St Carthage’s Cathedral, 3 July 2008
We fill our Cathedral to capacity this evening for a celebration of faith, hope and love, our hearts lifted in joy to our heavenly Father, ready to offer ourselves in and through Christ our High Priest in this Eucharist, and to witness the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, upon our son and brother, our friend, Nicolas Maurice, to make him a priest of the New and Everlasting Covenant.
As this liturgy commences, I wish to greet especially the parents of Nicolas, Yvan and Joelle, his brother Bertrand and his sister Corinne, other members of the Maurice family and all their friends and invited guests here present;
I greet my brother bishop, Julian Porteous, auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and Rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, where Nicolas commenced his studies before continuing at the Pontifical North American College in Rome;
I greet the clergy of our Lismore presbyterium and visiting priests who have joined us for this celebration, and all of our brothers and sisters, the faithful laity of the Diocese whom we serve in our parishes;
I greet our brothers and sisters in consecrated life, the various congregations here represented and especially the Presentation and Mercy Sisters and the Marist Brothers. I greet our unseen Carmelite Sisters who hold us up day in and day out in their prayers;
A greeting too to the Principals of our Catholic schools, especially those of our pilgrimage last October who saw Nicolas ordained a deacon in Rome in St Peter’s Basilica. I greet the teachers too, and especially the students of our High Schools, for whom I pray that this act of commitment to the service of God and His People which you witness tonight, will inspire you to think about the plans that God also has for your life.
Dear brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate these holy mysteries of the Eucharist and sacred Order, let us call to mind our need for the mercy and forgiveness of God.
I confess . . .
Ordinand Nicolas Maurice and Bishop Jarrett at the Ordination Mass.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
It is a happy choice that this Ordination should be taking place on the feast-day of an Apostle, because it reminds us of both the origin and the nature of the sacramental act which we celebrate this evening. St Paul has just placed before us the image of the Church as a building, of which Christ Jesus himself is its main cornerstone, and the apostles and prophets are its foundations. Then each of us is a part of that building, a living stone; but more than that, each of us is a member of the household which lives in that sacred edifice, the Church, our home in the spirit.
It was the Son of the eternal Father, God incarnate sent among us as our Teacher, Priest and Shepherd, who called us, with the word of the everlasting Gospel, to be His Church. He Himself chose his Apostles to carry that call to the ends of the earth, and through them and their successors Christ our Lord has remained present among all of us who have responded to the Gospel by faith and baptism.
He remains present and His grace continually works to impart the Divine life, so that we become sharers in His nature, and ourselves become His witnesses and instruments in the world of today. And so we carry on at this moment what has been done, faithfully and unfailingly, in an unbroken succession from the time of Christ and the Apostles: a man is being configured to Christ the High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, consecrated as a true priest of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to teach the truth He taught as the Church has handed it down and proposes it to us through her magisterium, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s Sacrifice in the Mass.
Deacon Nicolas, we know that you are in no doubt as to what you are undertaking in responding to this mysterious call, with all the joy of its intimacy with the Lord and His saints. You are in no doubt also that this life on which you now embark will test you to the limit of your human and spiritual qualities, for the servant will not be spared what his Master has first had to endure. In a moment you will step forward to declare your readiness to take on your shoulders all that is indeed symbolised by the stole and chasuble of your office: the burden that is sweet and the yoke that is light.
You know, before all else, before you do anything or perform any priestly function, what you are called to be: a Christian, born again by the baptism of water and the Spirit, and now further anointed in another Sacrament to be an alter Christus, another Christ. That is what you are, I am, and every priest is. From this flows what we do: every act we do as a priest is His act: it is done in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. The hands which are anointed tonight with Chrism become the transforming hands of a transformed man. They become now, in a mystery, the hands which took bread and wine on the supper table and changed them into the Body and Blood of the Altar of the Cross; they are the hands of love, the hands of peace, that were raised in mercy and forgiveness over every human sin and every human weakness. Yours now become the hands of a priest, a priest like Jesus Christ.
As the Gospel we have heard tells of the incident, ¿how transformed must the Apostle Thomas have been when the Lord, appearing in the transformed and glorified body of His Resurrection spoke that invitation — or was it a command? — “Thomas, give me your hand, put it into my side.” That privileged moment Christ must surely want to share with every priest, the moment that shows the disciple that the first sign of Jesus’ identity is His wounds, by which he reveals how much He loves us. He wants each of his priests to stand among His followers as a model and example to all who would thus recognise him, believe in Him, and love Him for who He really is: My Lord, and my God. And to each of His priests He daily reveals His hands and wounded side; he comes within our reach in every Mass that these hands offer: our hands reach out to touch, in a Sacrament, the Risen and glorified Lord Himself. Bearing this Food of the Sacrifice our sacred duty is then to take it to the Lord’s people for their life-giving nourishment.
It is the particular duty of a father to love and nourish and care for his family, his children. Within the hour or so, Nicolas, you will find that people will begin to address you in a new way: they will start calling you, “Father.” It is very humbling so to be called, for it is the recognition by Christ’s faithful — and it will be a daily and life-long reminder to you — of the unique relation in which you will stand among the people of God as a pastor and Shepherd of souls. This title, so familiarly used, is the people’s way of reminding us who we are, and what they expect us to be. In a society in which fatherhood is often trivialized or poorly modelled, it is all the more necessary that priests should have all the human qualities of a good husband and father. The unselfishness, courage and pastoral charity of a good spiritual father rises upon these foundations, to be poured out upon that family, without number, whom the Lord entrusts to our care.
Then there is that other family, the family of the diocese we call the presbyterate. Many are the priests here tonight who have laboured long in exemplary faithfulness in this church of the far North Coast, and who continue to bear the burden of these more difficult and uncertain times. All of us welcome you, Nicolas, into this brotherhood of priestly life and mission, looking forward to you bringing among us your gifts and the inspiration of your faith and zeal. Our presbyterate will long remember this day which has the uniqueness of having seen within its hours the laying to rest of one of its most loved and respected members, Father Tony Hoade, and the raising up of a new priest, as a pledge of a future that is being blessed even now with new and promising vocations.
Finally, on St Thomas’s feast day we may recall that it was in answer to the apostle’s question about the way ahead, that Christ our Lord gave his clearest direction: “Thomas,” He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” So the Church has closely followed her Master across twenty centuries of time, drawing humanity through Him to the Father’s kingdom, our eternal home. In our own age, in the first years of a new millennium, in our country, in our Diocese, we are beginning to take up the vast and exciting task of a New Evangelisation. It is into your hands, Nicolas, on this day of your ordination, on the Feast of the Apostle that tradition tells us became a missionary of the Gospel to far distant parts, that the Church confidently entrusts the leadership of this challenging enterprise of evangelisation here in our own midst, to you and to the other new priests now ascending to her altars, who with energy and courage will teach the Truth of Jesus Christ, who will faithfully celebrate the Sacraments which charge us with His life, and by these means will gather and shepherd a holy people along the Way of His salvation.
Through the unfailing intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Help of Christians and Mother of the New Evangelisation, may it be so.