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by on September 28th, 2021

Prayer of the Faithful for Vocations
 to the Priesthood & Religious Life 
October 2021 (Year B)

October 3rd: Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

That men and women will be open to the voice of the Lord, asking the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother to help them recognize and answer His call to serve Him as a priest, deacon or in the consecrated life…
October 10th: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That from the many called to holiness in Christ, those chosen to follow Him in the priesthood and consecrated life will respond with humble readiness …
October 17th: Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For a growth in reverence and acceptance for the gift and mystery of a vocation to the priesthood and consecrated life …

October 24th: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That men and women will be encouraged to love God and their neighbour and follow Him generously when chosen to serve others as a priest, deacon or in the consecrated religious life …

October 31st: Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
For a readiness to give to God what is God’s in response to His call to the priesthood or consecrated religious life…

by on September 13th, 2021

Praying the Greatest Prayer: The Holy Mass

How the Church describes the priest’s role concerning the Last Supper ‘command’ and the celebration of the Eucharist
(Fr. Gerald Dennis Gill, published at

Catholics often say that the Mass is the greatest prayer that we can offer. This is true for many reasons, and especially so because it is Christ’s prayer, Christ’s saving sacrifice offered to the heavenly Father for his glory and for our salvation. At every Mass, Christ unites us to himself in the offering of this prayer, of this sacrifice. For the priest, though, his union with this offering is even more profound, more particular, more personal.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy summarizes the traditional faith of the Church about the Eucharist.

“At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 47; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1323).

At this same Last Supper, with the institution of the Eucharist, the Lord turned to the gathered apostles and said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (cf. Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26). Thus Jesus commands his apostles, his priests, to celebrate the Eucharist until his return (cf. CCC, No. 1337). This same command of the Lord to his apostles directs them uniquely to repeat his words and actions from the supper “to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 47). In this way, the priest, as he keeps the command of the Lord in every age, on behalf of all the members of the Church, is intimately united with the very event of the Lord’s Sacrifice, the memorial of [Jesus’] death and resurrection.

One way to see and to encourage priests to have a new regard for praying the greatest prayer, the holy Mass, is to look at how the Church describes their role concerning the Last Supper command and the celebration of the Eucharist. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal succinctly identifies this role.

“A Priest, also, who possesses within the Church the sacred power of Orders to offer sacrifice in the person of Christ, presides by this fact over the faithful people gathered here and now, presides over its prayer, proclaims to it the message of salvation, associates the people with himself in the offering of sacrifice through Christ in the Holy Spirit to God the Father, and gives his brothers and sisters the Bread of eternal life and partakes of it with them. Therefore, when he celebrates the Eucharist, he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he pronounces the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ” (GIRM, No. 93).

This theologically and liturgically rich paragraph from the front matter of the Roman Missal provides four points for consideration for the priest to deepen his praying of the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist, the greatest prayer. As he prays holy Mass, he does so in the person of Christ, he presides over the faithful and proclaims the word of salvation, he associates the faithful with himself in the offering of Christ’s sacrifice and he carries out the rites with humility.

In the Person of Christ
The Second Vatican Council reiterated the perennial teaching of the Church that the priest, by virtue of his reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, offers the unique Sacrifice of the Cross with the Eucharist in the person of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, No. 28; Presbyterorum Ordinis, No. 2). The shift from the first person plural to the first person singular for the institution narrative and Consecration of the Eucharistic prayer clearly and vividly underscores this theological reality (GIRM, No. 79d): “This is my Body. … This is the chalice of my Blood” (Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayers). This theological reality must be a personal reality for every priest as he celebrates Mass. In this way, he prays the Mass, every part of the Mass, in intentional union with Christ the Priest.

The ordained priest, again by virtue of his reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, also assumes the sacramental role of Christ as Head of his Body and liturgically acts in this manner, in persona Christi Capitis (cf. CCC, No. 1548). Thus, as an example, the priest celebrant carries out the introductory rites of Mass with the people at the chair signifying his headship in Christ in relationship to the liturgical assembly, the Body of Christ assembled (GIRM, No. 124). As he greets the faithful, he is a sign of the Lord to all. As the faithful respond to the priest, the mystery of Church — head and members — gathered is manifest (No. 50). “The Lord be with you” and the response “And with your spirit” throughout the Mass expresses this theological reality repeatedly. The priest presides over the people as Christ over his Body in the Eucharist.

In his sacramental role in the Eucharist of representing Christ as Head of the Body, the priest additionally acts on behalf of those assembled (cf. CCC, No. 1552). He does this not so much as a delegate of the faithful before the Father. Rather, “the prayer and offering of the Church are inseparable from the prayer and offering of Christ, her head; it is always the case that Christ worships in and through his Church” (No. 1553). Every part of the Mass then in some way reveals the Paschal Mystery of Christ carried out by Christ with the priest and people. When the priest prays on behalf of the people to the Father, especially with the Eucharistic prayer, the collect, the prayer over the offerings and the prayer after Communion, he does so in the person of Christ and in communion with Christ as his sacrificial offering takes place with the whole of the Mass (GIRM, No. 30).

The message of salvation is the divine event fully realized with the Eucharistic prayer, the death and resurrection of the Savior and redeemer. The fundamental proclamation of this message takes place at the altar when the priest, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, recalls and makes present this event in the body and blood of the Lord. This proclamation of the mystery of Christ in the Eucharistic prayer is likewise announced with the Liturgy of the Word, which the priest directs and explicates with the homily.

As he prays the Mass, the priest must be mindful that he is not simply a leader of prayer. Rather, because of his radical configuration to Christ the Priest, he prays with Christ the Head on behalf of all assembled and all people everywhere intimately united with Christ the Head of his Body. This union with Christ the Head assigns to the priest sacramental authority to preside over the faithful and their prayer, as well as proclaim to them the word of salvation.

Associates the Faithful with Himself
The ordained priesthood is oriented to the service and the perfection of the baptismal priesthood (cf. Roman Pontifical, Rite of Ordination of Several Priests/of One Priest and CCC, No. 1547). Singularly, this is illustrated when the ordained priest brings forward the baptismal priestly offerings of the faithful to be joined to the bread and wine that will become the sacrifice of Christ.

After the altar and the gifts have been prepared, the priest says to the faithful, “Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” The sacrifice of the ministerial priest is the bread and wine that will become the sacrifice of the Cross. The sacrifice of the faithful is all that they bring forward — all that fills their minds, their hearts, their very selves — likewise to be acceptable to almighty God. The response of the faithful confirms this: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” The sacrifice at the hands of the priest is the bread and wine and the offerings of the faithful.

Together, although in uniquely distinct ways, the priest and the faithful then offer the sacrifice of Christ with the Eucharistic prayer. This point is well expressed in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal as the Eucharistic prayer is described.

“Now the center and high point of the entire celebration begins, namely, the Eucharistic Prayer itself, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. The Priest calls upon the people to lift up their hearts towards the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving; he associates the people with himself in the Prayer that he addresses in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the meaning of this Prayer is that the whole congregation of the faithful joins with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice” (GIRM, No. 78).

