At the present time, the Diocese of Syracuse has thirteen young men enrolled in seminaries. They attend St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, the Theological College at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and Blessed John XXIII in Weston, Massachusetts. Last Friday and Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit the young men enrolled at St. Mary’s. While there, I was privileged to ordain one of our seminarians, The Rev. Mr. Jamie Schultz as a Deacon. Let us keep Jamie and all our seminarians and those considering a religious vocation in prayer. Following is the brief homily/instruction that I gave on that occasion:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
During these days following the Resurrection of the Lord, the Paschal Mystery which we are celebrating renews in a special way the bonds of faith, hope and love which unite us as members of the Church. Christ’s passing from this world to the Father established a communion between God and humanity, as well as among us, which can never be broken.
This communion with God and among ourselves is strengthened by the Eucharist which we are now celebrating. In service to that communion, we are about to ordain our brother, James, to the Sacred Diaconate.
It is clear from our Scripture readings that, when we share our faith, and when we journey together towards the same hope, the mutual support which we experience enables us to live the Christian life with a greater sense of peace.
The prophet Jeremiah was concerned that he was too young and therefore did not know how to speak God’s Word. But the Lord extended His hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth saying, “I place my words in your mouth!”
Philip, on the other hand, encouraged by the Spirit, did not hesitate to go to the court official, the Ethiopian eunuch, and instruct him in the ways of God.
This mixture of fear and courage should find a place in the heart of anyone who preaches God’s Word. You, Jamie, need to be at home with these conflicting emotions which are, indeed, healthy tensions. Just as Jesus spoke to Simon Peter, He speaks to you. The Lord tells you quite clearly in today’s Gospel that if you truly love Him you will feed His flock. Always do so after reflecting on God’s Word and preparing yourself by prayer and study.
Every aspect of our lives must be motivated by one force: sincere love for God and for each other. This is the same love which moved our Lord to offer His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins which alienated us from Him and from each other. It is the same love which prompted our Lord to remind Peter of the need to feed His sheep. It is the same love which Jesus mysteriously shares with us in this Eucharist.
Strengthened by the special grace which comes in the Sacrament of Orders, our brother, James, will be “consecrated” — that is, “set apart” to be an obedient servant of the Spirit and a minister of Christ’s love. It is my hope that, as he responds generously to Christ’s invitation to share in His mission of salvation in a unique way, he will experience the peace and joy which comes from total dedication to Christ. The special ministry of the deacon is given to him through God’s mercy. He holds this treasure in an earthen vessel. Because he is a weak human being, he will always need God’s help and the prayerful support of all of God’s people.
Part of our share in Jamie’s vocation is to provide him with this prayerful support. May the presence of his family and friends who are here today be an initial sign of our willingness to accept our share in his vocation. May we preserve and strengthen the bonds of love which unite us with him.
Through his sacred service, may this communion of faith, hope and love which is the Catholic Church, continue to be strengthened and to grow in its knowledge and love of God. This young man — your son and brother — will be consecrated as a sacred minister of the Word, of liturgy and of charity.
As the apostles set apart the deacons in the early Church, so now one of their successors will do the same with you, Jamie, by the laying on of hands and prayer. Through this grace filled rite, the Church confirms the call which you have felt to the ordained ministry. Take great care of the gift which will be entrusted to you. Make sure that the precious gift of your faith, so central to your communion with God and with others, is nourished by a deep commitment to the truth. Cherish God’s Word. Continue to pray, study and reflect on it, so that Christ’s words abide in you. Encouraged by your teaching and example, may those entrusted to your care “keep God’s commandments, and always do what is pleasing in his sight.”
You will affect and manifest the communion we share as Church when you exercise your liturgical service. By your celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism, for example, you will incorporate new members into God’s holy Church. By your distribution of the Body and Blood of Christ, you will strengthen their union with Christ, the true vine, as well as their union with their brothers and sisters. You will manifest our communion before the Lord as you preside at public prayer in the Name of the One who continues to intercede on our behalf.
The ministry of charity which is entrusted to you must be evident in every aspect of your life. As St. John tells us, you must “love in deed and in truth, and not merely talk about it.” But remember: “Apart from God you can do nothing.” Thus, be in communion with Him through a life of deep prayer.
As you pray for the Church, as well as for yourself, especially in the Liturgy of the Hours, you will imitate an essential aspect of the service of love which Jesus Christ fulfilled on our behalf. By so doing, you will live in God and God will live in you. You will truly be His disciple. You will bear much fruit.
My brother, James, you will exercise the sacred ministry in the celibate state. You are to preserve perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. As you strive to imitate Christ in this aspect of His life, you may experience questions and pressures from segments of our society which cannot comprehend your free embracing of this state.
For your perseverance in this state and for a valid and fruitful witness to it, you must continue to develop an undivided love for Christ by contemplation as well as by action. Thus, you will show others that through the gift of celibacy you are more free to dedicate yourself to the service of God and His people.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, knows both the joy and the suffering that come from being a true disciple of the Lord. Pray for him, too! Familiarize yourself with his teachings and his writings. Follow his advice: “Stand firm in your faith! Be authentic in your life and your ministry. Gazing upon Christ, live a modest life, in solidarity with the faithful to whom you have been sent. Serve everyone: be accessible in the parishes… support families. Do not forget the link with young people, remember the poor and abandoned. If you live by faith, the Holy Spirit will suggest to you what you must say and how you must serve. You will always be able to count on the help of Mary who goes before the Church in faith. I exhort you to make her your favorite companion on the journey.” (Pope Benedict XVI, May 2006, to the priests in the Warsaw Cathedral)
Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse