- Homily of Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan preached during the Ordination Mass for Rev Mark O’Farrell
This day two weeks ago I was in Lisbon for the World Youth Day. There are several others who are in the congregation today who were there, and may I offer huge thanks to our youth ministry officer Nodlaig Lills and Sister Kathry Press for all their work in guiding this wonderful pilgrimage.
World Youth Day is an extraordinary phenomenon. It is worth asking why so many come. What is it that draws them draws us all? In the end it can only be Christ. After the ceremony I climbed up to the top of the stage where the altar was, the Holy Father had left so there was no issue with security. I wanted to get a glimpse of the vast crowd estimated at 1.5 million, maybe as much as close to two million. Young people don’t usually go where they don’t want to go. So why do 1.5 million young people go to a pilgrimage such as WYD?
The Church the Faith is alive! It was great to see the Irish flag flying among those of every nation in the world. The great inspiration of Pope Saint John Paul II to officially launch WYD in 1986 has been continued on by the late Pope Benedict XVI, and continues with the Holy Father Pope Francis. A spirit, the same spirit that inspired Pope John XXIII to go out, to let the air in, to do new things.
A friend said to me recently speaking about the Church today: “We are no longer in Christendom. We are in a missionary era.” I have been thinking of those words a lot.
We can see pockets of great love of God and His Church all around us but we can see that, generally speaking, in social, cultural and political worlds, God is excluded. Sometimes this is explicitly so, and these secular worlds often promote values that are clearly contrary to the plan of God for the human person, for marriage, for family and for society.
We have to go out now. And so our pastoral plan is titled ‘Go make disciples’.
This universal Synod, which has been initiated by Pope Francis, is necessary at this time – not to take on board the values of modern culture with its deep-seated individualism and solely earthly viewpoint, which, in the end, always leads, as Pope Francis writes, to disappointment and lack of fulfilment – rather the Synod is driven by the Holy Spirit to see, listen and accept the timeless wisdom and truth of Christ speaking to the hearts of us today in words we can understand: to heal the hearts of modern man and woman, that is all of us. To be clear, we are all in need!
Christ has come to build not walls, but bridges.
In Lisbon Pope Francis reflected on the urgency of taking up again “the prayer of adoration” before the tabernacle to recover “the taste and passion for evangelization”. To do new things, to go out and seek the lost and that can include all of us.
In prayer Pope Francis says the temptation to carry out a pastoral ministry of nostalgia and complaining is to be overcome. So we are not going to try to live in the past or complain about what is going wrong or clericalise the laity. Pope Francis stressed that clericalism is ‘one of the most serious evils that can happen to the Church’ and, consequently, ruin it. ‘But we must try with God’s grace to make the Gospel understandable to the people of today, even when doing so we may run the risk of a storm,’ he said.
‘Be fishers of men,’ Pope Francis continued, ‘Don’t be afraid. It’s announcing the Gospel which draws forth a response. Therefore, fishing for people and pulling them out of the water means helping them to get out of the abyss where they had sunk, saving them from the evil that threatens to drown them, resuscitating them from all forms of death. But this without proselytizing, but with love,’ he added. Pope Francis said that the ‘Gospel, in fact, is an announcement of life in the sea of death; it is an announcement of freedom in the whirlwinds of slavery, of light in the abyss of darkness. We, as the Church, have been entrusted with the task of immersing ourselves in the waters of this sea, casting the net of the Gospel, without pointing fingers, without accusing, but bringing to the people of our time a proposal for life, that of Jesus: to bring the welcome of the Gospel, to invite them to the celebration,’ he concluded.
In Ireland, during this year for vocations to the diocesan priesthood, we are encouraged to:
- Take the Risk for Christ
- To build up His Kingdom, a Kingdom of justice and integrity, where humanity finds salvation because we are all sinners.
And so I turn to you Mark and say: this is your task to join with your brother priests, deacons and people to build up God’s Kingdom today. And of course to do so with joy!