As the center and high point of the Mass, the Eucharistic prayer belongs to all who are assembled. It takes both the priest and people to the right hand of the Father in heaven, where the perpetual sacrifice of Christ on the cross occurs for all eternity. “Lift up your hearts.” “We have lifted them up to the Lord.” At the same time, the Eucharistic prayer brings the eternal sacrifice of Christ in our midst on the altar.

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians in his teaching on the holy Eucharist not only of the manner in which the Lord gave his body and blood to all but also that eating and drinking this mystery proclaims the death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:23-26). During the Communion rite of the Mass, the priest, with the consecrated Host raised above the paten or chalice, invites the faithful to holy Communion, invites them to the “supper of the Lamb.” For both the priest and the faithful, they now consume the event of the Eucharistic prayer, the sacrifice of Christ actually being celebrated (GIRM, No. 85). They eat and drink of the crucified and risen Lord in glory.

As the priest prays the Eucharistic prayer in every Mass, a conscious awe and reverence should fill him as with the Eucharist “we … pass over to the heavenly realities here foreshadowed” (Roman Missal, preface, Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ). Additionally, as he prays the Eucharistic prayer and receives as well as gives the body and blood of the Lord to the faithful, he enters into a great experience of adoration. He is united with the obedient Son of God who gives his life for us and for the glory of his Father. With holy Communion, the experience of adoration becomes quite personal for the priest and the faithful, when they take to themselves the very food of the saving event of the Cross.

In recent years there has been a growing appreciation for the ars celebrandi and the celebration of the sacred liturgy. The ars celebrandi, simply put, is “the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness” (Sacramentum Caritatis, No. 38). When the priest and faithful enter into the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist with a confident observance of the descriptions and directives for the rites, then this art of proper celebration fosters the fullest form of actual participation (cf. No. 38).

For the priest, as he prays holy Mass, and especially over time, he must allow the rites to shape him, to shape his participation in the mystery of Christ. If he does so with a clear grasp of the liturgical norms, then he is destined to celebrate with dignity and humility. He becomes the servant of the sacred liturgy (cf. GIRM, No. 24) rather than taking to reordering the rites around him. His personal participation becomes a more profound conforming of himself to the mystery being celebrated, an offering of his life to God in the unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world (Sacramentum Caritatis, No. 64). Thus, remarkably, as he prays holy Mass, he can indeed convey “the living presence of Christ.”

Throughout the Mass, there are a few instances when the priest prays in his own name, which helps him to be focused. These occur before the reading of the Gospel, at the preparation of the gifts, before and after holy Communion. The quiet prayers at these times deserve renewed consideration as the priest prays holy Mass. They direct his attention to the exercise of his unique role in the Mass and that he may conduct his ministry with greater attention and devotion (cf. GIRM, No. 33). Likewise, taking time for prayerful preparation and thanksgiving before and after Mass reminds the priest of the divine encounter that is the Eucharist and the service that he alone provides for the Church in all humility (cf. Roman Missal, Preparation for Mass and Thanksgiving after Mass).

Renewed in Faith
It is painfully true, for a number of reasons, that praying the greatest prayer can become routine and tedious for too many priests. Only when priests allow themselves to reflect regularly on the gift and mystery of their vocation, their role in the celebration of the Mass, are they renewed in faith and love for so great a prayer. This renewal is deepened when a priest recalls the words of the bishop on ordination day, when the new priest receives the paten and chalice: “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross” (see Roman Pontifical, Rite of Ordination of Several Priests/of One Priest).

There is an inexplicable connection between the offering of Christ on the cross, making this same offering in the celebration of Mass and living out this offering in the priestly life. When the priest consciously makes this connection, he prays the greatest prayer, the holy Mass, in the greatest possible way.

FATHER DENNIS GILL is rector and pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia and the director of the Office for Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.


by on August 30th, 2021

By Fr. Richard Gribble CSC and published at

Contemporary society marks people as “important” if they have the proper status and credentials. Credentials are found in various forms. Titles such as Dr., Rev., Esq. are credentials that some earned through education. Positions such as CEO, president or member of Congress imply that one has power and/or influence. Economic status is certainly another credential. If people know we have money or other assets, we are placed above others. Even achievements, such as athletic records, business and/or academic awards, and recognition from society are forms of credential.

While it is certainly not bad to have credentials or to achieve position, goals or status as a product of our hard work, we must realize that none of these worldly credentials are important to God. Rather, fulfilling the Lord’s will and doing his work in the world is what Christ asks of all his followers, especially his priests.

What Scripture Says
Scripture provides numerous examples that suggest God does not look on the outside — that is, our credentials — but rather looks to the heart. The story of the choice of David to replace Saul as king of Israel is an example. From outward appearances, David, described as “ruddy, a youth with beautiful eyes, and good looking” (1 Sm 16:12), was not even considered by his father, but credentials are not important to God.

Isaiah felt totally unworthy for his call (cf. Is 6:5-8) to be a prophet, and Jeremiah was called from the womb of his mother (Jer 1:4-10).


“People love their priests, they want and need their shepherds! The faithful never leave us without something to do, unless we hide in our offices or go out in our cars wearing sunglasses. There is a good and healthy tiredness. It is the exhaustion of the priest who wears the smell of the sheep … but also smiles the smile of a father rejoicing in his children or grandchildren.”

— Pope Francis, Holy Thursday homily, April 2, 2015


The New Testament is equally if not richer with examples. Who did Jesus choose to be the members of his inner circle? None of the initial Twelve had any status within Hebrew society. They were all ordinary, probably poorly educated men. Immediately after receiving Peter’s answer to the question, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15), Jesus tells his disciples what the cost of their discipleship will be, stating, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16:26).

Worldly gain and credentials are of no significance to God. When the apostles argued who was greatest among them, Jesus responded, “For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest” (Lk 9:48). Jesus also reminded them that places of honor were not important. Rather he said that when invited to a banquet, sit in the lowest seat and possibly you will be asked to move up higher (cf. Lk 14:7-14). St. Paul, as well, although a zealous pharisaic Jew and Roman citizen, and thus one with credentials, clearly indicated that such status was of no concern to Christ, writing in Galatians 6:15, “For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.”

What Should Be the Goals?
Unquestionably, the goal that all Christians seek is to live with Christ forever. Along the road of our Christian journey, however, there are important goals, often marked by qualities of our character that we must seek out. While it should go without being mentioned, a foundational brick to our character is personal integrity. Are we men of the Gospel; are our words and actions consistent?

In a statement that challenges us, by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, then serving as rector of the North American College in Rome, states: “We claim to be men of faith, prayer, love, simplicity, chastity, fidelity, honor and generosity — and often we are not. … Priests without integrity are the Pharisees, scribes, and hypocrites of today, and he who thinks that such does not apply to him is the worst one” (“Priests for the Third Millennium,” OSV, $20.95).

It is essential that we be responsible to others: The People of God are counting on us to be the example they need. According to Cardinal Dolan, “It is tough to be men of calm magnanimous integrity if we lack the honor of accepting responsibility for our own lives.”

