconate of Brother Matthew Farrell OP and Brother Jesse Maingot OP

2.00pm in Saint Saviour’s Church, Dominick Street, Dublin

Without the women there would be no narrative around the Resurrection and this is fundamental to our faith

At this time of scarcity of vocations we need more than ever to invite students [and] we need to be brave enough to invite an older cohort to consider ordination … If we do not have priests, we won’t have the celebration of the Eucharist.

Lay involvement and lay participation is critical in terms of the life of our Church in 2018.

Introduction

We have just journeyed through the most wonderful liturgy the Church offers in her entire year, as we marked the final hours, the death and Resurrection of Christ. To follow the Easter Triduum, and Easter Day, with the ordination to the diaconate of two Dominicans brothers makes profound sense this Easter Monday afternoon. Because if we are to live the Easter calling, it is essentially one of joyful service, one of being the light of the Risen Christ to others.

We gather in one of finest churches in Dublin, Saint Saviour’s on Dominick Street, designed by JJ McCarthy. The church under the care of the Dominicans has been the centre of this local and parish community for many years. The construction of this church began in 1852. Among the newer pieces of art here a timely painting of The Passion, by the recently deceased Patrick Pye. In my home church at Slane in County Meath there is a painting also by Patrick Pye, this time of the washing of the feet from the Holy Thursday liturgy.

That action with a basin and towel is a powerful statement to the two men, whom we are privileged to accompany today at their Ordination to Diaconate, Brother Matthew Farrell and Brother Jesse Maingot, both Dominican Brothers. Brother Matthew, grew up in Daingean in my Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin and Brother Jesse grew up on the island of Trinidad.

I warmly welcome Matthew’s family here: his brother David, and sisters Lorraine and Michelle, and their families, his Gran Maisie (Nana) and his Godmother Fidelma. I warmly welcome Jesse’s family: his parents Roger and Abigail and other friends in Jesse’s vocation story who travelled from different parts of the world to be here this day.

I am also very sensitive to the memory of Matthew’s late parents Matt and Maisie and am also conscious of Jesse’s two brothers unable to be travel to be with us this day. There are many friends, priests, religious and lay faithful, women and men who have been part of Matthew and Jesse’s vocation journey, who join with the Dominican community, led by their Prior Provincial, Father Gregory Carroll OP, and their many Dominican confreres – you are all most welcome this Easter octave afternoon.

As we gather our thoughts and reflect on how we meet the Risen Lord in our broken and wounded lives, we pray for forgiveness …

Homily

The artist Patrick Pye who died in February just past has left a treasury of art behind him, which allows his memory to live on. I already mentioned his painting of The Passion that hangs here in Saint Saviour’s and his painting of the mandatum or Washing of the Feet that hangs in my home church in the parish of Slane in Meath.

In this latter piece, the disciple, probably Peter, having his feet washed is very much to the forefront of the painting. There is as much intricate detail of the basin and towel as there is of the act of washing. All of us, lay and ordained are called to give service in different areas of the Church. The washing of the feet is a simple gesture of that service. The one doing the washing looks up on the one being washed. It stuck me very forcibly as I washed twelve feet in Holy Family Church, Askea, last Holy Thursday night, a ritual repeated in every church around the world that night – that at six feet and four inches, as I knelt, I was smaller than the smallest person’s foot that I washed. A tremendous lesson on hierarchy, on power, on authority in today’s Church.

There is much debate around the issue of women and their role in our Church. Matthew’s Gospel assures us that without the women there would be no narrative around the Resurrection and this is fundamental to our faith. It is left to Mary of Magdala and the other Mary who become the first apostles to the unbelieving disciples. Women continue to play a very central role in the life of every parish community. Without women there would be no heart in many of our parishes. This was evidenced in the Triduum and Easter liturgy most movingly celebrated in every parish in Ireland. From the earliest birth of our Church at that dawn visit to the sepulchre, women continue to play a central part in our Church. It is most unfortunate that so often the image portrayed of our Church is something that is overwhelmingly male and predominantly clerical. Brother Matthew and Brother Jesse are not being ordained into a ‘Men’s Club’, they are being ordained into Church which is full of the Easter promise that Christ lives, despite the darkness that prevails in today’s society.

The collect or Opening Prayer for today’s Diaconate Ordination ceremony reminds us that Matthew and Jesse are ordained to the diaconate so that they might be “effective in action, gentle in ministry and constant in prayer”[1].

Since becoming Bishop I have celebrated three Priestly Ordinations and today will be my ninth and tenth Diaconate Ordination. And this is at a time of a scarcity of vocations and ordinations, we need more than ever to invite students perhaps in our third level institutions, we need to be brave enough to invite an older cohort to consider ordination. Both Matthew and Jesse’s vocation call came through lay people, family members, friends, peers, not priests, not vocation directors! The Dominican family are to be complimented for their work in inviting those in third level to consider the priesthood and for nurturing Matthew and Jesse’s vocation journey over the last number of years.

But we must do all of this within the larger collaborative calling of our Church, as expressed in today’s second reading from the Acts of the Apostles, of seeing a much stronger role for lay people in all our parishes. Lay involvement and lay participation is critical in terms of the life of our Church in 2018. But equally critical is the priesthood. The responsibility to lead the promotion of vocations cannot fall on the few, even on the Bishop and the Provincial, it has to be in the minds of every person who practices their faith and who nurtures a love of Church. If we do not have priests, we won’t have the celebration of the Eucharist. The basin and towel only make sense in the light of sacrifice on the altar and the wider Church community.

Returning to today’s Diaconate Ordination liturgy. While many of my Diaconate ordinations were to the Permanent Diaconate, Brother Matthew and Brother Jesse are being ordained to the Transitory Diaconate on the road to priesthood. There is a danger that the focus can be on that priestly ordination and the diaconate year can be slithered over, as if it were of no great import. Nothing could be further from the truth. Deacons are not priests and this privileged time must allow them opportunity and space to linger with those whose bruises which need bandaging and hearts which need healing. A deacon should not be in a rush; he needs to witness sometimes by bringing to life that beautiful word in the very first psalm: lingering.

The greatest gift that a priest can offer to a community, to a parish, to a people … is presence; the greatest gift a deacon brings is the ability to linger, not to pass by distracted or overly concentrated on self. A deacon must be a man of prayer. Again looking at the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the critical importance the disciples saw in being able to “continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word”[2].

Prayer is spending time with Jesus; Service of the Word is spending time with His people. The deacon is called to specialise in both.

Saint Dominic, pray for us.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Saint Catherine of Siena, pray for us.

The Irish Dominican Martyrs, pray for us.

Amen.

[1] The Collect, Ordination to Diaconate

[2] Acts 6:4

ENDS

Bishop Denis Nulty is Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin
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