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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:

by on July 6th, 2020

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

July 5th: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For an increase in labourers to the Lord of the Harvest in response to our prayers for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and the consecrated life, and for the holiness of all those now serving the people of our diocese in these vocations…

July 12th: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That all those now discerning their vocation will be attentive in prayer and active in their response to Jesus the Eternal Word who calls them…

July 19th: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That with dedicated spirits, we will beg the Lord of the Harvest to provide an abundance of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life in our diocese who will help gather the wheat of souls into His barn…

July 26th: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That the Holy Spirit will give inspiration and guidance to all those discerning their vocation in Christ…

by on June 8th, 2020

If the Lord is calling you to priesthood, then the Lord is calling you to a life of prayer!

The Liturgy of the Hours / Divine Office can help deepen and broaden your prayer life.

For a wonderful intro to the Liturgy of the Hours, check out this podcast from the guys at the Burrowshire Podcast. It could literally change your life!

by on June 5th, 2020

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

June 7th: The Most Holy Trinity
That those being called to share the mercy of God as priests, deacons, sisters and brothers will be faithful to the Spirit of Truth who has called them and guides them…Lord, hear us…

June 14th: 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 in the hands of His priests to nourish them with His body, and that the Holy Spirit will inspire many more to follow Him…Lord, hear us…

June 21st: Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That Catholic parents will foster vocation awareness among their children, knowing that they will be helping to reveal the Heavenly Father’s love by their prayer, guidance and example…Lord, hear us…

June 28th: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
That men and women being called to proclaim the kingdom of God as priests, deacons and in the consecrated life, will be given the strength to overcome every obstacle to their response through prayer and the practice of virtue…Lord, hear us…

by on June 3rd, 2020

Dear Brothers,

During this Easter season I had thought we could meet and celebrate the Chrism Mass together but, since a diocesan celebration was not possible, I am writing this letter to you. This new phase that we have embarked upon demands of us wisdom, farsightedness and shared commitment, so that all the efforts and sacrifices made thus far will not be in vain.

During this time of pandemic, many of you have shared with me by e-mail or telephone your experience of this unexpected and disconcerting situation. In this way, even though I was not able to leave home or encounter you directly, you let me know “first-hand” what you were going through. This in turn I have brought to my prayers, both of thanksgiving for your courageous and generous witness and of petition and trusting intercession before the Lord, who always takes us by the hand (cf. Mt 14:31). The need to maintain social distancing did not prevent us from strengthening our sense of fellowship, communion and mission; and this helped us ensure that charity, especially towards the most vulnerable individuals and communities, was not quarantined. In our frank conversations, I was able to see that necessary distancing was hardly synonymous with withdrawal or the self-absorption which anaesthetises, sedates and extinguishes our sense of mission.

Encouraged by these exchanges, I am writing to you because I want to keep close to you and accompany, support and confirm you along the way. Hope also depends on our efforts, and we have to help one another to keep it alive and active. I mean that contagious hope which is cultivated and reaffirmed in the encounter with others, and which, as a gift and a task, is given to us in order to create the new “normality” that we so greatly desire.

In writing to you, I think of the early apostolic community, which also experienced moments of confinement, isolation, fear and uncertainty. Fifty days passed amid immobility, isolation, yet the first proclamation would change their lives forever. For even as the doors of the place where they stayed were closed out of fear, the disciples were surprised by Jesus who “stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’. After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:19-22). May we too let ourselves be surprised!

The doors of the house where the disciples met were locked for fear (Jn 20:19)

Today, as then, we sense that “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted… are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts” (Gaudium et Spes, 1). How well we know this! We all listened to the numbers and percentages that daily bombarded us; with our own hands we touched the pain of our people. What we heard was not something alien to our own experience: the statistics had names, faces, stories of which we were a part. As a community of priests, we were no strangers to these situations; we did not look out at them from a window. Braving the tempest, you found ways to be present and accompany your communities; when you saw the wolf coming, you did not flee or abandon the flock (cf. Jn 10:12-13).