As men of character and manifesting personal integrity, we serve as public witnesses to others. People observe what we do and hear what we say, and thus we are viewed as representatives of the Church. We might not like this responsibility, but it comes with the role we have chosen. We must always be aware of how we are perceived. Cardinal Dolan explained: “We are ever conscious of the fact that we are a public persona in the Church. For better or worse, rightly or wrongly, we represent the Church to people. How people think of Jesus and his Church often depends on how we come across, how our human qualities are perceived. What a heavy responsibility.”

Failure of a priest to maintain proper public witness can be devastating to the faithful and harmful to the Church. The problem of observing inconsistency in the lives of the ordained is noted by Cardinal Dolan: “Sure, it’s silly to leave the Church because of the foibles of a priest, but many certainly do, and we must be scrupulous in seeing that we never give anyone such an excuse. God forbid anyone should ever grow apart from Jesus and his Spouse, the Church, because of something one said or did, or something we did not say or do when we should have.”

As ministers to God’s faithful, we must always make ourselves available. Too often, clergy protect themselves by shutting out those to whom they should minister. Certainly, there is a need, as described later, for all priests at times to step back and make certain they do not suffer burnout. However, our ministry requires us to be as available as possible. As one priest once told me, “What are we saving ourselves for; there is plenty of time to rest in eternal life.” The Australian priest David Walker has written in the Australasia Catholic Record, “To be available is the basis of service” (“The Spirituality of Ordained Ministry,” April 2010).

He adds an additional dimension: “Availability is of little use, if priests are not approachable. … Priests who are angry and arrogant towards their people, who abuse the faithful physically, mentally or verbally or who give scandal by an unchristian way of life undermine their credibility and make it difficult for the faithful to approach them. Surely nothing other than the behavior of a mature Christian life can be expected or tolerated in an ordained priest. Such an attitude will not only make them approachable but draw the faithful to them.”

Availability necessitates that priests today be in communion with the faithful; the image of an earlier time where clergy stood above the laity, possessing some special inside track to God and life eternal, must enter the dustbin of history. Pope Francis, in “Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus” (Crossroad, $16.95), addressed the need for priests to stand on level ground with those they serve: “The faithful will experience our ritual gestures as empty and abstract if we cannot tell them, I am the one who lives with you. I rejoice when you laugh, and I suffer when you cry. The people see us as superfluous if we do not transform our friendship into good liturgy, if we are incapable of making holy their daily bread. People somehow can recognize sterility and, when they do, their joy slowly departs.”

Cautions to Avoid
Knowing the short-term goals to achieve the ultimate end of eternal life leads directly to a discussion of various pitfalls and hurdles that must be negotiated to minister well to others. The issue of professionalism holds great significance for priests today. The hyphenated priest is the norm in some clerical ministries, especially true when higher education is referred to, where you often see or hear people identified as “the psychologist and priest” or similar appellations.

By the numbers sidebarIn such settings today, professional academic discipline too often trumps the clerical vocation; scholarship takes precedence to the basic ministry of the priest. Such an attitude is completely backward; we profess vows of chastity and obedience to serve God’s people. Therefore, the priority, and thus basic ministry of the clergy, is preaching the word and celebrating the sacraments.

Burnout or becoming “stale” is another pitfall to be avoided. Priesthood calls us to serve God’s people, but we need to refuel ourselves continually to properly meet the needs that come our way. Thus we must meet our personal needs while doing our best to meet the needs of God’s people in ministry.

We need to take time for ourselves. It is important to understand that the word “no” is a complete sentence. We can and at times must say “no” when we are asked to assist others.

We need to vary what we do and find satisfaction in activities outside our day-to-day ministry. Hobbies, interaction with other people and additional interests are essential. We must take care of ourselves physically, including receiving sufficient exercise and rest, eating properly and, equally importantly, maintaining our spiritual health.

Related to the challenge of burnout and the possibility of becoming stale in our ministry to God’s people is the possibility of apathy and the fear of failure. Apathy, the dread that we will lose the spirit, “the fire,” that once motivated us to do God’s work in the world, is a constant fear in apostolic ministry. Pope Francis, in “Open Mind, Faithful Heart,” wrote, “Apathy … is a feeling that eats away at the apostolic perseverance required in our mission as pastors of God’s faithful people.”

Caution is necessary to avoid the tentacles of a dispirited attitude. The pontiff warns: “We do well to recognize apathy as a reality that besieges us constantly; it is a daily threat to our lives as pastors, and we need to be humbly aware that it is always with us. That is why we must nourish ourselves with the Word of God, which gives us strength to continue moving forward.”

If we allow ourselves to be conquered by apathy, we can become paralyzed in our ministry; and then we will not be able to respond when called to act on behalf of others. Pope Francis addressed this concern: “At times, apathy takes the form of paralysis: one simply refuses to accept the rhythms of life. Other times it appears in the clownish priest who in his activities seems incapable of grounding himself in God and in the concrete history in which he must live. Occasionally, he reveals itself in those who elaborate magnificent plans without any concern for the concrete means by which they will be realized. Conversely it can be seen in those who get so wrapped up in the minutia of each moment that they cannot see beyond them in the grand plan of God.”

Clearly, we must be watchful that we do not fall victim to apathy for indeed such a failure will be destructive to both the minister and the faithful.

What God Asks of Us
There is no need for credentials in our Christian life of service. All we need to know is that we have done what God asks of us. God has given us the opportunities and gifts to serve the faithful. Our privileges are many, but so too our responsibilities. As men of integrity and humility, seeking to always be available, we must strive to always move forward, evading the pitfalls and obstacles that seek to derail us from our apostolic mission. What we do might not be fancy or catch the eye of the world, but God, who knows and sees all, is aware of our efforts. This is what will lead us to eternal life, and that is all we need.

FATHER RICHARD GRIBBLE, CSC, is a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross and presently serves as a professor of religious studies at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts.

(Source:, accessed 30 August 2021)

by on June 18th, 2021

Deacons Callum Young and Juan Jesus Borrallo will be ordained as priests on 29th June 2021 at 6pm in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.

In preparation for their ordination, there will be a Vocational Prayer Vigil on Friday 25th June 2021 at 7:30pm in St Patrick’s Church, Dundalk. This evening of prayer will also be a vocational meeting in which the two deacons will speak about their own vocation stories.

Unfortunately, in line with current restrictions and the recommendations of the Public Health Authority and government guidelines, the number of participants will be limited. Nonetheless, the ceremony will be broadcast live for those who wish to watch it at this address:

Please pray for Callum and Juan Jesus in this important moment of their lives.

by on June 18th, 2021

Pope Francis told a group of young French priests on Monday that weakness is a chance for encounter with God, and not something they should try to overcome by their own strength.

“My fragility, the fragility of each one of us, is a theological place of encounter with the Lord,” he told a group of around 20 priests at a June 7 meeting at the Vatican.

“The ‘superman’ priests end up badly, all of them,” Francis said. “The fragile priest, who knows his weaknesses and talks about them with the Lord, he will be fine.”

Pope Francis encouraged the priests, who are in Rome for studies, to be pastors always acting in service of the Catholics under their care.

“Strip yourself of your preconceived ideas, your dreams of greatness, your self-affirmation, to put God and people at the center of your daily concerns,” he urged.

The pope also warned the French priests against placing the identity of being an “intellectual” above that of being a “pastor.”

“You will be a pastor in many ways, but always in the midst of God’s people,” he underlined. “The studies you do in the various Roman universities prepare you for your future tasks as pastors, and allow you to better appreciate the reality in which you are called to proclaim the Gospel of joy.”

The student priests who met with Pope Francis live together at the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

Reflecting on community life, the pope noted the temptation to gossip or to create closed-off groups which can be damaging to fraternity.

“May you always welcome one another as a gift,” he said. “In a fraternity lived in truth, in the sincerity of relationships and in a life of prayer, we can form a community in which you can breathe the air of joy and tenderness.”

“The priest is a man who, in the light of the Gospel, spreads the taste of God around him and transmits hope to restless hearts: this is how it must be,” he continued.

Francis encouraged the young priests to not be afraid to dream of a Church entirely at the service of its members and the world, stating that each of them has a contribution to make.

“Do not be afraid to dare, to take risks, to go forward because you can do everything with Christ who gives you strength,” he said. “With him you can be apostles of joy, cultivating in you the gratitude of being at the service of your brothers and of the Church.”

A sense of humor is also an important part of joy, Pope Francis said, adding that it can be one of the characteristics of holiness.

“A priest who has no sense of humor, does not like it, something is wrong. Imitate those great priests who laugh at others, at themselves and even at their own shadow,” he said.

“And cultivate within yourselves the gratitude of being at the service of your brothers and of the Church.”


by on June 5th, 2021

Prayer of the Faithful for Vocations
 to the Priesthood & Religious Life  - June 2021

June 6th: The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
That all Catholics will adore the great gift of the Holy Eucharist given to them by Jesus Christ through the hands of His priests and that those chosen as priests will inspire many more to follow Him…

June 11th: The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (World Day of Prayer for Priests)
That those called to serve the Lord and His people as priests will be blessed with holy zeal in their prayers and apostolates…

June 13th: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
That we may have many priests and consecrated religious to show us the Lord’s kindness…

June 20th: Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For a growing trust in the presence of the Lord and His call to men and women to serve Him and His Church as priests, deacons and in the consecrated life…

June 27th: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For the faith to accept the healing power of Jesus, who wants to remove every obstacle to the response of men and women chosen to follow Him as priests, deacons, sisters and brothers…

by on June 1st, 2021

by on May 31st, 2021

Why not pray with Archbishop Eamon online at 8.30am on June 11th as we join the world in praying for the sanctification of priests?

Join online here:

by on May 4th, 2021

In my life I’ve listened to diverse opinions about what candidates for the priesthood should be like, how they should behave before entering the seminary and how they should lead an impeccable life. Many people believe that those men who feel the call of God to the priesthood have never missed Mass, that they know the hymnal by heart, and that their families are holy. But, the truth is, things aren’t exactly as we might imagine.

A man who’s been called to the priesthood…

1. He is still a sinner, like everybody else
It’s nothing to be scandalized about. We all are sinners simply because we have all been stained by original sin. Does God only choose the purest amongst His flock to call them? We know that in many cases He doesn’t. For example, there’s the case of Matthew, the tax collector, whom everyone considered a traitor. No one welcomed him in their home and everyone rejected him. They considered he had betrayed his people by working for the Romans, who abused the Hebrews. Yes, Saint Matthew could have been as bad as he could get, but that didn’t prevent Jesus from getting close to him with His love to call him to his encounter. “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners” (Lk. 5:32).

2. He doesn’t abandon his life or his family; he purifies them
This sounds nice, but is somewhat difficult to explain. The seminarian leaves everything, his family, his friends, his projects, his studies, in short, he leaves everything behind to follow Jesus. Let’s ask ourselves: How’s he capable of doing that? Is it a momentary impulse? Possibly, but I’d dare say that no one leaves everything behind for “something” he doesn’t believe in. The vocation to the priesthood comes from a personal experience with Jesus, from a face-to-face encounter with Him. The man called to the priesthood leaves his family and everything else to be “alone with God.” It is necessary to have a time for personal reflection, to listen to God and verify if it’s a divine inspiration or not. A man called to priesthood leaves everything behind for a reality that exists and stays in his heart, something he can’t always explain.

3. He is still attracted to women
This is a very controversial topic, with many points that must be explained. Man is man by nature. God calls him to priesthood being a man, He doesn’t expect him to become a plant or a microbe. He expects him to be himself, a being created in His own image and likeness. By nature, man is attracted to women, he cannot disassociate from that, but he can commit his life to a single relationship. In this way, priesthood is similar to marriage. When a man takes a wife, he gives up all women but one, his wife. When the priest “marries” the Church, he gives up all women, including that “one” he could have had. God and His Church take her place. So, the priest makes fecund his priestly life, gathering many souls to God.

4. He doesn’t give up fatherhood
Many will agree with me when I say that the priest doesn’t give up fatherhood, but becomes a father to all. A father is devoted to his children, he takes care and watches over them just like a priest does. He takes care of his flock, watches over it and its spiritual health, he doesn’t abandon it, and is even capable of giving his life for it. That’s what it means to be a father. God said to Abraham: “No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations” (Gen. 17:5). And He fulfilled his promise! The priest has many spiritual children who ask him for advice and open their heart to him to seek what is good. It’s not necessary to have a biological bond in order to do so, he must only do what a father does; God has granted him that vocation.

5. He is unworthy of his mission
Who is worthy of a mission as great as this? No one! We are not worthy by ourselves; God makes us worthy by choosing us, when he calls us to become priests. We have lived a life of sin like everybody else. We have betrayed Jesus countless times, we have denied Him, but God doesn’t focus on our faults, he sees our renewed heart, willing to love more. He calls each and every one of us to a different vocation. Those of us that have been called to religious life or priesthood have firsthand experienced God’s mercy. How is it possible that God called someone as imperfect as me? It is possible! We only know that God calls whoever He wants. Samuel explains it clearly in his first book: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam.16:7). In another verse, we read: “A contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” (Psalm 51: 19).

6. He still makes mistakes
No one is perfect, not even the priest. Priesthood doesn’t take away the priest’s humanity; he’s still a man, still lives on the Earth, makes mistakes, and makes wrong decisions. He’s as normal as any human being. His yearning for perfection, his desire to reach God, doesn’t come from an idea or a desire to achieve personal development, but it comes from God Himself.

7. He is fully happy
Of course! A priest that isn’t happy as such should start to worry. The priest is called to live a different mission, a mission given by God. A priest’s happiness is not like that of today’s world. His happiness doesn’t come from fleeting fun, nor personal pleasures and whims; it doesn’t come from within himself. The priest’s true happiness comes from doing the Will of God and feeling deeply loved by Him. Who dares to say that love does not produce happiness? Those of us who have experienced God’s supreme love know that in it lies our happiness. Let’s imagine we’re small, thirsty birds flying throughout the desert, and suddenly we find an oasis with living water… what would we do? Drink! Wouldn’t that bird be happy with that water? Of course, it would! This might not be the best example, but it helps us understand that our little sip of the infinite ocean of God’s love produces happiness. There’s no full happiness outside from God, because He is the source of all happiness.

