“Go to Joseph – a model for priests to follow” – Archbishop Martin

31 Mar 2021

  • Archbishop Eamon Martin’s homily for Chrism Mass 2021

“These are challenging times for priests in Ireland and on my own behalf, and on behalf of the people of the diocese, I want to thank you for all you are doing to love, serve and minister to the people of God in your pastoral care” – Archbishop Eamon Martin

I was delighted with the recent news that Pope Francis has recognised the shrine of Our Lady at Knock as an international Marian and Eucharistic shrine. He chose to do so on the Feast of Saint Joseph – perhaps when he himself visited Knock back in 2018, he was struck by the presence of Saint Joseph with Mary when she appeared there.

The statue of Saint Joseph in the apparition chapel at Knock is very beautiful and captures him perfectly. It draws us to reflect on Saint Joseph’s quiet dignity – his head is bowed, hands joined in the presence of Mary before an altar on which the Lamb of God is standing.  It’s a posture so typical of the Saint – a gentle, yet supportive and strong presence – just as he is described in the Gospels. Although there is no record of Saint Joseph speaking in any of the Gospels, the picture that emerges of him, in the scripture and in tradition of the Church, is that Joseph is a protector; he is generous, loving and courageous; a good husband to Mary and a caring guardian for Jesus; a man of great faith and trust, a person of wisdom.

When Olivia Mary Taffe founded her ‘Young Priests Society’ she chose to place it under the patronage of Saint Joseph. She, and her husband John, had developed a deep devotion to the Saint, and she was convinced that friendship with Saint Joseph would open the minds of young men to the possibility of a vocation, and help to develop and sustain their progress towards priesthood and later in their ongoing journey of discipleship as priests.  She was aware that in Saint Joseph, priests will find characteristics and qualities to inspire their priestly identity and ministry.

Dear brother priests, Saint Joseph is therefore not only a model for lay men and women, but he is also an example for us priests to follow and imitate:

Joseph, the man of prayer, deep faith and hope in God – whose interior life with God and obedience to God’s will is something that all priests will want to emulate.

Joseph, the wise and faithful servant, called and gifted by God to be the guardian of the Holy Family, entrusted to take care of Jesus and Mary, the two people most precious to God and to his plan for salvation. As priests, we too, like Saint Joseph, are called to love and cherish Jesus and his mother Mary and to be completely devoted to them.

Joseph, the dedicated worker and just man – the perfect pattern upon which to base our prudent dealings with others as we exercise our priestly responsibilities.

Joseph, a man of purity and chastity – one to whom we can entrust our promise of celibacy, and a saint to guide us in unselfish and respectful personal relationships with others.

Joseph, the caring and tender man, kind and generous – the sort of man that we priests would want to be for others – men who are compassionate and merciful, especially in our dealings with the vulnerable and those in material and spiritual need.

Joseph, the man of action, proactive in his protection of the Holy Family; someone who was prepared to face exile and danger for the love of Jesus and Mary. When we are struggling with trials and challenges in presenting the faith to a sometimes harsh and unbelieving world, we might “go to Joseph” for help and inspiration.

Joseph, a man of humility and quiet reflection – not a man to seek personal attention and recognition. May we all follow his example, not focusing on ourselves but always pointing and leading others to Jesus.

I encourage all priests to consider making an act of consecration of their priesthood to Saint Joseph during this special year dedicated to his honour. These are challenging times for priests in Ireland and on my own behalf, and on behalf of the people of the diocese, I want to thank you for all you are doing to love, serve and minister to the people of God in your pastoral care.

Some years ago Pope Benedict XVI spoke to priests and bishops in Cameroon about dedicating their vocation to Saint Joseph. His concluding words are worth quoting at our Chrism Mass in this year of Saint Joseph:

“Dear brothers in the priesthood, your pastoral ministry demands many sacrifices, yet it is also a source of great joy. Trusting in your Bishops, united fraternally to the whole presbyterate and supported by the portion of the People of God commended to your care, you will be able to respond faithfully to the Lord who has called you, just as he called Joseph to watch over Mary and the Child Jesus! May you always remain faithful, dear priests, to the promises that you made to God before your Bishop and in the presence of the whole community”.


Notes to Editors

  • Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore.
  • This homily was preached in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Armagh on Wednesday 31 March at 7.30 pm and in the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Colman, Newry, on 1 April at 10.30am.
  • The Chrism Mass is usually held during Holy Week in every Catholic diocese. During this Mass, the priests, deacons and representatives of the entire diocesan community gather around their bishop, who blesses the Holy Oils for use in the coming year. These are: Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens, and Sacred Chrism. Whenever the Holy Oils are used in a diocese, the ministry of the Bishop who consecrated them is symbolically present. The Chrism Mass reminds us of our oneness in Christ through Baptism and its holy anointing, made possible by the ministry of the bishop and his priests. The Chrism Mass is also a key moment in which the unity of the Bishop with his priests (together, they form the presbyterate) is manifested and renewed. During the liturgy, the entire assembly is called to renew its baptismal promises; deacons and priests also renew their vow of obedience to the local bishop and their commitment to serve God’s people. At the end of the Chrism Mass, the Holy Oils are brought back to parishes of the diocese for use in the coming year.                                                    

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