Suddenly we suffered the loss of family, neighbours, friends, parishioners, confessors, points of reference for our faith. We saw the saddened faces of those unable to be present and bid farewell to their loved ones in their final hours. We felt the suffering and powerlessness experienced by health care workers who, themselves exhausted, continued to work for days on end, out of a concern to meet so many needs. All of us felt the worry and fear experienced by those workers and volunteers who daily exposed themselves to risk in order to ensure that essential services were provided, and to accompany and care for the excluded and the vulnerable who were suffering even more from the effects of the pandemic. We witnessed the difficulties and discomforts of the lockdown: loneliness and isolation, especially among the elderly; anxiety, anguish and a sense of helplessness at the possibility of losing jobs and homes; violence and breakdown in relationships. The age-old fear of being infected once more reared its head. We shared the anguish and concern of entire families uncertain as to whether there would be food on the table in weeks to come.

We also experienced our own vulnerability and helplessness. Just as the kiln tests the potter’s vases, so were we put to the test (cf. Sir 27:5). Distraught, we felt all the more the precariousness of our own lives and our apostolic efforts. The unpredictability of the situation heightened the difficulty we feel in facing the unknown which we cannot control or direct and, like everyone else, we felt confused, fearful and defenceless. At the same time, we also experienced that healthy and necessary courage that refuses to yield in the face of injustice and reminds us that we were created for Life. Like Nicodemus, at night, confused by the fact that “the wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes”, we too wondered: “How can this be?” And Jesus tells us too: “Are you are a teacher of Israel, yet you do not understand these things?” (cf. Jn 3:8-10).

The complexity of the situation we had to face did not allow for textbook recipes or responses. It called for something much more than facile exhortations or edifying speeches incapable of touching hearts and confronting the concrete demands of life. The pain of our people was our pain, their uncertainties our own: our shared sense of frailty stripped us of any pseudo-spiritual complacency or any puritanical attempt to keep at a safe distance. No one can be unaffected by all that has happened. We can say that we experienced as a community the time when the Lord wept: for we too wept before the tomb of Lazarus his friend (cf. Jn 11:35), before the incomprehension of his people (Lk 13:14; 19:41), in the dark night of Gethsemane (cf. Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:44). It is also the time when his disciples weep before the mystery of the cross and the evil which strikes so many innocent people. It is the bitter weeping of Peter after his denial (cf. Lk 22:62), and that of Mary Magdalene before the tomb (cf. Jn 20:11).

We know that, in situations like these, it is not easy to find the right way forward, and any number of voices will make themselves heard telling us about all that could have been done in the face of this unknown reality. Our usual ways of relating, planning, celebrating, praying, meeting and even dealing with conflict were changed and challenged by an invisible presence that turned our everyday existence upside down. Nor did it simply affect individuals, families, specific social groups or countries. The nature of the virus caused our former ways of dividing and classifying reality to disappear. The pandemic knows no descriptors, no boundaries, and none of us can think of getting by alone. We are all affected and involved.

The notion of a “safe” society, carefree and poised for infinite consumption has been called into question, revealing its lack of cultural and spiritual immunity to conflict. A series of old and new questions and problems (in many places long since considered resolved) came to dominate the horizon and our attention. Those questions will not be answered simply by resuming various activities. They necessarily challenge us to develop a capacity for listening in a way attentive yet filled with hope, serene yet tenacious, persevering yet not fearful. This can prepare and open up the path that the Lord is now calling us to take (cf. Mk 1:2-3). We know that in the wake of tribulation and painful experiences we are never again the same. So all of us need to be vigilant and attentive. The Lord himself, in the hour of his own suffering, prayed for exactly this: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (Jn 17:15). Having experienced, as individuals and in our communities, our vulnerability, frailty and limitations, we now run the grave risk of withdrawing and “brooding” over the desolation caused by the pandemic, or else that of seeking refuge in a boundless optimism incapable of grasping the deeper meaning of what is happening all around us (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 226-228).