These were only some of the characteristics of those who have been called to priesthood. It’s now time for you to experience this fullness of love; don’t fixate only on what people say. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jas. 4:8).


by on April 27th, 2021

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The priesthood “is not a career, it is a service,” Pope Francis told nine men just before ordaining them to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rome.

The service to which priests are called must reflect the way God has cared and continues to care for his people, a “style of closeness, a style of compassion and a style of tenderness,” the pope told the men April 25 during his homily at the ordination Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Mass marked the first time in more than a year that Pope Francis presided at a liturgy at the main altar in the basilica and the first time that more than a few hundred people were allowed in at the same time. Close to 1,000 people, mainly family and friends of the ordinands, sat socially distanced and wearing masks throughout the Mass.

Rather than walking the entire length of the basilica, Pope Francis processed into the Mass from the Altar of the Chair, avoiding a situation where people would crowd together at the center aisle to see him up close and take photos.

The new priests, who are between the ages of 26 and 43, include six Italians, a Romania, a Colombian and a Brazilian. Six studied at Rome’s major seminary; two prepared for the priesthood at the Neocatechumenal Way’s Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Rome; and one attended the Rome Seminary of Our Lady of Divine Love.

On the Sunday when the Gospel reading is about the good shepherd and the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis told the new priests that they must never forget they were called from among God’s people to be shepherds.

“Be shepherds” like Jesus, he said. “Shepherds of the holy, faithful people of God. Shepherds who go with the people of God — sometimes ahead of the flock, sometimes in the midst of it or behind it, but always there with the people of God.”

Pope Francis said that as he already had mentioned to the nine in the sacristy before Mass, “Please, steer clear of the vanity, the pride of money. The devil enters through the pockets. Think about this.”

“Be poor like the holy, faithful people of God are poor,” he told them. “Don’t be climbers” seeking some kind of “ecclesiastical career.”

Priests who become “functionaries” or “businessmen,” he said, lose their contact with the people and “that poverty that makes them like Christ poor and crucified.”

Closeness is key in the life of a priest, the pope said. First, they must be close to God in prayer. Then, close to their bishop, close to one another and close to their people.

“I suggest you make a resolution today: Never speak ill of a brother priest,” he said. “If you have something against another, be a man, put on your pants, go and tell him to his face.”


by on April 22nd, 2021

Our own Bishop Michael offers some advice to those discerning the call to priesthood, diaconate and religious life...

by on April 16th, 2021

A Holy Hour for Vocations to #Priesthood will take place in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh on Friday 23 April from 8 – 9pm. You can join in person or you may wish to join in prayer via the Cathedral Webcam:

by on April 8th, 2021

Prayer of the Faithful for Vocations
 to the Priesthood & Religious Life  - April 2021

April 4th: Easter Day of the Lord’s Resurrection
That more men and women will joyfully answer the call of the Lord to proclaim His life, death and resurrection as priests, deacons and in the consecrated life…

April 11th: Second Sunday of Easter
For all our priests, deacons, sisters and brothers whom God has sent in the name of Jesus to serve the people of Armagh, that they will be blessed with continued faithfulness to Him and inspire many more to consider a vocation to consecrated life and ordained ministry…

April 18th: Third Sunday of Easter
For an increased awareness among our young people of the closeness of the Lord in their vocation discernment…

April 25th: Fourth Sunday of Easter (Day of Prayer for Vocations)
For an increase in vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life for our diocese and that God will raise up good shepherds in our midst…

May 2nd: Fifth Sunday of Easter
For a deeper faith, hope and love among all Christians in Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and among those He is calling to His works as a priest, deacon or consecrated religious…

by on April 7th, 2021

Message of Pope Francis for World Day of Vocations - 25th April 2021

Saint Joseph: The Dream of Vocation


Dear brothers and sisters,

8 December last, the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, marked the beginning of a special year devoted to him (cf. Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 8 December 2020). For my part, I wrote the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, whose aim was “to increase our love for this great saint”. Saint Joseph is an extraordinary figure, yet at the same time one “so close to our own human experience”. He did not do astonishing things, he had no unique charisms, nor did he appear special in the eyes of those who met him. He was not famous or even noteworthy: the Gospels do not report even a single word of his. Still, through his ordinary life, he accomplished something extraordinary in the eyes of God.

God looks on the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7), and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines. Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day. The Lord desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers: hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes. The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic, which has spawned uncertainties and fears about the future and the very meaning of life. Saint Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of “the saints next door”. At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey.

Saint Joseph suggests to us three key words for each individual’s vocation. The first is dream. Everyone dreams of finding fulfilment in life. We rightly nurture great hopes, lofty aspirations that ephemeral goals – like success, money and entertainment – cannot satisfy. If we were to ask people to express in one word their life’s dream, it would not be difficult to imagine the answer: “to be loved”. It is love that gives meaning to life, because it reveals life’s mystery. Indeed, we only have life if we give it; we truly possess it only if we generously give it away. Saint Joseph has much to tell us in this regard, because, through the dreams that God inspired in him, he made of his life a gift.

The Gospels tell us of four dreams (cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13.19.22). They were calls from God, but they were not easy to accept. After each dream, Joseph had to change his plans and take a risk, sacrificing his own plans in order to follow the mysterious designs of God, whom he trusted completely. We may ask ourselves, “Why put so much trust in a dream in the night?” Although a dream was considered very important in ancient times, it was still a small thing in the face of the concrete reality of life. Yet Saint Joseph let himself be guided by his dreams without hesitation. Why? Because his heart was directed to God; it was already inclined towards him. A small indication was enough for his watchful “inner ear” to recognize God’s voice. This applies also to our calling: God does not like to reveal himself in a spectacular way, pressuring our freedom. He conveys his plans to us with gentleness. He does not overwhelm us with dazzling visions but quietly speaks in the depths of our heart, drawing near to us and speaking to us through our thoughts and feelings. In this way, as he did with Saint Joseph, he sets before us profound and unexpected horizons.

Indeed, Joseph’s dreams led him into experiences he would never have imagined. The first of these upended his betrothal, but made him the father of the Messiah; the second caused him to flee to Egypt, but saved the life of his family. After the third, which foretold his return to his native land, a fourth dream made him change plans once again, bringing him to Nazareth, the place where Jesus would begin his preaching of the Kingdom of God. Amid all these upheavals, he found the courage to follow God’s will. So too in a vocation: God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk. Only by abandoning ourselves confidently to grace, setting aside our own programmes and comforts, can we truly say “yes” to God. And every “yes” bears fruit because it becomes part of a larger design, of which we glimpse only details, but which the divine Artist knows and carries out, making of every life a masterpiece. In this regard, Saint Joseph is an outstanding example of acceptance of God’s plans. Yet his was an active acceptance: never reluctant or resigned. Joseph was “certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive” (Patris Corde, 4). May he help everyone, especially young people who are discerning, to make God’s dreams for them come true. May he inspire in them the courage to say “yes” to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints.

A second word marks the journey of Saint Joseph and that of vocation: service. The Gospels show how Joseph lived entirely for others and never for himself. The holy people of God invoke him as the most chaste spouse, based on his ability to love unreservedly. By freeing love from all possessiveness, he became open to an even more fruitful service. His loving care has spanned generations; his attentive guardianship has made him patron of the Church. As one who knew how to embody the meaning of self-giving in life, Joseph is also the patron of a happy death. His service and sacrifices were only possible, however, because they were sustained by a greater love: “Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration” (ibid., 7).

