Archbishop of Tuam
PASTORAL LETTER FOR VOCATIONS SUNDAY
The Fourth Sunday of Easter, 3 May 2020
Recent weeks have been challenging for everyone. As Church we have been endeavouring to maintain and sustain our relationship with the Lord and with each other in ways which are in keeping with the health restrictions. Thanks to modern technology and social media the celebration of Mass is live-streamed to homes and people are in contact with neighbours and friends. Of course we miss the visits, the coming together whether for worship, work, sporting or social occasions. The busyness that controlled our lives is not as dominant now. We have more time to reflect and so to tune in to God and consider what God may be saying to us.
Interdependence and Responsibility
As the people of God graced with different gifts and entrusted with varied responsibilities, whether in marriage, single life, religious life or priesthood, the present situation affords an opportunity to pause and acknowledge our dependence on each other, our responsibility to support, encourage, challenge and pray for each other. Next Sunday we will celebrate a day of prayer for vocations. The different vocations which I mentioned do not compete with each other but rather collaborate with, affirm and challenge each other. I have stated on a previous occasion that the priest is called to be a facilitator, enabling married couples, single persons and those in religious life to interpret God’s call for them, encouraging and supporting them in answering their call.
Our View of Priesthood Today
Having focused on and encouraged the baptismal vocation on various occasions in the past, I would like to focus on priesthood today. Our view of the priest and our attitude towards priesthood will be influenced by priests we have known. It may be the priest who officiated at your wedding, the one who baptised your children, was with you as a supportive presence when your world was shattered by bad news. Recent years have been a difficult time for priests; all of us are affected by the scandals associated with some priests and bishops. Having apologised for these on numerous occasions in the past we must never become complacent but endeavour to maintain the highest standards of integrity in ministry as we continue to keep victims in our thoughts and prayers.
Called, Chosen, Inspired
As priests we are privileged to find ourselves at the heart of God’s human family. Why? Not because of our personality, gifts or insights, but rather because we have been chosen by God, called by Him and responded to that call. Therefore we represent and are a pointer to the God who is at the very heart of the human family. This is something which we treasure and will always respect and is something for which we will always be grateful. Speaking personally, while I appreciate and will always be grateful for the theological formation and years of study, I can say without hesitation that I have learned more from yourselves, the people of God with whom I work and pray. As priests we never cease to admire and be grateful for the inspiration, example, courage, patience and perseverance of our people, sometimes expressed in the most difficult situations. This is not to deny that at times we may be saddened and frustrated when our best efforts are misunderstood.
A Special Relationship
In our relationship with our people there is and must always be a special dimension. This has impinged on us in a very particular way at this time when visiting your families is restricted for health reasons. It is a source of great joy for us when you are happy and celebrate. Likewise we are saddened when you suffer. We endeavour, albeit at times very imperfectly, to be a reminder of the fact that the Lord continues to journey with you through the rough places and the greener pastures of life’s journey. The God in whom you believe and I believe and try to serve is a God who is welcoming, understanding, sympathetic, encouraging and wants the best for all of us.
Bringing Our People to God in the Eucharist
In every Mass, as priests, we bring our people before the Lord asking him to hear your cry for help, respond to your needs, enabling you to utilise your gifts for the good of others in transforming our world. At this time as we cope with Covid-19 people have experienced and expressed their appreciation of the generosity and support of the ministry of their priests albeit an “on-line” ministry.
Priesthood: Demanding Yet Rewarding
Priesthood is undoubtedly a demanding but also a very fulfilling life. Like any vocation it has its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows. In our culture today people experience constant pressures – competitive climate, productivity in the workplace, educational demands, etc. With so many situations clamouring for our time and attention it is understandable that God’s call could easily lose its urgency and may even go unheard. I extend an invitation to young men to reflect on whether God may be calling them to follow him as a priest. I encourage all the People of God to pray that the Lord will inspire young men to hear and answer his call. Should someone known to you express interest in a vocation to the priesthood, I ask you to keep that person in your prayers and encourage him. The priest is one who radiates joy, serves others, is a man of prayer and plays a very significant role in building up God’s kingdom. Here in our Archdiocese we have been blessed by our priests who continue to respond generously and faithfully to the various challenges with which we all cope in a complex and rapidly changing culture.
An Enduring “Yes”
The priests I know and with whom I work are happy in their service of God and the people of God and each day we recomit ourselves to priesthood and to the service involved. When storms blow we need deep roots. On entering unchartered territory we need direction. What provides us with the strength to cope in these situations are a loivng family, a supportive community and the hope which our faith in Jesus Christ generates. With hope in our hearts we can face the future with courage.
Here in our Archdiocese of Tuam we look forward to the ordination of deacon Shane Costello and keep him and other studends in our prayers along with those who are studying for the permanent diaconate. The Ordination of a priest demonstrates how much faith is alive in a local Church. It illustrates the hope-filled courage which gives a young man the strength and joy to entrust himself to the Lord’s service, conscious that the faith of the people of God will support him.
This Sunday the Gospel sets before us the one priest who was without fault, the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He is the one who has called us, sustains and challenges us. I ask you to pray for us your priests, that we will draw ever closer to him and be a more faithful reminder of Jesus Christ to yourselves.
Fr Denis will celebrate Mass on Sunday May 3rd @ 10.30 am. Mass will be offered for the intentions of everyone in the parish of Balla, Belcarra, Clogher, Manulla and Mayo Abbey. Included in the Mass intentions will be all frontline staff and other people working to look after us all during this time.
Mass will be broadcast from Castlebar here at 10.30 am.
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
to the Faithful for the Month of May 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.
For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.
I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.
Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 25 April 2020 Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist
“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.
In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.
Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.
Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.
Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.
Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.
Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.
Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.
Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Beloved Mother, help us realise that we are all members of one great family and to recognise the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.
Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.
To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O
Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.