Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saint Patrick - Fr Damian Feeney

The Vice-Principal, Fr Damian Feeney, gave this homily at the Solemn Mass for Saint Patrick, when we welcomed future incumbents for those leaving the House this year.

‘Not I, but Christ in me’ (Galatians 2.20)

To Patrick, Christ was everything. In the life of the Church, it is Christ who acts, Christ who teaches. If the fabulous hymn ascribed to him is not actually by him, it would have been well known to him – and this, alongside the Confession and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, bear out just such an emphasis. The hymn Audita omnes, attributed to S. Secundinus, expresses this well:

Christ’s holy precepts he keeps in all things,
His works shine bright among men,
And they follow his holy and wondrous example,
And thus praise God the Father in heaven.

Famously, the business of separating fact and legend where saints (and especially Celtic ones) are concerned is a bit of a conundrum – but in the case of Patrick, all we really need is that emphasis on Christ. How appropriate it is, therefore, to be considering today how the call to be alter Christus through priestly ordination manifests itself in us. ‘Not I’, said St. Paul to the Galatians, ‘but Christ in me.’ That is part of what the Holy Spirit confers – that sense of the indwelling Christ. And yet without our desire to create within ourselves a place where Christ may dwell, such a gift might never be unwrapped. And the truth is that, whilst in this place we speak of the formation which is part of God’s gift to those who truly seek him, we nevertheless need to realize that this formation is only begun here, continuing through ordination, through our title parishes, through our ministry, through the whole of our lives, shaped again and again by the sublime and saving redemptive mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, available in this Mass and through the ministries which we are called to share.

Today we are able to express both continuity and change – the continuity of that formation in Christ; but also the change, as the response of those to be ordained is taken outside the seminary, (where, true to its name, the seeds have been sown) to begin a yet more public life in the service of Christ and his church, where experience is further enriched by the key relationship between incumbent and curate, as well as through the many relationships formed within the parish. But, as Patrick knew well, the key relationship is that which we have with Christ, a relationship to be daily enriched and renewed through Word, Sacrament and through the holy people who here constitute his body. So, today we will talk of many things, ranging from the spiritual, to the practical – but let Christ be the purpose of our conversations, and the point of all our striving.