Homily for the Ordination of Deacons for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
St. Mary of the Assumption in Fort Worth
May 29, 2012
To our brothers Chuck, Chuck, Tim, Josh, Mark, and Christopher, and all of you gathered here at this historic Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Fort Worth, on what is certainly a historic evening, welcome and may the grace of this occasion and the feast of Pentecost be yours. It is a blessing for all to gather here in this time of celebration and faith. Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter could not be with us this evening, and sends his prayers and greetings. He texted me earlier this day, and said to me that he “Will be keeping you and our noble lads in prayer today from somewhere in Nebraska!”
The words of the Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus” speak in several places of what is spoken of as II “Anglican Patrimony”, and the sharing of this gift and reality with the entire Body of Christ. Certainly for me, as a musician, part of this patrimony is the choral heritage and hymnody, and the singing therefore, that is a gift and blessing. It is fitting, then, that as we gather here this evening, we are under the watchful gaze of St. Cecelia, in the rose window in the choir loft here at St. Mary’s. For as the patroness of music, as one who “Sang to the Lord from her heart,” she will certainly pray for us and guide us in our worship this evening, not only from the choir loft, but from eternity. For certainly, here this evening, this celebration is on every level a chorus of praise to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for what has been and what will be. My brothers, I wonder if we can reflect this evening on this chorus of praise to God. What would be the voices that sing to you; to us this evening; and to what surround us? They may not be SATB, but they are the voices of the song that the Lord has sung with the lives of many individuals, and many events.
You will hear shortly the official instruction of the Roman Ritual for you, as you are ordained deacons, ministers of the Word and Charity, for the whole people of God—for your ordinariate communities and those whom God’s Providence sends your way. That is one voice – perhaps the voice that may stand out over the others. The theme, we might say, is the living Word of God in the readings for this day: St. Mark records the voice of St. Peter who seems to say, perhaps in frustration, that “we have given up all to follow you.” By giving yourself over completely to the Lord, one commentary on this Gospel would say “to shed selfishness,” you have nothing and yet possess everything. The ministry of the deacon in word and charity will show you that again and again. In the first reading Peter, the first of the Apostles and Vicar for Christ, speaks again to you. Pope Benedict teaches [in Jesus: The Apostles and the early Church, Ignatius Press 2007] that “Peter succeeded in entrusting himself to that Jesus who adapted himself to his poor capacity of love. And, in this way, He shows us the way, notwithstanding all of our weakness. We know that Jesus adapts himself to this weakness of ours…It was a long journey for Peter that made him a trustworthy witness, a ‘rock’ of the Church, because he was constantly open to the action of the Spirit of Jesus.”
Having had the blessing to journey with you in these years, my brothers in the Lord, I have some insight into the fact that this has been indeed a long journey for you. But I do know that the Lord has been working with you in your lives so that like Peter, you may truly be a trustworthy witness to the Lord. I pray that you will always be open to the action of the Spirit of Jesus, like Peter. Some of the chorus of voices that sing to us in harmony this day are those who gave you the gift of Faith, and the communities of Faith in the Anglican Communion – Bishops, Priests and lay faithful – who helped nourish that Faith so you could hear His call to “come and follow” through all of the events of your lives. Someone, for example, like Father Acker of St. Timothy’s, who in reflecting on what could be called “four things” for the life of a Christian says that in the face of life’s challenges, “talk about it to the Lord. As you have waited upon him, you are more than likely to find that you will not only have strength to run, but to walk step-by-step, day-by-day, and not faint.” I know that you will not faint as you assume the order of deacon but I exhort you to find indeed [the strength] to walk step-by-step, day by day, in your new life and ministry. There are people whom the Lord will have waiting for you so that they may hear that good advice. Having lived that reality yourself in many ways in these last years toward full communion and diaconal/priestly ministry in the Catholic Church you are now in a blessed place to live that as Deacons.
You also have in this chorus the voices of those who surround you here, and you have your families as well, who have surrounded you with their love, prayer and faith. The chorus of praise over which Saint Cecelia presides, in a way, also includes Mary the Mother of God, in the windows here in the joyful and glorious events of her life, which are also the events of our salvation history. The chorus includes the voices of all of the apostles here, and may I add, the saints and martyrs of the Vincentian family: St. Vincent, St. Louise de Marillac, St. Francis Regis Clet, and St. John Gabriel Perboye. How appropriate for deacons, whose lives and ministry must always revolve around charity and service, and for all of us whose lives must be an uncompromising witness to truth and the freedom to speak and teach the truth always as witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps one more recent set of voices joining this chorus are the voices of the Oxford Movement and their impetus toward Christian unity, and the healing of the wounds to communion in the Body of Christ. We are all part of this living history here this evening, and must listen to one more voice in this chorus: Blessed John Henry Newman. As Pope Benedict said in England, “Newman teaches us that if we have accepted the truth of Christ and committed our lives to him, there can be no separation between what we believe and the way we live our lives. Our every thought, word, and action must be directed to the glory of God and the spread of His Kingdom.”
We need to thank the Lord for the successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. Because it was indeed his voice, his words, that have brought to birth the Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus“. Tim, do you remember at one of our meetings of priests of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and some of the priests of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, you said that “We are just waiting for someone to extend their hand?” I remember that well, and Msgr. Hart was present at that time also. Well, Tim and all gathered here, that hand has been extended, and indeed it is the hand of the successor of St. Peter – the same whom we heard about in the readings for this ordination Mass – who extended his hand to you and all gathered here with “Anglicanorum Coetibus.”
As we turn once more to Newman’s thoughts, then, indeed as Deacons, in the service of Word and Charity, remember always that every thought, word, and action of yours must be directed to “the glory of God and the spreading of His Kingdom,” because in the final analysis, as St. Paul tells us this evening, earthen vessels that we are, all we do is “Concerning the salvation of souls.”