For Saint Joseph, service – as a concrete expression of the gift of self – did not remain simply a high ideal, but became a rule for daily life. He strove to find and prepare a place where Jesus could be born; he did his utmost to protect him from Herod’s wrath by arranging a hasty journey into Egypt; he immediately returned to Jerusalem when Jesus was lost; he supported his family by his work, even in a foreign land. In short, he adapted to different circumstances with the attitude of those who do not grow discouraged when life does not turn out as they wished; he showed the willingness typical of those who live to serve. In this way, Joseph welcomed life’s frequent and often unexpected journeys: from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, then to Egypt and again to Nazareth, and every year to Jerusalem. Each time he was willing to face new circumstances without complaining, ever ready to give a hand to help resolve situations. We could say that this was the outstretched hand of our heavenly Father reaching out to his Son on earth. Joseph cannot fail to be a model for all vocations, called to be the ever-active hands of the Father, outstretched to his children.

I like to think, then, of Saint Joseph, the protector of Jesus and of the Church, as the protector of vocations. In fact, from his willingness to serve comes his concern to protect. The Gospel tells us that “Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night” (Mt 2:14), thus revealing his prompt concern for the good of his family. He wasted no time fretting over things he could not control, in order to give full attention to those entrusted to his care. Such thoughtful concern is the sign of a true vocation, the testimony of a life touched by the love of God. What a beautiful example of Christian life we give when we refuse to pursue our ambitions or indulge in our illusions, but instead care for what the Lord has entrusted to us through the Church! God then pours out his Spirit and creativity upon us; he works wonders in us, as he did in Joseph.

Together with God’s call, which makes our greatest dreams come true, and our response, which is made up of generous service and attentive care, there is a third characteristic of Saint Joseph’s daily life and our Christian vocation, namely fidelity. Joseph is the “righteous man” (Mt 1:19) who daily perseveres in quietly serving God and his plans. At a particularly difficult moment in his life, he thoughtfully considered what to do (cf. v. 20). He did not let himself be hastily pressured. He did not yield to the temptation to act rashly, simply following his instincts or living for the moment. Instead, he pondered things patiently. He knew that success in life is built on constant fidelity to important decisions. This was reflected in his perseverance in plying the trade of a humble carpenter (cf. Mt 13:55), a quiet perseverance that made no news in his own time, yet has inspired the daily lives of countless fathers, labourers and Christians ever since. For a vocation – like life itself – matures only through daily fidelity.

How is such fidelity nurtured? In the light of God’s own faithfulness. The first words that Saint Joseph heard in a dream were an invitation not to be afraid, because God remains ever faithful to his promises: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid” (Mt 1:20). Do not be afraid: these words the Lord also addresses to you, dear sister, and to you, dear brother, whenever you feel that, even amid uncertainty and hesitation, you can no longer delay your desire to give your life to him. He repeats these words when, perhaps amid trials and misunderstandings, you seek to follow his will every day, wherever you find yourself. They are words you will hear anew, at every step of your vocation, as you return to your first love. They are a refrain accompanying all those who – like Saint Joseph – say yes to God with their lives, through their fidelity each day.

This fidelity is the secret of joy. A hymn in the liturgy speaks of the “transparent joy” present in the home of Nazareth. It the joy of simplicity, the joy experienced daily by those who care for what truly matters: faithful closeness to God and to our neighbour. How good it would be if the same atmosphere, simple and radiant, sober and hopeful, were to pervade our seminaries, religious houses and presbyteries! I pray that you will experience this same joy, dear brothers and sisters who have generously made God the dream of your lives, serving him in your brothers and sisters through a fidelity that is a powerful testimony in an age of ephemeral choices and emotions that bring no lasting joy. May Saint Joseph, protector of vocations, accompany you with his fatherly heart!

Rome, from Saint John Lateran, 19 March 2021, Feast of Saint Joseph



by on March 14th, 2021

Prayer of the Faithful for Vocations
 to the Priesthood & Religious Life  - March 2021

March 7th: Third Sunday of Lent
For those considering a call to the priesthood or consecrated life: that they will answer the call and proclaim Christ crucified…

March 14th: Fourth Sunday of Lent
That we may have faithful priests and consecrated religious to guide us just as Jesus was the light that came into the world…

March 17th: Solemnity of St. Patrick
That those being called by the Lord to priesthood and religious life may know that they are being called to be at the service of all who fall by the wayside…

March 19th: Solemnity of St. Joseph
That through the intercession of St. Joseph, those being called to the priesthood and religious life will see the light to know God’s Will, the courage to carry it out faithfully, and the wisdom to choose the vocation which will lead them to a happy eternity.…

March 21st: Fifth Sunday of Lent
For all those being called to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life: that they may deepen their faith in Christ who calls them to glorify God in a profoundly personal way through their vocations…

March 25th: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
God enabled Mary to respond to His call with joy and freedom. May God grant us an increase in priestly and religious vocations…

March 28th: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
For the faithful response of all men and women called to follow Christ and His Passion through a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life…

by on February 5th, 2021

February 7th: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For those consecrated to God by the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience: that they may seek to live their baptismal promises more intensely and have the grace to persevere in their commitment to the Lord and serve with open hearts and willing spirits…

February 14th: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That the Holy Spirit will assist all those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life to discover the truth of God’s call …

February 21st: First Sunday of Lent
That prayer, penance and almsgiving will enable more men and women to follow the Holy Spirit as He leads them to discover their vocations in Christ …

February 28th: Second Sunday of Lent
That those considering a call to the priesthood or consecrated life will answer the call of the Lord without hesitation like Abraham …

by on October 24th, 2020

A “Come and See Evening” will take place on Monday 23rd November in Armagh for those who are thinking about Diocesan Priesthood.

It will be an opportunity for men (18 years and older) to come together, to reflect more on the call to Priesthood in the Archdiocese of Armagh.

Those who join for the evening will have an opportunity to hear a young priest share something of his story and they will be able to ask questions and join for worship and prayer.

Anyone who may be interested in joining is asked to contact their local priest or you can contact the Diocesan Vocations Director at or call Fr Peter at 028 37522802

by on September 28th, 2020

God calls; there is ‘a still small voice’ that calls each one of us – a calling that is there before we are born.  God calls each one of us…”Before, I formed you in the womb…” as we hear from Jeremiah in our chosen First Reading. “Before you came to birth I consecrated you;… “.  That ‘still small voice’ can only be heard where there is love, caring, nurturing and respect for life – all of which reflect God’s love.  This ‘still small voice’ is the call to each one; be it to marriage, family life, the single life, or religious life and priesthood.  Our Second Reading (Hebrews), referring to the specific calling of priesthood, affirms that “each one is called by God”.  The calling to priesthood has its foundation in love.  We hear how Jesus, in our Gospel today, before he called Peter, to ‘Feed my sheep’,  wanted to be sure that he loved him; that the bond between them was based upon love.

