Below follows the homily given at the priesthood ordination ceremony for the newest member of the Diocese of Cheyene clergy, Rev. Tim Martinson. Hopefully, some good pictures of the event will follow soon.
Priesthood Ordination Homily, May 24, 2010
Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne, Worland, Wyoming
My dear brother, Tim, brother priests, family and friends gathered here today for this solemn ordination ceremony. As we prepare to receive our brother Tim into the order of Priests, let us reflect upon the nature of this office of the Church. We look first of all to the mysterious truth of how Jesus, our High Priest and Savior was sent into the world by the Father, and how he then chose to send his Apostles, our Bishops, into the world to Preach the Good News and to Baptize all nations for the forgiveness of sins.
It is through the successors of Apostles, the Bishops the Lord continues to impart His Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. It is through this solemn rite and sacrament that Jesus the High Priest through His Bishop’s and their co-workers, the priests, continues to be present in the Church to Teach, Sanctify and Govern the Holy People of God. Through the ordination rite, the reality of Apostolic Succession is palpably present, visible, and active, reminding us that we are still today, the Church founded by Jesus Christ. Reminding us today that our unity has always been and shall forever be in the person of Jesus Christ.
New Time: New Evangelization:
Tim, you enter the Order of Priest as we near the end of the Year for Priests in the universal Church. This age, as every generation, requires new ways of engaging our culture with the Good News of Jesus Christ. I wish to share a lengthy quote of Pope Benedict XVI in a recent address to the Bishops of Portugal regarding this new evangelization:
In truth, the times in which we live demand a new missionary vigor on the part of Christians, who are called to form a mature laity, identified with the Church and sensitive to the complex transformations taking place in our world. Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed, above all in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a mono cultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life. In such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration. And yet, dear brothers, may all those who defend the faith in these situations, with courage, with a vigorous Catholic outlook in fidelity to the magisterium, continue to receive your help and your insightful encouragement in order to live out, as faithful lay men and women, their Christian freedom.
You maintain a strong prophetic dimension, without allowing yourselves to be silenced, in the present social context, for “the word of God is not fettered” (2 Tim 2:9). People cry out for the Good News of Jesus Christ, which gives meaning to their lives and protects their dignity. In your role as first evangelizers, it will be useful for you to know and to understand the diverse social and cultural factors, to evaluate their spiritual deficiencies and to utilize effectively your pastoral resources; what is decisive, however, is the ability to inculcate in all those engaged in the work of evangelization a true desire for holiness, in the awareness that the results derive above all from our union with Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.
(Address to Portuguese Bishops May 13, 2010)
Tim, cultivate this life of holiness in your life. Never doubt for a minute that the best means of evangelization for the priest and every Christian is for your very way of life; your values, priorities, your love and compassion, to serve as a faithful witness to Jesus Christ alive in you and in the world.
Promise of Obedience & Fraternity:
Tim, as you soon approach me to place your hands in mine and make a promise of obedience to me and my successors, understand that it is the hand of Christ embracing you. In this embrace of obedience is His promise of fidelity to you for the rest of your life. Make an act of faith today and every day in this fidelity of Christ to you. Live your life of priesthood always in the hope of this fidelity of Christ, that no matter what He asks of you through the Church and your bishop in the coming years, He will give you the grace to fulfill. Trust always in the grace of Holy Orders!
Again, referring to Pope Benedict’s recent address to the Portuguese bishops, he said: Priests are called to serve, in their pastoral ministry, and to be part of a pastoral activity of communion or oneness, as the Conciliar Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis reminds us, “No priest is sufficiently equipped to carry out his mission alone and as it were single-handed. He can only do so by joining forces with other priests, under the leadership of those who govern the Church” (No. 7). (Benedict XVI to Portuguese Bishops, May 13, 2010)
Tim, know that the Bishop is the source of unity for his priests. In this expansive diocese, priestly fraternity is of vital importance. Make every effort in your life as a priest to always be there for your brother priests. Attend deanery and diocesan meetings and celebrations. Join a support group of priests. Make every effort to assist with the sacraments in your deanery, especially the Lenten and Advent penance services. Try your best to be present to support your brothers when they lose a loved one, or when they celebrate milestone anniversaries in their priestly life. In your relationship with me, and my successors, know always of my love for you. This, I believe is one of the first duties of a bishop; to love his priests. Recognize in this love the very love of Christ. Be a generous distributor of this love to the people you are called to serve as one of my chief collaborators.
