Below is the full transcript of Archbishop Aymond's homily from the Ordination Mass on Saturday, June 3.
You look so relaxed! Probably more than I am. I acknowledge with gratitude those who are standing. It is on days like today that our cathedral is not big enough but we thank you for bearing that inconvenience in order to worship with us and to witness this ordination. And I wish that I could tell you we will be finished in 15 minutes, but we will not!
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – from the poet Henry David Thoreau, from the 1800s.
My sisters and brothers, as we gather here these words of the poet describe these five men who stand before us today. They heard the sound of a different drummer in their lives, and that drummer called them not necessarily to keep pace with others, and so they step to the music that they heard in various ways. And eventually that drummer led them to answer the call of the Lord Jesus: “Come. Follow me. Feed my sheep. Lead my flock.”
These men grappled with that call and heard the call. In one way or another, many years ago, but most recently during their internship, that call was confirmed again in their hearts and they described that.
Jose (Caceres) says, “I realized I had given up a lot for the priesthood. But more importantly, I realize that God has filled me with much more in order to lead his people.”
Colm (Cahill) says: “During my internship, the words, ‘Come follow me’ – that invitation – became clearer and clearer, and it led me to be at home in my relationship with the Lord Jesus and at peace. And also to claim this archdiocese as my own.”
Pedro (Prada) says that it was a privilege to walk in faith with others, especially the young people. And he says, “I saw how God used me to care for them.”
Alex (Guzman) says, “During my internship I saw how I was able to help people encounter Christ himself.”
And Jared (Rodrigue) says, “During my internship, I was able to be a spiritual father to God's people.”
My sisters and brothers, through the years many people have helped these men to hear the beat of a different drummer and to step to the music, and not necessarily to keep up with others.
Many of you here today have worked with them and encouraged them and challenged them. And we know for sure as they come before us today and open wide their hearts for the grace of the Holy Spirit, we know that they come to us with grateful hearts and have asked me to express their gratitude. First of all, to their parents, both living and deceased, present and not. We thank you for the life and the faith that you have given them. We thank you for the love and the support of them and of their vocation that you have given so generously and with great love. Your love and your faith will remain in them forever.
Also to other members of their family, their friends, to Father (James) Wehner and the faculty of Notre Dame Seminary, their brother seminarians, their spiritual directors and their pastors during the internship, they express gratitude to all of you and all of you who have in any way helped with them and at times led them.
These men said sometimes the call was clear and peaceful. Other times it was confusing and fearful. And certainly, in these men's lives, there were times that they grappled with the question, “Are you sure it's me? Are you sure that it's me that you're calling? I’m weak.” And yet, God very patiently continued to call with gentleness. And gradually, they have come to the point in their lives that they were able to take the leap of faith and to say Lord: “It is I whom you are calling. Send me.”
Today, my sisters and brothers, we as the church confirm the call that they experience in their own hearts. And that brings us here today to witness their ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We remember that it was from the earliest of Christian communities that other men were chosen to share in the ministry of the apostles and their successors.
Thus the orders of deacon, priest and bishop were formed in the church to serve God's people. We remember today, as the Scriptures tell us, that the Apostles chose men for the priesthood who were wise, not in the ways of the world, but wise in the ways of the Lord, and those who had the ability to touch hearts and to lead others. And, after the apostles and their successors chose these men, then they prayed over them. They laid hands on them and called down the gift of the Holy Spirit upon them to fill their hearts and their lives. And they were conformed to Christ – Christ the priest.
2,000 years later, we do the same. In just a few moments, I will have the humble privilege to pray over these men, to call down the gift of the Holy Spirit, to lay hands on them, to ordain them as priests forever. Forever. Priests of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And yes, the same qualities we look for today. You are men who are filled with faith. You are wise in the ways of the Lord, and you have the ability to touch hearts and to lead in the name of Jesus. It is in that spirit that I have the privilege to call down the gift of the Holy Spirit upon you.
My brothers, St. Peter gives advice to those who were chosen as priest or presbyters in the early church. Now I ask you to take the advice of St. Peter very, very seriously, as you embrace it today and as you will live it the rest of your life. St. Peter says to you, “You were called to oversee the flock, but never for your own profit. … Do not lord it over those who are assigned to you. Do not become heavy handed or judgmental.
You will be examples to the flock if you clothe yourselves in humility. This is the attitude that you will need to fulfill the ministry of priesthood, which you are giving today.
The ministry which these men embrace today is a threefold ministry. As priests they will make Christ the priest present by teaching and by preaching. My brothers, you will be like the rabbis of old, who hand on the Scriptures to others as well as our faith tradition. You are given the privilege and the responsibility to the people with the Word of God. And I beg you, give them fresh food, food that will truly nourish their lives and their hearts. You will be able to do that if you pray the Scriptures and prepare what you preach.
