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‘Don’t become focused on externals’


By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

June 7, 2023

Editor’s Note: The Following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily from the ordination of Father Lukas Gruber, Deacon Carter Pierce and Deacon Douglas Schirmer.

In these challenging times in which we live, these three men: Deacon Lucas Gruber, Carter Pierce and Douglas Shirmer want to make a difference and desire to work with others who are willing to make a difference. They know that the greatest antidote to sin and evil in our world today is simply – holiness of life. Although all the baptized are called to holiness of life, there is a special need for and importance of holy deacons and holy priests today. I’m confident that these three men will live a genuine holiness and a love of Jesus which will encourage more people to desire to know God and to seek salvation in and through His Church.

Deacon Lucas, Carter, Douglas – we are so very grateful and proud that you have embraced the Lord’s call to serve God’s people in the North Country in ordained ministry. You have more than responded to the call, I believe you have truly embraced it. You know that now is not the time for the timid. With much courage and persevering love, you have not just survived, but have excelled in seminary. As the Lord told Jeremiah, hear Him speak to each of you: “Have no fear…because I am with you to deliver you.” I am convinced that an exciting and adventurous journey awaits each of you. Know that Jesus is truly your constant companion.

Zeal for souls must energize your vocation. Yes, the psalmist proclaims: “Go out to the world and teach all nations, Alleluia!” Jesus went around to all the towns and villages to teach and proclaim the Kingdom.

In your assignments, be it in a parish or seminary setting one last year, be a ray of hope and encouragement of faith for others. Deacon Lukas, know where your parishioners live. Know their family members. Celebrate their joys, accompany them in their trials, and comfort them in their sorrows. Be eager to understand their unique struggles. Yes, dear brothers, listen and accompany our sisters and brothers. Above all, keep their salvation uppermost in your mind and heart.

Archbishop Hughes offers some perceptive advice to the ordained. He cautions us not to hold the false conviction that the Church owes a cleric special treatment because of his state in life. Men, there is no entitlement here. Don’t become focused on externals, in the trappings of office rather than your interior life. We need holy leaders to lead and accompany the faithful in our time of moral crisis.

Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, “In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God.”

Don’t let routine-itis set in. Every sacrament you celebrate is a real encounter with the risen Christ. Believe it. To a large extent today, we have lost that sacramental sense. Human nature might cause us to be less than attentive to the prayers and rituals we lead. We must not just go through the motions as mere functionaries.

Prayer demands effort. Cling to Christ and never forget whose you are. Your way of life should be about nurturing your relationship with Jesus and expressing that relationship in ministry.

By sharing in prayer and good conversation, we protect ourselves against resignation or mindless routine. Routine-itis is an affliction that can have fatal consequences for the celebration of the sacraments. Do not let it pervade your ministry to God’s holy people. They deserve better. You know, what can wear us down even more than routine is the cynicism that arises from tedium and disappointment, which can easily turn into a contempt for the faithful and weariness of the Church. The temptation to give up on oneself spiritually and intellectually rises up from the abyss of doubting God’s faithfulness. It devours the holy zeal with which we began the good work, as St. Paul wrote the Philippians (cf. Phil. 1:6)

St. Ignatius of Antioch urged courage in the face of the tumultuous times, fidelity in teaching, and perseverance in both pastoral care of the faithful and the cleric’s own life of prayer and virtue – courage, fidelity, perseverence. Men, receive the Gospel in trust. Listen attentively to the Word of God, ponder its meaning, live it in practice, and preach it joyfully to the faithful.

In doing so, you will inevitably find resistance in the world. The easier approach will always be to adjust the Gospel message to make it more acceptable to a fallen world.

If you do this, you will begin to water down the challenging dimensions of that message in your own life and lead those entrusted to your care to do the same.

My brothers, for the sake of loving the world in the way the Lord loves the world, become a witness to life-giving truth. And help others to do the same. When you realize that you are participating in Christ’s own life, even continuing Christ’s own life and that you are a transparent image of Christ, you will understand the great dignity that is yours and you will be less tempted to become discouraged when ministry becomes difficult. May the Blessed Mother be a source of hope and reassurance for you in your ministry.

Deacons and priests are ordained as cooperators with their bishop. They share in his ministry of Word, sacrament, and pastoral charity. They are not independent leaders or lone rangers but participants in the sacramental life and mission of the bishop.

My sisters and brothers, when all is said and done, today this local Church is blessed and we know it! We all pray for each of these men as they enter into this most special relationship with Jesus and with all God’s children. May they accept graciously the responsibility laid upon their shoulders and on their souls and generously give of themselves for the salvation of others. Through their ordained ministry May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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