Ordination of Shane Daly S.J.

Belvedere College Chapel, Great Denmark Street, Dublin 1 @ 3pm
Music: David O’Hanlon & Belvedere College Liturgical Choir
Altar Servers: x 4 – Jesuit Scholastics & Belvedere Students
Headmaster: Gerry Foley
Concelebrants: Tom Leyden SJ Provincial & Derek Cassidy SJ Rector of Belvedere
MC: Terry Howard SJ

The other evening, I held in my hands a copy of James Joyce’s most famous work ‘Dubliners’. It was a treasured copy written by one of the most distinguished Belvedere alumni, first published in 1914. It was an edition printed by the Dolmen Press at Mountrath in County Laois, in Kildare & Leighlin Diocese with lithographic drawings by the late Louis Le Brocquy. The copy I held was numbered ‘478’ out of the limited print run of 500. Joyce’s collection of fifteen short stories was written when the term nationalism was at its peak. In a short few weeks we will begin a year of celebrations that will define and celebrate our national identity.

The Feast of Christ the King offers us a splendid insight into the identity of Christ. The gospel begins with Pilate asking Jesus: “Are you the king of the Jews?”  It’s a dialogue taken from the heart of our Good Friday gospel. The scripture scholar Raymond Brown, suggests the Johannine Jesus is anything but silent; he is eloquent and erudite. Pilate moves like a weaver shuttle from those baying for crucifixion blood outside the praetorium, to this illuminating dialogue about identity going on inside the same praetorium. The Feast of Christ the King offers us a reference tapestry to reflect on the themes that are pertinent to the Rite of Ordination, todays feast allows us to drill deep into the priestly identity in 2015.

Let us return to that conversation between Jesus and Pilate inside Pilate’s praetorium.  Raymond Brown suggests Pilate is like a chameleon, a small lizard able to change colour according to its surroundings, as he takes on the different colours of the parties who engage with him at the time. On the outside, there is ceaseless pressure and no little amount of conniving; on the inside he is met by authenticity and integrity. Jesus not only holds his own, but even positions Pilate in a different space. Integrity is a trait tough to define, but so easy to recognize. Authenticity is a quality that could be summarized as genuineness or truthfulness, you are what you are, you do what it says on the tin. The philosopher Kierkegaard sees authenticity as “to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find an idea for which I can live or die” . The Rite of Ordination which will shortly follow has those powerful words addressed to every ordinand: “let the example of your life attract followers of Christ, so that by word and action you may build up the house that is God’s Church … know what you are doing and imitate the mysteries you celebrate” . For a priest there can be no shortchanging when it comes to living a life of integrity and authenticity. We have seen the scars that still remain from priests and religious who simply were not authentic and absolutely didn’t live a life of integrity. The church needs men to step up to the mark and answer God’s call.

I hugely compliment Shane for doing just that today. Having spent a few years in the seminary for Kildare & Leighlin and then after a period of time, recommencing formative study with the Jesuits, he has very clearly and of his own free will chosen this life. A life that is nothing, if it’s not authentic. The word integrity has a close link to the word integrated. Shane having studied lay ministry with a particular eye on St. Pope John Paul’s document Christifideles Laici, realizes lay ministry is not an optional extra but an essential core of church life. Yesterday in celebrating the thirty fifth anniversary of another alumni of Belvedere, Frank Duff, I suggested that Duff might be a model of robust and at times critical lay leadership in the church. The church needs courageous lay women and men who take seriously their baptismal calling to follow Christ. Even if our seminaries were overflowing with vocations, the particular contribution of lay people imbued with the spirit of Frank Duff, Edel Quinn and Alfie Lambe to mention but a few, and actively immersed in every detail of church life, is an essential element in witnessing to Gospel values in today’s society. It is not an optional extra!

A vocation to the priesthood is all about God’s call; God’s initiative, God’s intervention into our very broken and wounded world to call one of our own to follow him. A vocation is not just the call, it is also our response. For you Jesuits, this is your first Ordination here in Ireland since 2009. While there are a few in formation, like the diocesan landscape, the religious landscape will look very different in the coming years. In recent years there has been a notable increase in the average age when a seminarian might commence formation. A study in 2013 curiously named ‘The Lure of the Seminary’  commissioned by the Council for Research and Development at Maynooth explored the typical seminary routes seminarians took before entering seminary. A similar study back in 1980 , the year before I entered the seminary myself, discovered that 59% of the first year seminarians were then between 17-19 years of age. I was among that group. The picture is different now; 71% of the same first year pool are over the age of 25. The renewal of the Irish Church will be strengthened by the determination of men who see priesthood as a second life choice and respond generously, bolstered and supported by a loving family alongside great colleagues and friends from their former workplaces. Today’s culture needs the conviction and life experience of these ‘second vocations’. I deeply respect the genuineness, the integrity, the authenticity of men who have experienced life in the world and now completely identify with Jesus’ reply to Pilate in John’s gospel: “mine is not a kingdom of this world” .

It’s this kingdom that Shane Daly signs up to promoting this day. A kingdom of justice, love and peace; a kingdom where the hungry are fed, the migrant is welcomed, the shivering are clothed and the sick are visited. What a different society we would have if we all lived and operated out of this template? There would be no homeless on the streets, there would be no carnage on our roads, there would be no lockdown in our cities because we would all be living authentically. But it’s only a wish, because we live in the world and the society from where Shane Daly’s vocation has been nurtured and from where it has matured. We live, aware of our brokenness and weakness, our inadequacies and insecurities and we place them all in the hands of our Lord.

The Feast of Christ the King comes at the very end of the church year, because of its importance and significance, reminding us that Jesus is Lord of our lives, every bit of them; we belong to him. We can’t be Pontius Pilate types who change our colours or spots depending on whose company we are in. What we say with our lips is connected to our hearts. This is what living our baptismal calling means. This is what being a priest means today. This is what it means to be authentic, to be a person of integrity. We recall that lovely phrase coined by Shane’s fellow Jesuit Pope Francis who at his first Chrism Mass asked priests “to be shepherds living with the smell of sheep” . I am not sure Shane will find it easy to find grazing ground for sheep around Belvedere, but he will have no problem finding the poor, the marginalized and the broken. We focus our prayers now on Shane as I question him on the responsibilities that building this kingdom entails …

Introduction:

How delighted I am to be the one invited to officiate at the Ordination of Shane Daly this afternoon here in Belvedere. Shane has very definite Kildare & Leighlin roots; born in Newbridge, he grew up in the Moorefield end of the town, attended Scoil Mhuire and later the Patrician College.

He even spent four years as a seminarian for the Diocese in Maynooth and while he discerned then that diocesan priesthood was not for him, the nudge or the draw towards the priesthood certainly never left him, as today he is ordained a Jesuit.

He has been on the Jesuit journey for the past number of years; his novitiate in Birmingham, teaching in Coláiste Iognáid in Galway, then over to Loyola Hall in Liverpool, before spending the past four years in Toronto. Of course as the staff and students of Belvedere will attest, he has been a valued member of staff in the college since September last. How appropriate that his Ordination takes place here in Belvedere College Chapel. I’m reliably told this is the first ordination of a priest in Belvedere in 183 years, in other words, the first ordination ever here in Belvedere!

It’s great to have so many of Shane’s Jesuit family around him today, led by the Provincial, Fr. Tom Leyden and the Belvedere Rector, Fr. Derek Cassidy. I include the many concelebrants, Jesuit and Diocesan, who join with us today, supporting and praying for Shane.

Especially welcome is Shane’s mother Ann and his two sisters Clare and Elaine, as well as the many members of his extended family, friends and former colleagues from his teaching days in St. Munchin’s and in Oberstown.

Christ the King seems of itself a contradiction in terms? And yet Christ the King, inspires us to feed the hungry, to welcome the stranger and to visit the sick; in our faith experience – Christ the King, offers us a model, a template, an example to imitate … for falling short and failing, for being scattered through the mist and darkness of life, we pray for forgiveness …