Each year, June 29th is a special day in Rome; the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul. On that day, the newly appointed archbishops from all over the world gather in Rome to receive their pallium from the Pope. But this year it did not happen; no travel, no celebration.
Today, July 25th, is the feast day of the Apostle James the patron saint of this beautiful Cathedral. We come to celebrate this feast day with the Ordination of Adam Marchese and Thomas Pringle to the priesthood. We welcome your parents and family; the faculty of St. Vincent de Paul Seminary, your vocation directors, Fr. Josh Swallows and Fr. Jorge Torres. We offer a special welcome to your seminary classmates, the newly ordained and the soon to be ordained. To all those watching on live stream, we thank you for joining us this morning in prayer and thanksgiving to God for Adam and Thomas. We join with your parents, family and friends; the priests, deacons, religious; and all the people of the Diocese of Orlando in thanksgiving to God for the gift of your vocation.
Adam and Thomas, you have come here today to be ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ; today the Church of Orlando rejoices and gives thanks to the Lord.
In his homily for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles Pope Francis said, “Peter and Paul were two very different individuals. Peter, a fisherman who spent his days amid boats and nets and Paul, a learned Pharisee who taught in the synagogues.” Adam and Thomas, you are not fishermen like Peter or your Vocation director, Fr. Josh, but like Peter and Fr. Josh, you will become fishers of souls. Adam and Thomas, you both have come here today to give your lives in service to preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, like Sts. Peter and Paul.
Jeremiah tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you.” Adam and Thomas, God created you and now calls you to become His priests. Pope Francis speaking on priesthood reflected, “We are not born complete, but need to be constantly “woven”, “knitted together”. “Life is given to us as an invitation to continue to weave the “wonderful” mystery that we are.”
The Scriptures open for you “a great love story between God and humanity.” At its center stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfillment both God’s love for you and your love for God.” Adam and Thomas, both of you spoke of a deep desire to be men of the Gospel; to weave and knit the Scriptures into your daily life of prayer. St. Paul said, “you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:3). We heard St. Paul tell us in the 2nd Reading, that you are “earthen vessels.”
You must become men who pray the Scriptures. Praying is a gift, but it must be accepted opened and used daily. When the Scriptures are not prayed and reflected, the message becomes empty and dry. St. Paul reminds us, “We hold these treasures in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God not of us.” May God’s grace be ever present in your lives to lead and guide you to strength and console you in your ministry of preaching and teaching the Gospel.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear the mother of James and John makes a request of Jesus. Adam and Thomas, your mothers have made many requests of you throughout your lives. They have not made any requests of me. But there is one request that every parent asks of me and the Church. To your parents, I say the Church of Orlando is honored to ordain your sons as priests of Jesus Christ. The Church and the people of God will love and care for your sons as if they were their own. I am sure you are proud of them I ask you to continue to pray for them. Adam and Thomas, pray for your parents. How proud they are of you! The Church – the people of God – are also proud of your dedication and love of the Lord.
Now Adam and Thomas, I have a question for you both; what do you seek from Jesus? You mentioned in your self-evaluations; balanced prayer life, flexibility, relationship with the Holy Spirit, authentic love of Christ, God’s mercy, servant leader. Pope Francis offered an answer recently saying every priest’s heart must be conformed to the Heart of Christ. Being a priest conformed to the Heart of Christ means having a heart of Gratitude, Mercy, Compassion, Vigilance and Courage. “A priest with the heart of Christ calls one to be open to gratitude.” Adam and Thomas, you are about to be given the greatest privilege of consecrating with words and your anointed hands, bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Celebrate the Eucharist always with a heart of gratitude to God for the gift of your vocation to the priesthood.
Merciful – In the Sacrament of Reconciliation you are to be a welcoming sign of the tender love and the mercy of God. “Be merciful as the Father is merciful.” In this way you become an instrument of the healing love and mercy of God. “The true door of Mercy is the Heart of Christ.”
A priest of compassion is one “who makes himself present and does not flee the wounds of his brothers and sisters,” thus show the compassion and tenderness of the Good Shepherd. Nothing more is necessary than being accessible, close, ready to be one with your people. Then you can heal wounds, warm hearts and embrace sinners with the Heart of Christ.
A priest with the Heart of Christ must be vigilant. “Disappointments with life, with the Church or with ourselves can tempt us to latch onto a sweet sorrow or sadness … that threatens to take hold of our lives or our communities. This sadness sows resentment and hostility yielding “a tiredness of hope” or “dryness of heart.” “A vigilant heart makes us wait promptly as faithful servants for the coming…and making room for the gift of the Holy Spirit who even in the midst of daily commitments and the obscurities of the present time, makes us discern the presence of the Lord, makes us attentive to His Word, makes us active in charity so the oil in the lamp of our lives would not run out.” “You must always let yourself be “awakened” by the Word of the Lord and the cry of the people of God.” Open your eyes and ears, and above all your hearts, so as not to be complacent.
Our world today is very complicated and polarized. As priests we must never give up on the hope of the Lord. St Paul tells us, “Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to Him … Do not conform yourself to the standards of this world, let God transform you inwardly… then you will be able to know the will of God … What is good and pleasing to Him (Rm 12: 1-2).
Courage – Pope Francis encourages you not to neglect your spiritual life, especially spiritual direction. “Look for a brother with whom you can speak, reflect, discuss and discern sharing with trust and openness your journey.” A priest whose heart is encouraged is a priest always on the move. But at the same time, the priest whose heart is in Christ lives, “Between the Lord to whom he has consecrated his life and the people whom he has been called to serve. Do not neglect your spiritual life. It is your relationship with Jesus, it is the key identity of your pastoral life. You cannot bring Christ to others unless you personally know and have a relationship with Christ.
Pope Francis advises that the successful outcome of a priestly life is the “intimate relationship with God”. This forms the basis for personal and pastoral fruitfulness. For Pope Francis the fundamental question of priestly life is, “Where is your heart directed?” “The heart of the priest is a heart pierced by the love of the Lord, for this reason, he no longer looks to himself, but is turned towards God and his brothers and sisters. It is no longer ‘a fluttering heart,’ allured by momentary whims, shunning disagreements and seeking petty satisfactions. Rather, it is a heart rooted firmly in the Lord, warmed by the Holy Spirit, open and available to our brothers and sisters.” May the Sacred Heart of Jesus bless you both in your priestly life and ministry to God and His people.
Homily by Bishop John Noonan on the Ordination to the Priesthood
of Adam Marchese and Thomas Pringle
Saturday, July 25, 2020, 10:00 a.m.
St. James Cathedral