By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 July, 2015
Catholics and Christians “are entering a time when we will need the gift of courage to stay faithful to the teachings of the Gospel”.
Archbishop Eamon Martin has said he is “humbled at the honour that God has bestowed” on him by calling him to serve him as Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh.
In his homily at a Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh on Saturday evening for the occasion of his investiture with the pallium, Archbishop Martin said, “The pallium reminds me that God expects a lot from me, but He gives me all the grace I need to do His will, and to be prepared to sacrifice my own will and desires in order to follow His way.”
The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, conducted the investiture, which took place in the presence of representatives of the nine dioceses of the ecclesiastical province of Armagh, as well as priests and people from the diocese.
The Nuncio explained how the pallium symbolises the bond and union between an archbishop and the Pope.
Referring to the ceremony last Monday which Pope Francis celebrated with the world’s newest archbishops, Archbishop Martin said the Pontiff had challenged them to be masters of prayer, and of faith, and to be courageous witnesses in the world.
“No Christian community”, the Pope told them, “can go forward without being supported by persistent prayer”.
“Be ever faithful to the deposit of faith” and be courageous witnesses, “who are not ashamed of the Name of Christ and of His Cross”.
Archbishop Martin told the congregation of family and well-wishers from across Armagh that if he is to meet these challenges, “if I am to be true to God’s calling in my life, then I must try to conquer my sinfulness and selfishness and instead to offer my life for my sheep”.
The young Primate admitted, “To be honest, I sometimes feel daunted by this challenge”.
He recalled his visit on Wednesday while in Rome to the catacombs where the early Christian martyrs were buried.
“On the way I had the privilege of celebrating Mass in the little Church of Domine Quo Vadis, where it is said St Peter, who was running away from the dangers of persecution in Rome, met Jesus going the other way into the city to be with his flock.”
“It was all the more poignant for me because it was the Feast of St Oliver Plunkett who I know was not afraid to die for his people and his beliefs.”
He recalled a striking painting of St Oliver Plunkett which hung in his room at the Irish College in Rome which depicted the martyr kneeling before the gallows just before his martyrdom.
In the painting St Oliver’s pallium lies discarded on the ground “where his executioners have hurled it; in its place over his head and shoulders is wrapped the hangman’s noose”.
Archbishop Martin also recalled his predecessor, St Malachy, who nine hundred years ago, travelled twice to Rome to seek the pallium – at first for Armagh and then for Armagh and Cashel.
The Primate reminded the congregation, “As you know he was unsuccessful and he died on the journey at Clairvaux in the arms of his beloved friend St Bernard.”
A few years later, following the Synod of Kells, four pallia were indeed sent by the Pope to Ireland symbolising the recognition from the Holy See for the four new ecclesiastical provinces of Ireland: Armagh, Cashel, Dublin and Tuam.
Praying that his ministry will be less hazardous than that of some of his predecessors, the Primate said he couldn’t help thinking that all Catholics and Christians “are entering a time when we will need the gift of courage to stay faithful to the teachings of the Gospel”.
“We are living in the midst of a more insistently secular culture which expects conformity and compromise with the thinking of the day, and which sometimes tends to ridicule and even reject those who witness to timeless or absolute truths.”
“The world of today still yearns for the Good News of Jesus Christ. But we will need to find a language of faith and truth which can speak in fresh and powerful ways about the depth of the love of Christ to those who are finding life increasingly shallow or despairingly empty of meaning and purpose.”
“We should not be altogether surprised if, like Jesus Himself, our message is completely rejected by some, even in our own country.”
After Mass, Archbishop Martin led the Nuncio, his fellow bishops, priests and the laity outside St Patrick’s Cathedral to watch as new croziers were fitted into the existing statutes of St Patrick and St Malachy at the front of the cathedral.