Times of tribulation challenge us to discern the temptations that threaten to mire us in bewilderment and confusion, in a mind-set that would prevent our communities from nurturing the new life that the Risen Lord wishes to give us. A variety of temptations can nowadays blind us and encourage sentiments and approaches that block hope from stimulating our creativity, our ingenuity and our ability to respond effectively. Rather than seeking to acknowledge frankly the gravity of the situation, we can attempt to respond merely with new and reassuring activities as we wait for everything to “return to normal”. But in this way we would ignore the deep wounds that have opened and the number of people who have fallen in the meantime. We can also sink into in a kind of numbing nostalgia for the recent past that leads us to keep repeating that “nothing will ever be the same again” and thus show ourselves incapable of inviting others to dream and to develop new paths and new styles of life.

Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19-21)

The Lord did not choose the perfect situation to appear suddenly in the midst of his disciples. Certainly we would have preferred that what happened did not have to happen, but it did; and like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we too can continue to speak sadly and in hushed tones along the way (cf. Lk 24:13-21). Yet by appearing in the Upper Room behind closed doors, amid the isolation, fear and insecurity experienced by the disciples, the Lord was able to surpass all expectations and to give a new meaning to history and human events. Any time is fitting for the message of peace; in no situation is God’s grace ever lacking. Jesus’ appearance in the midst of confinement and forced absence proclaims, for those disciples and for us today, a new day capable of challenging all paralysis and resignation, and harnessing every gift for the service of the community. By his presence, confinement became fruitful, giving life to the new apostolic community.

So let us say with confidence and without fear: “Where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). Let us be fearless amid the messy situations all around us, because that is where the Lord is, in our midst; God continues to perform his miracle of bringing forth good fruit (cf. Jn 15:5). Christian joy is born precisely of this certainty. In the midst of the contradictions and perplexities we must confront each day, the din of so many words and opinions, there is the quiet voice of the Risen Lord who keeps saying to us: “Peace be with you!”

It is comforting to read the Gospel and think of Jesus in the midst of his people, as he welcomes and embraces life and individuals just as they are. His actions embody Mary’s moving song of praise: “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:51-52). Jesus offers his own hands and his wounded side as a path to resurrection. He does not hide or conceal those wounds; instead, he invites Thomas to touch his pierced side and to see how those very wounds can be the source of Life in abundance (cf. Jn 20:27-29).

Over and over again, as a spiritual guide, I have been able to witness how “a person who sees things as they truly are and sympathizes with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depths and finding authentic happiness. He or she is consoled, not by the world but by Jesus. Such persons are unafraid to share in the suffering of others; they do not flee from painful situations. They discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief. They sense that the other is flesh of our flesh, and are not afraid to draw near, even to touch their wounds. They feel compassion for others in such a way that all distance vanishes. In this way, they can embrace Saint Paul’s exhortation: ‘Weep with those who weep’ (Rom 12:15). Knowing how to mourn with others: that is holiness” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 76).

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21-22)

Dear brothers, as a community of priests, we are called to proclaim and prophesy the future, like the sentinel announcing the dawn that brings a new day (cf. Is 21:11). That new day will either be completely new, or something much worse than what we have been used to. The Resurrection is not simply an event of past history to be remembered and celebrated; it is much more. It is the saving proclamation of a new age that resounds and already bursts onto the scene: “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Is 43:19); it is the future, the “ad-vent” that the Lord even now is calling us to build. Faith grants us a realistic and creative imagination, one capable of abandoning the mentality of repetition, substitution and maintenance. An imagination that calls us to bring about a time ever new: the time of the Lord. Though an invisible, silent, expansive and viral presence has thrown us into crisis and turmoil, may we let this other discreet, respectful and non-invasive Presence summon us anew and teach us to face reality without fear. If an impalpable presence has been able to disrupt and upset the priorities and apparently overpowering global agendas that suffocate and devastate our communities and our sister earth, let us not be afraid to let the presence of the Risen Lord point out our path, open new horizons and grant us the courage to live to the full this unique moment of our history. A handful of fearful men were able to change the course of history by courageously proclaiming the God who is with us. Do not be afraid! “The powerful witness of the saints is revealed in their lives, shaped by the Beatitudes and the criterion of the final judgement” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 109).

