8 May 2010
Most of you will be aware by now that during the week His Holiness appointed
me as Bishop of the diocese of Clogher. I do not have to tell you, I did not apply
for the position and was shocked to be chosen. I recall how Jesus himself chose
the disciples – he called people, very ordinary people from their place of work
(some were fishermen, one was even an unpopular tax collector). A number responded,
we are not told if any did not. The priesthood is like that – there is an invitation by
Christ to a life of service and we are free to say yes or no.
An appointment as Bishop in a diocese comes after a process of consultation. Each priest is invited every few years to nominate people he would consider suitable for the office of Bishop and to give his reasons. Local Bishops are consulted and a number of lay people who are in a position to make a judgement. The consultation process is channelled through the Papal Nuncio to the Congregation of Bishops in Rome and the final say is with the Pope.
I have suggested to you more than once in reflecting on the Word of God that the group of people Christ chose to walk with him and to continue his work were a very human lot with many common human weaknesses. Judas Iscariot, it seems, was fond of wealth, got into the habit of dipping his fingers in the communal purse and ended up betraying his Master. Even Peter, the ultimate leader of the group, was impetuous (which nearly caused him to drown), could be violent (used his sword on the high priest’s servant) and, in a tight corner, denied he ever knew his Master. These weaknesses and failures have of course to be balanced against such acts of courage and exceptional generosity as those which we hear of in the Readings from the Acts of the Apostles during the Easter Season.
Taking on the responsibilities of a Bishop makes me very conscious of weaknesses and inadequacies. The first and dominant instinct is to say no, I couldn’t do it. At a time like that I hear the words of my late mother ringing in my mind. She would say ‘God would not ask you to do something and leave you short in the help you need to do it, so put your trust in God and get on with it’. It is in that spirit that I have accepted this appointment. I do have worries and anxieties but maybe I should take my mother’s and the Papal Nuncio’s advice and leave these in the hands of God.
The date of my ordination has been fixed for Sunday, 25 July. I will continue to be available in the parish here until then. I have been most encouraged and heartened by messages of good wishes and the promise of the support of so many people’s prayers.
Last week, relics of St. John Vianney were venerated in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. He offered himself for priesthood and was considered to have so little going for him that it was with great difficulty that he made it to ordination. After ordination, he became such a rich channel of God’s grace, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that he became known wide and far and was sainted after death. We must never forget that, in the end, we are the instruments, God does the work.
My prayer is that, in some small way, I may be a channel of God’s grace to the people of Clogher.
The words of to-day’s Gospel are comforting, ‘Peace I leave with you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.’
Mgr Liam MacDaid