God gives gifts. And never takes them back. God gives you today the gift of ordination to the priesthood, through His Church:
- To show mercy to all mankind
- To link heaven and earth
- To fish with Jesus Christ
Not to preserve the past but, rather, to allow Christ to enter in, to step into our boat and cast the net again for the people of today. May you have an eagerness to walk with Christ.
To have something of the courage and missionary desire of Saint Paul, as we read today in the second reading, who was sent to the non-believers as their apostle. Not to give up but to have the faith and perseverance of the great woman in the Gospel today. She wins through by her persistence. Persevere in prayer each day, especially in Adoration. And faithfulness, which will mean suffering in the ups and downs of priestly life as it does in the life of every person. But knowing always that you are carrying Jesus with you. May you serve the Lord with an undivided heart. Not making up your own values but taking on His, more and more each day. Because Life is all about Him.
In the words of Pope Francis in his letter to us for the Year of Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood, ‘Take the Risk for Christ’, Renew your trust in God. Who will help you to accompany your people. The One who has chosen you will be with you, now and for ever more.
I finish with some words of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux whose feast day is today: and we pray this most especially for you Mark: ‘O Blessed Mary, whoever loves you honours God; whoever serves you pleases God; whoever invokes your holy name with a pure heart will infallibly receive the object of his petition.’ Amen.
Notes for Editors
- Ordination of Father Mark O’Farrell to the priesthood
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, ordained Clonmel native, Mark O’Farrell, to the priesthood in the diocesan Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Waterford city, on Sunday 20 August 2023. Father Mark O’Farrell is the second priest to be ordained for the Diocese of Waterford & Lismore in less than two years, and a third candidate is currently halfway through the seven years of studies required for the priesthood. For the Ordination Mass, Father Mark was joined by dozens of priests in the sanctuary of the Cathedral for the ceremony. The Cathedral was filled with hundreds of the faithful who came to pray for Father Mark on what was a historic day for the diocese. Mark has been a pharmacist in the Galway Clinic before he decided to follow his calling to the vocation of priesthood. The Mass was a joyful celebration with uplifting music from the Cathedral choir. Afterwards, outside of the Cathedral, a friend of Father Mark remarked on the new direction that had been embarked upon by the newly ordinated priest, saying, “Having spent many years working as a community pharmacist, Father Mark has helped people to cure their bodily ailments, he will now dispense the medicine that gives eternal life.”
The Catholic priesthood is a sacred and ordained ministry within the Church. It is a vocation that involves serving the faithful and leading them in their spiritual journey. The priesthood is considered one of the three holy orders, along with the diaconate and the episcopate (bishop). Once ordained, priests have various responsibilities within their ministry. They are authorised to celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments, including baptism, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, matrimony, and holy orders. Priests also provide pastoral care to their parishioners, offering spiritual guidance, counselling, and support. Priests are called to preach the Gospel and teach the faith, both through homilies during Mass and in other educational settings. Central to the pastoral ministry of priests is their engagement in charitable works and community outreach.
- Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood
As a member of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan serves as chair of the Conference’s Council for Vocations. The theme for the Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood, which is currently taking place across the island of Ireland, is, ‘Take the Risk for Christ’ (‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ John 15:16). The Year for Vocation involves various awareness raising initiatives around the country and will conclude on Good Shepherd Sunday 2024. For information about vocations, please contact [email protected] All are invited to include in their prayers the following prayer to encourage vocations (source: the National Vocations Office of the Bishops’ Conference):
Prayer for Vocations
Heavenly Father, we ask you to send labourers into your harvest and to bless all who strive to listen to your voice.
Inspire, in the hearts of men and women,
vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and
Bless our families with a spirit of generosity,
so that those whom you call have the courage
to give themselves to your Church in faith.
Send workers into Your great harvest
so that the Gospel is preached,
the poor are served with love,
the suffering are comforted,
and Your people are strengthened by the sacraments.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord.