We give thanks today for the Diaconal Ordination of seven seminarians who have been in formation at Allen Hall, including Frazer Bellfield, who will serve in the Archdiocese of Southwark. We give thanks for their gift of service to the Church this day and ask the Lord to bless them all as they take this important step in ministry. The Archdiocese is pleased to share Archbishop Mark O'Toole's Homily, given at Westminster Cathedral.
HOMILY FOR THE DIACONATE
10th June 2023
In the Introduction to the Rite of the Ordination of Deacons, Pope Saint Paul VI, described the Deacon as someone called to a Ministry of the Word, a Ministry of the Altar, and a Ministry of Charity. It is into this three-fold service that these men are to be ordained.
Frazer, Thomas, Gustavo, Dale, Edward, Matus and Robert, God’s choice of you is irrevocable. “You did not choose me, No, I chose you…” We hear these words of Jesus with a new sensitivity today, as we witness your ordination. God’s Word gives comfort and reassurance in times of difficulty or doubt. You have listened to the movement of God’s Spirit in your own heart over many years, in your professional lives, in your families, in pastoral placements and in the daily work and rhythm that is the life of the seminary. We give thanks for those who have accompanied you on this path and especially today our thanks to the Rector and staff at Allen Hall, and also for the work of St John’s Seminary, Wonersh, too.
Your ordination to the diaconate marks a significant shift. You are now called to make a constant movement from being a listener of God’s word to being a preacher. Of course, the quality of your preaching will depend upon the depth of your listening to the Lord. As you are handed the Book of the Gospels, you will hear, “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach”. The Word that we preach is not our own. It is the Lord Himself whom we proclaim. You offer His word, not yours. This word is manifested in the Scriptures, and in the Tradition, handed down to us in the Teaching office of the Church.
It is this unity between reading, believing, teaching and practice that will be the mark of your integrity as a preacher exercising the Ministry of the Word within the Catholic Church. “Deacons must be respectable men whose word can be trusted” St Paul reminds us. There is to be no discrepancy in life between one’s personal experience and history and the outward expressions of faith that the Church gives in her teaching and liturgy. To live this with integrity is only ever truly possible with great honesty and with a sense of God’s Grace in one’s life, and especially the assurance of His mercy when we fail, which we are bound to do.
Your Ministry at the Altar gives witness to Christ who loves to the end. “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” It is in his offering to the Father, made present for us in the Eucharistic sacrifice, that we understand the real meaning and depth of Jesus’ love. Through the sacrifice of the Mass, each of us is drawn into His offering so that we too can love in this way. “Love one another as I have loved you.” This love is especially focused for us at the altar, for at the altar the sacrifice of Jesus’ love is made fully present for us. So, continue to have a very deep love for the altar as the locus of the drama of your own lives too. By your own offering to the Father, you are brought into communion with Him and with those whom He calls you to serve. This also means that you are to build communion with your Bishop, your Ordinary, with your brother deacons and priests, and with the local Church where you will minister, always in communion with our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
In this way, you manifest the self-giving love of the Lord. It is because the self-giving love of Jesus is to be the centre of your lives, that the Church asks you on this day to make the commitment to celibacy. In the instruction we are soon to hear we note that celibacy is “both a sign and a motive of pastoral charity, and a special source of spiritual fruitfulness”. Celibacy is the manner through which you will live out the Ministry of Charity, the Ministry of love, as a deacon over this next year and then, please God, for the whole of your life as a priest. We must remember that this path is not a refusal to love. It is to love in a different way. It is not a call to a barren existence, as some would have us believe. Rather, it is a call to be fruitful in ways other than physically fathering children. Indeed, being fatherly is one of the most important prophetic signs that you are called to be. We know our world needs this witness – men who are deeply in love with God and able to love God’s holy people. You need to love them with a total gift of self which helps to father holy people into the Kingdom. “I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”
Such a life of loving service is only possible if you remain close to Jesus. He is our number One. He has chosen you and He longs that you know His burning love for you. “I call you friends….that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete”. We can only know His joy in us, if we spend time with Him – time encountering Him, in His Word and time, in His presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Only such regular contact will deepen our intimacy with Him, and inflame us to serve His holy people more generously. May the Lord richly bless you as you take this step, and may Mary, Mother and Queen, always watch over you.
Archbishop of Cardiff
Bishop of Menevia
More photographs of the service will be available to view at https://flickr.com/photos/catholicwestminster