By Sarah Mac Donald - 13 November, 2018
At a Mass to remember priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin who died over the past year, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin acknowledged that in times of change, it is easy for priests to become demoralised and disillusioned.
Paying tribute to the deceased priests, he highlighted that their 1000 years of dedicated ministry, prayerfulness, faith and service spanned over 70 years.
In his homily at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dr Martin said they were remembering men who became priests within the culture of their times and who journeyed in faith as the overall culture of Ireland and the overall culture of ministry changed radically.
“This radical change required radical commitment to the unchanging love of Jesus for his Church.”
He noted that the priest today is called to minister in a culture radically different to that in which he began his ministry.
“This can be challenging and at times even demoralising. We have always to remember that the Spirit is present with his Church even in changing times and he guides us through the change.”
He stressed that the Spirit remains with his Church even when priests fail.
“We priests are frail human beings entrusted by the Lord to represent the strength that he brings into the world in which we live. We can only keep going in our frailty when we recognise that the Spirit is with his Church and that we are called to be ministers to a God who is full of mercy. We witness to that mercy in our frailty.”
The Archbishop warned priests that when they begin to feel that they bring certainty to ministry just by themselves, “we may well have overlooked the fact that we are all sinners and that our ministry is effective only to the extent that we allow the mercy of God to heal us and allow then the Spirit to work through us to heal others”.
In times of change, it is understandable that priests can become demoralised and disillusioned; it is only human, he acknowledged.
The answer to that demoralisation is not to be found in purely human terms. “It is through a realisation that the Spirit is with his Church today, that the Spirit speaks to the Church today and that discerning what the Spirit is saying requires not giving in to pessimism.
“The Spirit is never a Spirit of pessimism or cynicism. The Spirit is the Spirit that frees us to understanding what Jesus is calling us to be,” he emphasised.
Exhorting the Church to be missionary and reach out, the Archbishop said there were new methods at the Church’s disposal to do this but added, “Social media are powerful instruments yet paradoxically they can sadly become a trap for fruitless and at times even nasty internal Church polemics.”
He stressed that the Spirit is calling the Church today to be a community of mercy and healing, not of condemnation and repression, not of demoralisation but of reaching out in hope.