Let us be surprised yet again by the Risen Lord. May he, whose pierced side is a sign of how harsh and unjust reality can be, encourage us not to turn aside from the harsh and difficult realities experienced by our brothers and sisters. May he teach us how to accompany, soothe and bind up the wounds of our people, not with fear but with the audacity and evangelical generosity of the multiplication of the loaves (Mt 14:15-21); with the courage, concern and responsibility of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:33-35); with the joy of the shepherd at his newfound sheep (Lk 15:4-6); with the reconciling embrace of a father who knows the meaning of forgiveness (cf. Lk 15: 20); with the devotion, gentleness and tender love of Mary of Bethany (cf. Jn 12:1-3); with the meekness, patience and wisdom of the Lord’s missionary disciples (cf. Mt 10:16-23). May the wounded hands of the Risen Lord console us in our sorrows, revive our hope and impel us to seek the Kingdom of God by stepping out of our familiar surroundings . Let us also allow ourselves to be surprised by our good and faithful people, so often tried and torn, yet also visited by the Lord’s mercy. May our people teach us, their pastors, how to mould and temper our hearts with meekness and compassion, with the humility and magnanimity of a lively, supportive, patient and courageous perseverance, one that does not remain indifferent, but rejects and unmasks every form of scepticism and fatalism. How much we have to learn from the strength of God’s faithful people, who always find a way to help and accompany those who have fallen! The Resurrection is the proclamation that things can change. May the Paschal Mystery, which knows no bounds, lead us creatively to those places where hope and life are struggling, where suffering and pain are opening the door to corruption and speculation, where aggression and violence appear to be the only way out.

As priests, sons and members of a priestly people, it is up to us to take responsibility for the future and to plan for it as brothers. Let us place in the wounded hands of the Lord, as a holy offering, our own weakness, the weakness of our people and that of all humanity. It is the Lord who transforms us, who treats us like bread, taking our life into his hands, blessing us, breaking and sharing us, and giving us to his people. And in all humility, let us allow ourselves to be anointed by Paul’s words and let them spread like a fragrant balm throughout our City, thus awakening the seeds of hope that so many people quietly nurture in their hearts: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:8-10). Let us share with Jesus in his passion, our passion, and experience, also with him, the power of the Resurrection: the certainty of God’s love that affects us deeply and summons us to take to the streets in order to bring “glad tidings to the poor … to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (cf. Lk 4:18-19), with a joy that all can share in their dignity as children of the living God.

All these things, which I have been thinking about and experiencing during this time of pandemic, I want to share fraternally with you, so that they can help us on our journey of praising the Lord and serving our brothers and sisters. I hope that they can prove useful to each of us, for “ever greater love and service”.

May the Lord Jesus bless you and the Blessed Virgin watch over you. And please, do not forget to keep me in your prayers.



Rome, Saint John Lateran, 31 May 2020, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

by on May 6th, 2020

n the latest of our seminarian interviews, Bartek talks about how he kept the call to priesthood very quiet initially!

by on May 3rd, 2020

by on May 3rd, 2020


Words of Vocation

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On 4 August last year, the 160th anniversary of the death of the Curé of Ars, I chose to write a letter to all those priests who daily devote their lives to the service of God’s people in response to the Lord’s call.

On that occasion, I chose four key words – pain, gratitude, encouragement and praise – as a way of thanking priests and supporting their ministry. I believe that today, on this 57th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, those words can be addressed to the whole people of God, against the backdrop of the Gospel passage that recounts for us the remarkable experience of Jesus and Peter during a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee (cf. Mt 14:22-33).

After the multiplication of the loaves, which had astonished the crowds, Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and precede him to the other shore, while he took leave of the people. The image of the disciples crossing the lake can evoke our own life’s journey. Indeed, the boat of our lives slowly advances, restlessly looking for a safe haven and prepared to face the perils and promises of the sea, yet at the same time trusting that the helmsman will ultimately keep us on the right course. At times, though, the boat can drift off course, misled by mirages, not the lighthouse that leads it home, and be tossed by the tempests of difficulty, doubt and fear.