Pope Francis recently said that a preacher who does not prepare is not being responsible with the gifts that God has given to him. And he goes on to say, “Don't be boring.” And so the Word of God is written in your heart. Pray the Word of God to prepare and then give God's Word to feed the hearts of others.
Secondly, these men will make the priesthood of Jesus Christ present by celebrating the sacraments. They will speak and act in the name of Christ himself. In the Eucharist, they will say, “This is my body, and this is my blood” and in the sacrament of reconciliation and confession, they will say, “I absolve you” and to the sick, as they are anointing them, “May the Lord help you and heal you.”
My brothers, be humble. Every time you and I use the word “I” – the pronoun “I” – it’s not referring to us. We act in the name of Jesus the priest. And what a humble privilege it is to say that in his name.
Thirdly, these men will make Christ the priest present by the way in which they lead others. They are sent today to be a good shepherd, gentle and caring as Jesus Christ the good shepherd. But as a priest, people will come to you just seeking to know Christ and to follow him. And, as a shepherd, you can point the direction. You can feed them. You can help them to come to know him and to love him and to accept his love. Others will come to you burdened by many concerns, hearts heavy, broken, losing hope, ready to give up. As the shepherd, you can make Christ the Healer present to them and be a sign of hope in the name of Jesus the Shepherd. And, yes, sometimes people will come to you lost. They've lost their way. Or maybe they won't come to you because in our ministry, we do not wait for people to come to us. The shepherd, like Jesus, has to go out and look for the sheep. We must leave our churches and our rectories and go out and look for the sheep, and you will find among those some who have rejected God and the church, and some who have been hurt by the church.
You must represent Jesus the shepherd. They have been lost, but you will walk with him. You will pray with him. You will ask them not to give up on themselves or to give up on God, and, to them, you will show the face of Christ, especially the face of mercy, as they are lost. And with your hands and your heart, you will say, “Come back to the Lord Jesus. You are loved, and you are forgiven.”
My brother, your hands will be anointed with sacred chrism in order that your hands will offer the sacrifice of the Mass. Your hands with anoint others with holy oil. Your hands will bless others in the sacrament of reconciliation. It is your hands that will forgive sins in the name of Christ. Your hands will touch hearts with the tenderness of the Good Shepherd. Yes, you know and you have pondered this over and over again and, today, so much is given to you. And, yes, you also know that so much is expected of you as a priest of the church.
How can you do this? How can you be the faithful priest that you truly, truly want to be with all of your heart? How can you do that?
First of all, stay close to the Lord Jesus. My brothers, you must be men of prayer every day, and there is no day that is too busy that we cannot spend time with the Lord Jesus in prayer. It is in that prayer that we are fed and then we are sent to feed and to lead others. Each day in your prayer, ask for the mind and the heart of Christ, because that's what you need to feed others. St. Francis de Sales says everyone needs at least a half hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy; then we need an hour! Yes, because the more weight that we carry, the more strength that we need to carry out; and the more people we carry, the more strength we need to carry them. And so you must be a man of prayer.
Secondly, my brothers, I ask you to always be humble. Pope Francis said to priests recently, that in your priestly ministry, humility means that there must be no room for personal ambition, for money or for worldly importance and titles. Instead you must follow Jesus on the way to the cross, totally emptying yourself so that the spirit can continue to feed you.
Thirdly, you will be the priest that Jesus calls you to be if you know yourself. You know, very well, as you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and as you look at yourself in prayer, you know well your own weakness and sin. You need to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation regularly. Pope Francis, to some young priests, said this: “We are all sinners – starting with me. But the tenderness and love of Jesus keeps us going.” Though we are sinners and we are weak, the more that you and I celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation as priests – because we will truly encounter that mercy of the Lord Jesus – we will be better confessors to others because we have experienced what we will be giving to others in the name of Jesus.
And, lastly, I beg you to appreciate the fraternity of priests. I ask you to lean on your brother priests. They are here in great numbers. And let them lean on you. In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we are so tremendously blessed with a strong fraternity of priests and my brothers. I thank you for that, and you come here today to welcome these men into our fraternity, into our presbyterate. Their welcome is sincere. Appreciate their welcome. Lean on them. And always be mindful, my brothers, that if any way as a priest we isolate ourselves from our brothers, we live very dangerously, because we need one another. These men can tell you that.
We are privileged to be here today. My brothers, you have heard the beat of a different drummer. In many ways, you will not keep pace with others; you will not keep pace with the world. That's OK. Seek the mind and the heart of Christ the Shepherd and follow the drummer. The drummer will continue to lead you to Christ the priest, which you become today.
Transcript and Photos Courtesy of the Clarion Herald.