Congratulations to Paul Henderson and Peter Shankland who were ordained Deacons by Archbishop Cushley yesterday (14 June) at the Basillica of St Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome.
Several parishioners from St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh were there for the occasion as well as the Cathedral's Schola Cantorum to provide music for the occasion.
Archbishop Leo Cushley ordained both men and his homily can be read below.
Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley
Diaconate Ordinations of the Pontifical Beda College, 14 June 2023, Basilica of St Paul’s outside the Walls, Rome.
My dear sons,
Today, you will be invited to complete another significant step in your training, as you are raised to the dignity of deacon.
Now, if you were listening, I just talked of you taking a new “step”, of being “raised” and to a new “dignity”.
This is a kind of language that we don’t hear much in church anymore, and that sounds to our modern ears a little old-fashioned, even a little pompous or proud.
And yet, in the real world, when people get a better job, or start making more money, we talk with satisfaction of them getting a “promotion”, of “going up in the world”, or of their “upward mobility” in society.
And in the ancient world, whence the Church draws this kind of language, they too talked of moving “onwards” and “upwards”.
Having said that, however, in the ancient Roman world, not even Julius Caesar could go straight to being Consul: everyone had to start somewhere, and everyone had to start on the first step of the stair.
And, standing on that step for a while, and learning about it, and practising it, you could then present yourself for the next office, and then go up another step; and, if elected or chosen to proceed, you moved up to a more senior office again, in other words, as if you were taking another step up.
Towards Holy Orders
This was called the cursus, and the Church still employs its own cursus, or course, as our seminarians pass from the ministries of reader and acolyte, promoting them in due course to Holy Orders.
So, today is a step in a well-thought-out set of steps, that leads you up towards your ultimate goal, the ministerial priesthood. But getting there is done gradually, literally up one step after another, slowly, deliberately, over time and with time, so that you learn the task at hand, gain experience and build upon it, and so that the step after that can be taken more confidently.
As a deacon, your first task will be to proclaim the Gospel as a herald of Christ; to represent Christ as his ambassador; and to serve others, just as the Lord served us perfectly by His death on the Cross.
This gradual, measured way of doing things, the Church imports from the ancient world. What the Church does not import however, is the worldly pride that goes with these “promotions”.
If she talks of your “promotion”, she means that you are moving on to ever greater service, not the command of others.
If she talks of your “dignity”, she means you standing on that step and learning of the duty, of the responsibility that you have, at that level, on that step, so that you fulfill, soberly and to the best of your ability, the task at hand.
Dignity isn’t about what people think about you, never mind what you think about yourself. Dignity is about understanding your duty and about fulfilling energetically and with a clear conscience the task entrusted to you by the Church, and always in a spirit of service.
All the ministries you receive before being ordained to the sacred priesthood contain an essential component of what it is to be a dedicated and effective priest.
Thus, as a deacon, your first task will be to proclaim the Gospel as a herald of Christ; to represent Christ as his ambassador; and to serve others, just as the Lord served us perfectly by His death on the Cross.
The Word of God is full of power. It is the means by which God formed Israel into His own People. As they journeyed through the wilderness, they listened to God’s word.
On their way to the promised land, the People of God became a people, because they were drawn together and formed by the Word. That formative role of the Word is seen again, and is real and effective every day, in our liturgical assembly.
And it will happen again, as you proclaim the Gospel to your brothers and sisters, to the new Israel, the Church of Christ, and as you learn to preach and live the Gospel effectively, wisely and well.
Proclaim the Word
As deacons, you will proclaim the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ; and later, as priests, you will offer the Word made flesh in sacrifice to the Father in the Eucharist. But, even now, consider how essential is the task of proclaiming Christ the Word in the Eucharistic assembly.
Note the respect and attention paid to Christ the Word proclaimed in the Gospel, and make it your task to proclaim him and preach him to the very best of your ability.
So, a deacon is a herald. But by the name’s meaning, diakonos, he is also by definition a servant: he is a servant of the Gospel, a servant of Christ and a servant of his people, especially the poor.
As a deacon, you will be a leader in the liturgical assembly, but you are to be a servant leader. The office of deacon is closely associated with the office of bishop, because, after the episcopate, it is in the deacon that the humility of true Christian leadership is seen most clearly.
All clergy are to be servant leaders, but deacons are the concentrated incarnation of it.
This is why you are called to imitate perfectly our Lord Jesus Christ, who said of himself, that he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Today that task now falls to you.
Finally, you are called to this service in the celibate state.
Permanent deacons, those who remain on this step, are not asked to remain celibate.
You, on the other hand, are to be deacons only for a time, and as a part of your training for the sacred priesthood. It is in this light that celibacy is to be seen, as your acceptance of it is to be a part of your journey into the mystery of Christ’s priestly sacrifice on the Cross.
You time as deacon is also a time of learning and the gaining of valuable experience.
Give yourselves joyfully to the Lord and He will reward you with many consolations, now and in the life to come.
You add it to your time as a lector, forming and being formed by the Word; to your time as an acolyte, approaching ever closer the mystery of the living Lord in the Eucharist; and to that, as deacons, you will add the ability to preach the Gospel; to do it ably; and to make it living and active in the world through a pure heart and a clear conscience.
You will now officiate at baptims; you will bring the Eucharist to the sick and the dying; you will conduct marriages and funerals; you will be a herald of the Gospel; you will learn to be an ambassador of Christ.
And you will do all of this, sanctified by the Prayer of the Church, by your respect and obedience for your bishop, and by the joyful sacrifice and commitment of a celibate life.
So, my dear sons, imitate Christ the Deacon in your loving service of His people. Give yourselves joyfully to the Lord and He will reward you with many consolations, now and in the life to come.
Embrace the prayer life of the Church; learn the full liberty of your obedience to your bishop; and make celibacy a pure gift of yourself to everyone.
Be the Lord’s faithful herald and true ambassador; and may Christ the Lord, the Father’s true servant on the Cross, reward you. Amen.