Something similar takes place in the hearts of those who, called to follow the Teacher of Nazareth, have to undertake a crossing and abandon their own security to become the Lord’s disciples. The risk involved is real: the night falls, the headwinds howl, the boat is tossed by the waves, and fear of failure, of not being up to the call, can threaten to overwhelm them.

The Gospel, however, tells us that in the midst of this challenging journey we are not alone. Like the first ray of dawn in the heart of the night, the Lord comes walking on the troubled waters to join the disciples; he invites Peter to come to him on the waves, saves him when he sees him sinking and, once in the boat, makes the winds die down.

The first word of vocation, then, is gratitude. Taking the right course is not something we do on our own, nor does it depend solely on the road we choose to travel. How we find fulfilment in life is more than a decision we make as isolated individuals; above all else, it is a response to a call from on high. The Lord points out our destination on the opposite shore and he grants us the courage to board the boat. In calling us, he becomes our helmsman; he accompanies and guides us; he prevents us from running aground on the shoals of indecision and even enables us to walk on surging waters.

Every vocation is born of that gaze of love with which the Lord came to meet us, perhaps even at a time when our boat was being battered by the storm. “Vocation, more than our own choice, is a response to the Lord’s unmerited call” (Letter to Priests, 4 August 2019). We will succeed in discovering and embracing our vocation once we open our hearts in gratitude and perceive the passage of God in our lives.

When the disciples see Jesus walking towards them on the sea, they first think that he is a ghost and are filled with fear. Jesus immediately reassures them with words that should constantly accompany our lives and our vocational journey: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (Mt 14:27). This, then, is the second word I wish to offer you: encouragement.

What frequently hinders our journey, our growth, our choosing the road the Lord is marking out for us, are certain “ghosts” that trouble our hearts. When we are called to leave safe shores and embrace a state of life – like marriage, ministerial priesthood, consecrated life – our first reaction is often from the “ghost of disbelief”. Surely, this vocation is not for me! Can this really be the right path? Is the Lord really asking me to do this?

Those thoughts can keep growing – justifications and calculations that sap our determination and leave us hesitant and powerless on the shore where we started. We think we might be wrong, not up to the challenge, or simply glimpsing a ghost to be exorcized.

The Lord knows that a fundamental life choice – like marriage or special consecration to his service – calls for courage. He knows the questions, doubts and difficulties that toss the boat of our heart, and so he reassures us: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!” We know in faith that he is present and comes to meet us, that he is ever at our side even amid stormy seas. This knowledge sets us free from that lethargy which I have called “sweet sorrow” (Letter to Priests, 4 August 2019), the interior discouragement that hold us back from experiencing the beauty of our vocation.

In the Letter to Priests, I also spoke about pain, but here I would like to translate the word differently, as fatigue. Every vocation brings with it a responsibility. The Lord calls us because he wants to enable us, like Peter, to “walk on water”, in other words, to take charge of our lives and place them at the service of the Gospel, in the concrete and everyday ways that he shows us, and specifically in the different forms of lay, priestly and consecrated vocation. Yet, like Saint Peter, our desire and enthusiasm coexist with our failings and fears.

If we let ourselves be daunted by the responsibilities that await us – whether in married life or priestly ministry – or by the hardships in store for us, then we will soon turn away from the gaze of Jesus and, like Peter, we will begin to sink. On the other hand, despite our frailty and poverty, faith enables us to walk towards the Risen Lord and to weather every storm. Whenever fatigue or fear make us start to sink, Jesus holds out his hand to us. He gives us the enthusiasm we need to live our vocation with joy and fervour.

When Jesus at last boards the boat, the winds die down and the waves are calmed. Here we have a beautiful image of what the Lord can do at times of turbulence and tempest in our lives. He stills those winds, so that the forces of evil, fear and resignation no longer have power over us.

As we live out our specific vocation, those headwinds can wear us down. Here I think of all those who have important responsibilities in civil society, spouses whom I like to refer to – not without reason – as “courageous”, and in a particular way those who have embraced the consecrated life or the priesthood. I am conscious of your hard work, the sense of isolation that can at times weigh upon your hearts, the risk of falling into a rut that can gradually make the ardent flame of our vocation die down, the burden of the uncertainty and insecurity of the times, and worry about the future. Take heart, do not be afraid! Jesus is at our side, and if we acknowledge him as the one Lord of our lives, he will stretch out his hand, take hold of us and save us.