Hear again, Tim: Priests are called to serve. My eighteen years of experience as a priest and now as a bishop have revealed to me that our God will always call us to a maddening generosity of life. I have said numerous times in my life as a priest: “Our God is a greedy God!” He never stops calling us to greater and greater gift of self. But as I grow older, and please God, wiser, I am learning that what I have wrongly interpreted as “greed” is truly the love of God expressed in a generous invitation to a deeper participation in His Divine love at work in our priestly life of service. John the Baptist had it right when he said of Christ: “He must increase, I must decrease.” With each gift of yourself in priestly service, you humbly diminish yourself, so that the Love of Jesus Christ may grow within you, and may live through your priesthood for the practical love of His people. In short, today, you are making a promise to follow Christ, as a response to the call He has extended to you over the course of your life.
So, today, as you promise to follow Christ, I wish to call your attention to a prayer you will offer silently each and every time you celebrate the Eucharist. During the fraction rite of the Mass, the priest prays inaudibly a prayer that has come to mean very much to me over the years, as I realize just how much I rely upon the grace of God to carry out this ministry of priesthood. The prayer is simply this: Lord, keep me faithful to your teaching, and never let me be parted from you. Tim, realize how much you, too, rely upon the grace of Christ. Trust that this grace is always yours through the sacrament of Holy Orders. May you grow always in the freedom and willingness to cooperate with this grace.
Acknowledging that you have fulfilled years of theological and priestly formation, I’ll not seek to cover everything I’d like to in one homily! I will however touch briefly on just a few more themes.
Celibacy is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of priestly life, not only by priests themselves, but especially by the broader Church. My own beloved Archbishop, the late Archbishop O’Meara, before he sent me off to Rome for theological studies gave me some wonderful advice. His advice was simply this: “Do not play games with yourself. Once you make this promise, be very realistic about the demands it requires, and always be honest about your desires.”
He realized the reason I left the seminary the first time was because of the reality of celibacy, and of my own desire for a wife and family. He told me a beautiful story of an Irish sister, Sr. Isidore, who came to the U.S. as a young woman. He developed a life-long association with her as a young priest in St. Louis. Her reputation was one that if there was any need associated with the poor, Sr. Isidore could find a way to assist them. The life of this one woman profoundly touched and changed the life of many. It was only in the late years of her life that he learned she had left behind in Ireland many years before a significant relationship of love, because she heard the Lord calling her to become a religious, and give her life in service to the People of God.
There is a tremendous grace and gift in the promise and faithful fulfillment of celibacy. It is not an easy gift to give at times, but it affords for the celibate a unique entry into the divine communion of love, and it affords for the people whom we encounter a unique experience of the very same love through our life and ministry. It is a promise you will make once, today, but one you will have to renew and keep over and over again throughout life. Please know, the rewards of this life are many, but most of these rewards will not be seen, perhaps even understood in this life.
Promise to Pray
Finally, Tim, be faithful to your promise to pray. When you pray the prayer of the Church at the appropriate hours of the day, realize that you pray in and with and for the Church. The same is certainly true each and every time we celebrate the Eucharist. Our prayer opens a channel of approach for the Divine, not only in our personal life, but especially for the life of each of those entrusted to our pastoral care. Pray well. Pray often. Pray much!
Reality of the Cross
Please allow a few final thoughts and words of encouragement. First, Jesus was into reality therapy when he told his disciples that if they wish to follow Him, they must first take up their cross. This is critical for the life of every Christian, and especially the life of every priest. The cross is at the heart of our life and identity with Christ. Thus, we must not be surprised when we are asked to bear its burden from time-to-time. Please be realistic about this “identity” when priesthood gets to be a challenge.
Holy Spirit and Blessed Mother
Two very important individuals will always be there in moments of challenge to help you bear the burden of the cross; the Blessed Mother, and the Holy Spirit. Tim, cultivate the life of the Spirit within you. A beautiful “seed” of divine life was shared with you in Baptism. As with all seeds, if it is not given water and light, it cannot grow. The Holy Spirit is the “water” of this Divine life within you. Jesus Christ is the Light. Always remain open and docile to the promptings and movements of the Holy Spirit that this new life of priesthood, the presence of Jesus Christ may grow to fulfillment within you.
Our Blessed Mother Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Continue to develop your devotion to Mary, and she will lead you to her Son. Mary will always help you sort out the challenges of every stage of priesthood. This is the prayer of the Church for you today, that you may draw always nearer to Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, that your priesthood may always be His; that His priesthood in you, may be a continual source of blessing and strength for the People of God, for whose benefit and service you are raised to the service of the altar and the proclamation of the Gospel today.