Ordinations to the Permanent Diaconate 1 Nov 2020

Homily of Archbishop Bernard Longley:

Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.

Dear friends, we are celebrating the ordination of Dominic Kerr, Dirk Hermans and John Garvey in highly unusual circumstances and having to observe the current restrictions on gathering together for the health and wellbeing of one another.  At such a time, when we are surrounded by so much uncertainty and concern because of the coronavirus pandemic, the fact that Dominic, Dirk and John are ready to dedicate their lives to serve the needs of others as deacons is a sure sign of God’s loving presence and provident care in our midst.

Today’s ordination also brings a particular joy into our diocesan life and this joy is shared by your wives Frances, Marleen and Joanna and by your children together with your all family and friends, and especially by fellow clergy and the parish communities that you are called to serve in a new way from today. 

In the sacrament which we are celebrating we see our Lord’s own ministry of service through the power of the Holy Spirit now beginning to bear fruit sacramentally in your lives with a new focus and purpose.  In your relationship with our Lord your eyes are now re-focussing so that you can see those he wants you to serve as deacons.  The grace you receive today is already a fulfilment of your life’s calling – something you have been discerning over many years.

I am conscious on this Feast of All Saints of our being surrounded and upheld by the prayers of the saints and especially those whom we are about to invoke in the Litany of the Saints.  Sainthood or sanctity of life is a goal for which all Christians and other people of faith strive, while holiness of life is a quality that we are able recognize in the words and deeds that we witness in others.  Your vocation is to accompany and assist people along the pathway to holiness.

This autumn we have been recalling the State Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom ten years ago, in 2010.  During that visit he said:

When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best.  I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others.  Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy.  Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still.  It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy.  Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places.   The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God.  We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God.  Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.

The first step on the road to sanctity is in trying to see ourselves as God sees us, free from illusion, and to live within the integrity that this vision brings.  In striving to be like God in this way, seeing others and the world about us as filled with God’s presence, we begin to glimpse the presence of God within ourselves.  Or, as the First Letter of St John explains:  We shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.  Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.

This insight echoes the sixth Beatitude of St Matthew’s Gospel:  Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.  Such a vision that is self-forgetful though insightful, seeking the good of others, searching for beauty and truth in the world yet also able to gaze with candour and compassion on what is distorted or broken – this vision has the power to see God.  Seeing in this way compels us to act, to go beyond spectating and to involve ourselves with what we see.

As deacons you may have to face and overcome misunderstanding or even opposition to your ministry.  Always try to lead people beyond their current limitations and out of their comfort zones to find truth and happiness in Christ.  Make prayer, servanthood and evangelisation the three priorities driving your ministry.       

Over the years you have listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your lives and you have followed the sacramental pathways along which the Lord has been leading you.  With Frances, Marleen and Joanna you received and you ministered to each other the sacrament of Marriage so that your married lives have been joyful and fruitful.  Through that sacrament you are already witnesses to Christ’s love for his bride the Church.  With your spouses you have been able to discern your vocation to the diaconate and they have encouraged you in your formation at the Seminary at Oscott.  Today they are united with you in the Eucharist and they will support you in your ministry as deacons.

The sacrament of Holy Orders opens up a distinctive pathway, not only of ministry and service, but also a journey of personal sanctification – this life of service as a deacon now becomes the way of salvation chosen for you.  The Church calls you to be holy through a life of service for the good of others.  This will mean above all preaching the Word of God and assisting at the Eucharist, reaching out as a pastor and evangeliser with the mind of the Church and working closely with your Parish Priests and fellow clergy.

As you use the gifts you are receiving through ordination, remember the insight of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the GospelThe Holy Spirit…enriches the entire evangelizing Church with different charisms.  These gifts are meant to renew and build up the Church.  They are not an inheritance, safely secured and entrusted to a small group for safekeeping; rather they are gifts of the Spirit integrated into the body of the Church, drawn to the centre which is Christ and then channelled into an evangelizing impulse. (§121)

Our Lord is sending you to evangelize with your whole life through the sacrament we now celebrate.  Keep nothing back from Our Lord – be wholehearted in what you commit to him and be generous in dedicating your time, your energy and interests to the commission the Church is giving you today.  Be at one with all the saints who are supporting you on this their feast day.

Pics L – R: Deacon Dominic Kerr with Archbishop Bernard, Deacon John Garvey with Archbishop Bernard and Deacon Dirk Hermans with Archbishop Bernard

Photo Gallery by Con McHugh

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