Jesus deliberately chose to ask Peter three times; “Do you love me?  Do you love me?  Do you love me?”   Jesus is highlighting that before he could call Peter to ministry, their relationship had to be on a solid basis of love.  Thomas, in being ordained to priesthood today, you are called to ministry on the foundation of your personal loving relationship with Jesus.  You learned to relate in loving ways at home with your parents, Barney and Bridie Small.

All relationships have their beginnings in the home.  We remember and give thanks for Barney and Bridie who are with you in spirit today.  You and your extended family have been recalling memories of their lives, the example of their faith and how their love for each other has influenced your decision to make this life commitment to priesthood.  Thomas, their nurturing and faith have provided the basis for your vocation to priesthood.  We remember them and your deceased extended family members, parishioners of Annagh, neighbours in Marian Park here in Belturbet as well as Milltown and friends; each of whom has had a role in your life story and Christian formation.  It is among a caring family and community that the reality of God’s love for us is revealed to us.

Recent research[1] into the caring of priests, religious and those in pastoral ministry has shown that a life-giving ministry requires that we stay true to our original call, remain in touch with the memories; the vital sources of personal growth found in a loving caring home environment.  It is in solid family and local community life; its nurturing, its joys and coping with sorrows, its fragility, where that ‘still small voice’ of God, the God who journeys with us, is heard.  ‘We are chosen from among God’s people’ as is indicted in the first line of our Second Reading from Hebrews.  Once we stay in touch with our original calling, we have a lifeline to God. “I am with you to protect you – it is the Lord who speaks” (First Reading. – Jeremiah) is the voice which can enable us to address the tendency to get engrossed solely in the tasks at hand.  The administrative responsibilities – ‘being a busy priest/bishop’ may conflict with the value of just ‘being present to others in Christ’.  We need to develop a balance, between our pastoral work and the care of ourselves, while remaining rooted in a deep spiritual life.

The challenge of public priestly ministry today is to teach based on the Word of God.  Thomas, you are appointed to act for God’s people in relation to God – in union with the bishop as successor of the apostles and with your fellow priests.  Yes, you are to become a bridge to people, so as to be of service, to reconcile and to seek out the lost – and there are those who are lost today, struggling, particularly, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  Yours is a calling, a privilege, a responsibility that may cause many to be fearful, however the Good Lord promises “I am with you to protect you”.  We are back to the relationship with the Lord; the reminder to remain in contact with the Lord.  “I am putting my Word into your mouth” says the Lord (First Reading – Jeremiah).  Our ministry is only possible with prayer, prayer with the Word of God and by imitating Jesus, who sought that assurance from Peter three times, “Do you love me? Do you love me?  Do you love me?”

As a Christian community, as Church, we celebrate Jesus Christ as one of us; one who came among us in response to the Father’s love and because of God, the Father’s love for us.  Jesus Christ took on our human condition, lived among us, suffered for us, died, and rose again.  Thomas, you are called to imitate that mystery in your life; the mystery we and you will celebrate in the Eucharist.

Over the past six months or so, we are experiencing turmoil due to the ongoing presence of coronavirus.  It has brought uncertainty, worry and frustration, resulted in physical sickness, mental anguish, the tragic death of loved ones, bereavement and it is still ongoing.

Jesus Christ is with us in our uncertainty, our suffering and pain; He has shared in our human frailty – He has been there Himself.  In bonding with us, Jesus has revealed to us a spark of divinity, that ‘still small voice’ which holds us, enfolds us, and can carry us through to new life.  We have a solid basis in Jesus Christ with which to offer hope to all who are feeling frustrated, anxious, and fearful today.

This is our calling Thomas, and your calling now.  In remaining close to Jesus Christ, drawing upon your upbringing in Marian Park with your parents Bridie and Barney, surrounded by the parish community of Annagh here in Belturbet, and in Milltown, the formation community in Maynooth, you are now ready to offer hope, support, and encouragement to people.  On the basis of your spiritual life, your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you can be an instrument of that hope, a refuge, the bridge to carry people through.  Remember you are chosen from among God’s people and appointed to act for them in relation to God[2].  

Finally, each one of us is called; to marriage, family life, the single life, or religious life and priesthood – we all feel inadequate, unworthy – that is a good insight, as we then know our need for God’s help.  It is not about us, it is not about me, it is all about God and the vital importance of our personal relationship with Jesus.

If we can all be alert to ‘the still small voice’ calling us now, then perhaps others will discover that further calling to pastoral ministry as a religious or as Thomas has, to priesthood.  We rejoice with you, Thomas.  We celebrate with your extended family, your parish community, your friends, and as the people, priests and deacons of our diocese.  Congratulations, we pray every blessing on your future priestly ministry in the diocese of Kilmore.

by on September 17th, 2020

Prayer of the Faithful for Vocations
 to the Priesthood & Religious Life
September 2020

September 6th: Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

For the faithful response of all those being called by Christ to take up their crosses and follow Him as a priest, deacon, sister or brother…

September 13th: Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

That those who are being called by God to be instruments of His love and mercy in this world will have the courage, generosity and strength to say yes, and that they will receive the support of their families and friends…

September 20th: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

That there will be an abundance of labourers chosen by the Lord to serve as priests, deacons and in the consecrated life in this vineyard of the Archdiocese of Armagh…

September 27th: Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

For the graces of clarity and active response in the discernment of our Heavenly Father’s will for all those considering a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life…

by on July 28th, 2020

By Dr. Andrew Swafford

Sts. Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, writing at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century respectively, give no doubts about the reality of the priesthood, bishops, and deacons—all rooted in apostolic succession, stemming from the first bishops as successors of the apostles. For example, around AD 96 Clement writes:

“Preaching, accordingly, throughout the country and the cities, they [the Apostles] appointed their first-fruits, after testing them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should believe. And this they did so without innovation, since many years ago things had been written concerning bishops and deacons. ”
Clement, Letter to Corinth, ch. 42

Early Apostolic Tradition
Clement continues, reinforcing the importance of apostolic succession:

“Our Apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be contention over the bishop’s office. So, for this cause, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the above-mentioned men, and afterwards gave them a permanent character, so that, as they died, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.”
Clement, Letter to Corinth, ch. 44

In the following passage, St. Ignatius—writing around AD 107—makes clear the importance of the office of bishop and even gives the first usage of “Catholic” as a proper name for (and description of) the Church:

“Let all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father, and the priests, as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Apart from the bishop, let no one perform any of the functions that pertain to the Church. Let that Eucharist be held valid which is offered by the bishop or by one to whom the bishop has committed this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”
Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaens, ch. 8

Both of these men knew the apostles or their close associates. Clement, the fourth bishop of Rome (i.e., the fourth pope), writes his letter within thirty years of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul in Rome. And St. Ignatius was ordained by Peter himself in Antioch.

Is their conception of the priesthood and the office of bishop of mere corruption, a novum somehow grafted onto the ancient and pristine faith? Or, on the other hand, is this an example of apostolic tradition simply making explicit what is already implicit in the biblical witness?
It is most assuredly the latter.

Jesus, a Priest According to the Order of Melchizedek
If there’s one place in the New Testament that most powerfully emphasizes Jesus’ priesthood, it’s no doubt the Letter to the Hebrews, especially chapter seven. Hebrews comes to a crescendo of sorts in chapters 8-10, emphasizing Jesus as our high priest of the heavenly Temple, offering a heavenly sacrifice and bringing about a heavenly liturgy.

