Bishop Fintan’s homily served as a great inspiration to those present at Br Malachy’s ordination last Saturday. Drawing on the Gospel of the day, the writings of St Paul, Cistercian writer Thomas Merton, and other sources, he expounded upon the role of the deacon, and the importance of doing all one can to continue serving the Church and monastic community. We are delighted to be able to share with you Bishop Fintan’s homily for Revd Malachy’s Diaconate Ordination.
Homily for Diaconate Ceremony of Brother Malachy Thompson, Mount St. Joseph’s Abbey, Roscrea, 7th of April 2018
A huge welcome to everyone as we gather in the this magnificent setting of Mount St. Joseph’s today to celebrate the ordination to the Diaconate of Brother Malachy. Welcome his family, parents, Elizabeth and John, sister Jean and niece Leone & friends. The family, friends and community from Dublin & the many places Malachy served in his work prior to coming here join with us in prayer and in spirit today. Welcome to Bro. Malachy’s own community here in Mount St. Joseph’s and to the many local Roscrea people who gather to worship here on a regular basis.
Today, Brother Malachy is to be ordained a deacon. This is different to being a permanent deacon. He is being ordained a transitory deacon, which, apart from being is a stepping stone or a milestone on the way to being a priest, all going well, DV – is a full time-honoured ministry in the Church in itself.
The term Deacon is an office or a role or a ministry in the Church that is generally associated with service of some kind. There are different traditions in Christian denominations in relation to diaconate and in the Catholic Tradition the office of deacon is part of the clerical state. The word “deacon” is derived from the Greek word diákonos (διάκονος), which is a standard ancient Greek word meaning “servant”, “waiting-man”, “minister”, or “messenger”. One of the interpretations as to its meaning or etymology is that it literally means “through the dust”, referring to the dust raised by the busy servant or messenger. What a great image for Bro. Malachy today. It is our hope that Malachy has the sleeves rolled up and is ready to blaze a trail to raise much dust in his sacred duties in this oasis of prayer, devotion and spirituality among the Cistercian community and all the many who visit here seeking spiritual sustenance in Mount St. Jospeph’s!
Proud Dublin Roots
Bro Malachy is a man of many interests, talents, skills and no doubt he will continue to use them in his role of service here in Mount St. Joseph’s. Being a Dub, a proud native of Finglas one would have thought that he might be a bit of an exile here in Offaly. However, being a passionate football supporter – he’s certainly a happy exile who quietly, but not gloatingly boasts of his native counties outstanding exploits. Maybe in his new role as deacon he might be generously ecumenical in sharing his prayers to the 5 counties of the diocese that he lives in just now. Maybe we should make that a condition of ordination!!! The home Church of Bro Malachy in Finglas is The Church of the Annunciation. The feast of the Annunciation is normally celebrated on March 25th, but this year with the clash with Holy Week it is to be celebrated on Monday next. No doubt that rich theological and spiritual theme of the Annunciation and all contained therein has been contemplated much by Brother Malachy. Today we acknowledge and celebrate the ‘yes’ to vocation of Bro Malachy who like our Lady has responded so generously and with great courage, willingness and openess.
The office of Deacon
It is generally assumed that the office of deacon originated in the selection of seven men by the apostles, among them Stephen, to assist with the charitable work of the early church as recorded in Acts 6.
Scriptural Qualities of a Deacon
A biblical description of the qualities required of a bishop and deacon can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13
The office of a bishop
It is particularly interesting what is said of a bishop:
A bishop then must be blameless … vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; … Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous..
(No pressure on the bishop then…!)
Scripture is not as prescriptive on the deacon in the same text:
For they that have used the office of a deacon will purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Bro. Malachy has already given a lifetime of service in his work, business, in relation to family, community and in here in Mount St. Joseph’s. He has served and continues to serve with spontaneous generosity – Remarkably and most generously he has been called to and has freely responded to that call to continue this at a time when in some walks of life he would be scaling down, but the opposite is true with this generous spirit! As deacon, we will look to Rev. Malachy to be a man of Prayer, a man who having spent prolonged times of profound communion with the Lord in adoration and like Moses will be able to share the radiance of the presence of the Lord to and with those to whom he will minister. A big part of Malachy’s ministry as deacon will be around the word of God. As deacon, he will be called upon in the service of preaching and teaching the Word of God. Being a friend of his for some years on different social media platforms – Malachy has been doing this very effectively for many years. I thoroughly enjoyed his posts during the Easter on the bells in the Monastery and look forward to his Merton Monday posts each week. Long may Bro Malachy continue to proclaim the Word of God in all that he does!
In the word of God today we are reminded by St. Paul:
I do not boast of preaching the Gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it!
St. Paul continues in that passage to remind us that it’s a delight and privilege to preach and proclaim the Word of God.
St. Mark in today’s Easter Gospel continues that rich theme at the heart of what we celebrate by encouraging his disciples to “Go out and preach the Good News to all creation”.
In looking forward to Bro Malachy’s weekly posts on Merton’s Monday – I’m reminded of yet another rich aspect of the faith that we celebrate tomorrow with Divine Mercy Sunday. The classic definition by Thomas Merton of God as Trinity as Mercy, within Mercy, within Mercy captures much of the feast we celebrate tomorrow one of the high points of this Easter season and will be at the heart of the message that Rev. Malachy will bring to those to whom he will continue to minister.
Being a fool for Christ’s sake
The Maynooth diaconate class that I was a member of were ordained Deacons on April fools’ day in 1990. The night before we were ordained the director of formation during a time of prayer called on us to be a fool for Christ’s sake, from the phrase of St Paul. That is certainly a big part of what Malachy is called to do, literally being a fool for Christ’s sake in preaching God’s word even when and especially when it is not popular or in tune with the ways of the world. It may be no small coincidence that this year Easter Sunday was April Fool’s day, and in some ways it captures the reality of our faith that Jesus turned things on it’s head, making a fool and a liar of death and evil and suffering by turning it on its head, gaining victory through the miracle of the Resurrection – the heart of our faith.
The Parish Priest of Carna in Connemara, an tAth. Pádraig Standún captures this so brilliantly in is his classic poem Domhnach Cásga in the verse:
Phléasc sé amach as an tuama,
Chas sé an bás droim ar ais,
D’oscail sé geataí na bhFlaitheas,
Thug cuireadh dúinn leanacht isteach.
May the hope and delight contained in those verses that we have been celebrating with great delight in these octave days, fill us all with renewed hope, courage and faith!
Congratulations and every blessing to Bro. Malachy, his family friends and community on this happy day. We rejoice & celebrate with you & promise to keep you in the prayers for the generous ministry of service you are about to take on. May the Lord reward you for your dedication, commitment and love of the Lord and continue to bless you in abundance from gifts of the fruits of the Risen Lord!