Ordination of Fr Conor McCarthy

Rev Conor McCarthy was ordained to the priesthood on Sunday 28th June 2015 in the parish of St Anne’s.

Homily

Solemnity  of  Saints  Peter  and  Paul,  MMXV  (First  Mass)

As  you  may  imagine,  the  homily  of  your  first  mass  is  one  that  we  might  imagine  time  and  time again  over  the  years,  so  perhapsit is  opportune  that  I  take  on  board  a  piece  of  wisdom  from  Fr Eddie  O’Donnell,  our  former  parish  priest,  who  said  when  he  had newly  arrived  in  this  parish  that he  was  only  ever  going  to  preach  one  homily;  that  we  may  use  different  words  to  express  it each time  we  speak,  but  that  we  ultimately  come  back  to  one  fundamental  truth.  If  there  is  only  one homily  that  I  can   preach therefore,   and   according   to   which   I   would   live,   it   has   to   begin   with   this   honest  declaration.  I  have  to  confess  it  publically. I have  to  confess  that  I  am in  love.  As  hard  as  it  is  for  any  Irish  male  to  make  such  statements  openly,  I  am  in  love,  and I  am  in love  with  a  person,  and  that  person  is  Jesus  Christ Himself.  This  is  the  fundamental  truth that  we  all  seek  to  live  and  profess  as a  community  of  faith, because we  know  that God  is  love, and he  who  abides  in  love  abides  in  God,  and  God  abides  in  Him. It  is  a love  that  grips  our  hearts and  which  holds  us  in  our  faith.

This  same  faith  gripped  Peter  and  Paul,  whose  feast  we  celebrate  today.  And  the  love  in  the Gospel  we  read  is  present  even  in Peter’s  declaration  of  faith:  “you  are  the  Christ,  the  Son  of the  living  God.”  In  their  own  distinct  ministries  in  the  Church,  they lived  out  that  love  which motivated  their  lives.  It  is  the  same  stirring  that  gripped  the  heart  of  our  patroness,  Saint Anne, the mother  of  Mary.  And  what  a  beautiful  patron  we  have  in  her. When  this  parish  was  so  good as to hold  a  vigil  of  prayer  for  vocations  in  advance  of  the  ordinations  I  was  still  in  Rome,  but earlier  that  day  I  made  sure  to  go  to  the  Vatican  to  pray  for  the parish  in  return.  I  didn’t go, however,  to  St  Peter’s  Basilica  itself,  with  its  grand,  impressive  façade.  I  went  instead  to  the side entrance  through  the Porta  Sant’Anna,  to  the  chapel  of  Saint  Anne.  It  lacks  the  grandeur  of the promises  Peter  received  in  today’s Gospel,  or  his  bold  declaration  of  faith  in  Christ  as  God’s  Son. Instead,  it  is  a  quieter  path  into  a  very  intimate  chapel,  where  we see  the  image  of  a  mother about  whom  we  know  so  little, raising  her  daughter  to  know  that  same  perfect  love  that  gripped  her heart,  her  soul  and  her  mind.  And  that  daughter  was to  give  birth  to  the  Son  of  God  Himself,  in a most  perfect  act  of  love.

This  love  is  not  something  that  we  can  easily  write  about  or  define,  because  ultimately  we  cannot  rest  on  an  academic understanding  of  love.  Love  is  experienced,  and  it  is  experienced  for  the great  part  ‘lost  in  wonder’.  If  we  follow  this  love  as Christ lays  it  down,  we  reach  then  the  gift  of the  Eucharist,  and  it  is  Christ  who  calls  men  to  the  priesthood  to  lay  out  His  love  in  that particular  way.  The  priest  is  here  to  make  sacrifice  and  present  that  same  wonder  to  the  world, manifest  in  the Eucharist,  as Thomas  Aquinas  so  eloquently  writes,

Godhead  here  in  hiding, whom  I  do  adore,
masked  by  these  bare  shadows,  shape  and  nothing  more.
See,  Lord,  at  thy  service  low  lies  here  a  heart,
lost,  all  lost  in  wonder  at  the  God  thou  art.

Amen.

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