Jesus, as Hebrews explains, is a priest not according to the order of Levi, but the order of “Melchizedek.” This is significant, since the priestly tribe of ancient Israel is that of Levi—but Jesus is of the tribe of Judah (see Hebrews 7:14). So, how can Jesus be a priest?

Melchizedek is the very first person in the Bible explicitly referred to as a “priest” (Genesis 14:18). Hebrews’ reference to Melchizedek in Hebrews 7 points back to a more ancient priesthood, before the rise of the Levites—sometimes known as the “patriarchal priesthood” or “priesthood of primogeniture” (firstborn). A close reading of Genesis reveals that the ancient patriarchs, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars, gave the blessing, and offered sacrifice—all of which are priestly prerogatives (see Genesis 8:20; 12:7, 8; 13:4, 18; 26:25; 27:28-29; 28:18; 33:20; 35:3, 7, 14-15; 46:1). Ideally, this family priesthood—with the father in the home acting as a royal priest—would be passed on to the firstborn son (hence, the alternative name “priesthood of primogeniture”), although the irony in Genesis is that this systematically never works out (see Great Adventure Bible essay “Patriarchs,” p. 35).

This priesthood persists all the way through the Passover in Exodus 12 and even remains in effect at the initial ratifying of the covenant on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 24. It’s only at the golden calf in Exodus 32 that this patriarchal priesthood is defrocked and forfeited; only here at this point do the Levites become the priestly tribe (see Exodus 32:29), becoming surrogate “firstborn” sons (see Numbers 3:12).

The Patriarchal Priesthood
With the rise of the Levites and the post-golden calf reconfiguration of the covenant, there are few new pronounced emphases that emerge—for example, daily mandatory sacrifice and an ardent emphasis upon separation from the nations (see Leviticus 18:3; 20:23). While sacrifice occurs before the golden calf, it was generally voluntary and discretionary in order to give the Lord thanks and praise. After the golden calf, there is a newfound emphasis upon the “sin” offering (and as mentioned, now mandatory on a daily basis). In a real sense, these Levitical sacrifices symbolically bear the punishment Israel deserves; but in the end, they don’t really deal with sin in a redemptive fashion—that awaits the work of Christ (see Hebrews 10:1, 4).

“Melchizedek” remerges in the Davidic period in Psalm 110:4, which describes the Davidic king as a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” David himself acts not just as a king, but also as a priest—offering sacrifice and giving the blessing (see 2 Samuel 6:17-18). In fact, David seems to be intentionally acting like a new Melchizedek—a new priest-king of Jerusalem (as Melchizedek was a priest-king of “Salem,” later identified as Jerusalem, see Genesis 14:18; Psalm 76:2).

In this respect, Jesus—in his redemptive and salvific self-offering on the Cross—bears fully the covenant curse hanging over Israel since the golden calf (and the nation’s subsequent infidelities), as well as the covenant curse of death hanging over Adam and his descendants (see Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12). In bringing the post-golden calf Mosaic Covenant to an end on the Cross, Jesus fulfills, restores, and elevates the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants—both of which relate back to the “Melchizedek” patriarchal priesthood. This is what Jesus is doing with the apostles—establishing them as twelve new patriarchs of the new and eschatological Israel.

Jesus is the one priest; the apostles receive the gift of participating in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ (see CCC 1545; Luke 10:16), a priesthood which restores and elevates the patriarchal priesthood.

New Covenant Priesthood
Traditionally, the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist are tied to the Last Supper when Jesus commands the apostles: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Clearly, Jesus anticipates some significant interlude here between the founding of this New Covenant at the Last Supper and his Second Coming. When Jesus refers to the “blood of the covenant” (see Matthew 26:28), he is directly alluding to the sacrifice that instituted the Mosaic Covenant at the foot of Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 24:8)—Jesus becomes the sacrifice that establishes the New Covenant. Notice that a significant amount of time has transpired between the founding of this Mosaic Covenant to Jesus’ day (some 1,500 years or so); this is by no means to calculate a timetable, but it is to show that the covenant logic points to a significant amount of time between the institution of the New Covenant and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—that is, the covenant logic points to an extensive period of time for the sacramental age of the Church.
In and through his resurrection and ascension, Jesus is able to be with us in a way that transcends his earthly ministry.

Now, at any hour of the day and at any place on the globe, Jesus is with us especially in the sacraments—forgiving, healing, restoring, and filling us with his divine life. As much as we’re in awe of Jesus’ physical miracles (which are still happening to this day), the miracle of the sacraments is even greater still. The former heal the body, the latter the soul.

The reason for the priesthood and for the Eucharist is so that the saving work of Jesus Christ is never locked in the past as a mere historical event. Even more, in and through the priesthood and the Eucharist, the entire Body of Christ (the Church) can enter into the offering of the Head; in the Eucharist, we enter most fully into Christ’s death and resurrection.
This is the meaning of Hebrews 8:3, which insists that Jesus as priest must still have something to offer.

But How and Why?
Jesus continues to present his self-offering to the Father in heaven, but he does so in and through his glorified and risen humanity; this is the glorified presence and sacrifice of Christ made present in every Mass—this is why the Mass is truly heaven on earth.

Jesus prays at the Last Supper that the Father would consecrate the apostles (John 17:17), explaining that this consecration is a participation in his own consecration to the Father (John 17:18-19). This is the New Covenant priesthood, which is a share in the priesthood of the glorified and risen Jesus Christ. This apostolic priesthood shares in the ministry of Jesus (see Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16), continuing his work of preaching, healing, and forgiving. For this reason, Jesus commissions the apostles—through the gift of the Spirit—to forgive sins in his name (see John 20:20-23). Rather, Jesus continues to forgive sins through the ordained priesthood of the New Covenant. Jesus continues his priesthood through the priest.

St. Paul on the New Covenant
When St. Paul refers to himself as a “minister of the new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:6), he isn’t simply referring to himself as a preacher and evangelizer. Rather, St. Paul, too, has the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18), noting that “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

For St. Paul, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17). In other words, the Church’s unity is effected through the Eucharist. That is, the Church’s unity is not merely spiritual and invisible.

A Divine Gift Made Present
Jesus is present to us in many ways—for example, in the poor (Matthew 25:35-45) and where two or three are gathered in his name (Matthew 18:20). But in a unique and sublime way, he is present to us sacramentally, most especially in the Eucharist.

In all the sacraments, Christ acts by his power; but in the Eucharist, we have Christ himself.
The sublime gift of the sacred priesthood—the gift of Jesus continuing his priesthood through the ordained priest—makes this possible.

This is indeed a great treasure in the midst of the fragile clay of our humanity. Many of the priests I’m close to know this reality in their bones, fully recognizing that they represent something vastly transcending themselves.

If the fragility of human brokenness has on occasion overshadowed the immense grandeur of this gift, that’s no reason to turn away from the divine gift. All the sacraments are encounters with the Risen Jesus. Human weakness can’t undo or ultimately thwart this wonder.
Can we see past (and through) the merely human to the divine gift made present in the Catholic priesthood?

(Originally posted here:

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