Even amid the storm-tossed waters, then, our lives become open to praise. This is the last of our vocation words, and it is an invitation to cultivate the interior disposition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Grateful that Lord gazed upon her, faithful amid fear and turmoil, she courageously embraced her vocation and made of her life an eternal song of praise to the Lord.

Dear friends, on this day in particular, but also in the ordinary pastoral life of our communities, I ask the Church to continue to promote vocations. May she touch the hearts of the faithful and enable each of them to discover with gratitude God’s call in their lives, to find courage to say “yes” to God, to overcome all weariness through faith in Christ, and to make of their lives a song of praise for God, for their brothers and sisters, and for the whole world. May the Virgin Mary accompany us and intercede for us.


by on May 3rd, 2020

On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 3 of our diocesan priests speak about what priesthood means to them.

by on May 2nd, 2020

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

May 3rd: Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Day of Prayer for Vocations)

That like the man born blind, we will allow Jesus to open our eyes and hearts to His will and to inspire more men and women to respond to His call to serve Him and His Church as priests, deacons and in the consecrated life…Lord, hear us…

May 10th: Fifth Sunday of Easter
That all Catholic parents will draw close to Mary and nurture openness to the Holy Spirit in the Lord’s call to their children, especially should He honour them with vocations to the priesthood or consecrated life…Lord, hear us…

May 17th: Sixth Sunday of Easter
That the Holy Spirit will guide and comfort men and women discerning their vocations…Lord, hear us…

May 24th: The Ascension of the Lord
That Christ, from his seat in heaven, will bless and guide all those being called to serve Him as priests, deacons, sisters and brothers…Lord, hear us…

May 31st: Pentecost Sunday
That those now discerning their vocations will be guided by the Holy Spirit to respond to the Lord’s call with generous hearts…Lord, hear us…

by on May 2nd, 2020

Our own Bishop Michael Router speaks about the unique call of the Lord for each of us.

by on March 10th, 2020

This Novena, from St. Joseph's Young Priests' Society, can be undertaken at any time of the year and especially beginning or ending on March 19th (Feast of St. Joseph) or May 1st (Feast of St. Joseph the Worker).

by on March 6th, 2020

At a recent Priests Conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin launched a Brochure on Priesthood in the Archdiocese of Armagh. The Brochure which was created by members of the Diocesan Vocations Commission features three priests of the diocese and it’s a resource to promote the Vocation to Priesthood. Present for the Launch and the Conference were Fr Willie Purcell, National Director of Vocations and Deacon Eric Cooney, Director of the National Vocations Office, Maynooth.

by on March 6th, 2020

by on March 2nd, 2020

Prayer of the Faithful to Promote the Call to Priesthood

March 2020 (Year A)

1st March: First Sunday of Lent
That prayer, penance and almsgiving will dispose more men and women to follow the Holy Spirit as He leads them to discover their vocations in Christ…

8th March: Second Sunday of Lent
For all our priests, who bring us to the mountain of Christ at every Mass and feed us with His transforming love in the sacraments…

15th March: Third Sunday of Lent
For all those thirsting to know their vocations in Christ, that they will be open to the waters of prayer and drink fully of the Holy Spirit who leads them…

17th March: St. Patrick, Bishop, Principal Patron of Ireland

That, through the intercession of Saint Patrick, those discerning the call to priesthood in our archdiocese may experience the guiding and wise presence of Christ with them on their journey…

22nd March: Fourth Sunday of Lent
That like the man born blind, we will allow Jesus to open our eyes and hearts to His will and to inspire more men and women to respond to His call to serve Him and His Church as priests, deacons and in the consecrated life…

29th March: Fifth Sunday of Lent
That priests, deacons, sisters and brothers who, for the sake of Christ, have suffered the loss of all things, will be strengthened in their vocations to bring many souls to the knowledge of salvation…