The Bishop's homily for the Mass of the ordination to the Diaconate of the Rev. Liam Carpenter
On Friday the 18th of January, 2019, the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Patrick McKinney, ordained to the Diaconate the Rev. Mr. Liam Carpenter, former monk of the Order of S. Benedict at Farnborough Abbey, and student at the seminary of the College of S. Mary, Oscott. The ordination took place at the parish church of S. Bernadette, in Scunthorpe, in the presence of several members of the clergy of the Diocese, from other dioceses around the country and from Farnborough Abbey. The following is the homily given by the Bishop at this event.
"Liam, through your time with the Benedictines, your years of preparation and formation both at St. Mary’s College, Oscott, and through the experience you have also gained from your pastoral placements in various parishes of the diocese and elsewhere, and now here in St. Bernadette’s, you know that the vocation of the deacon is to remind us all, children, lay men and women, priests, religious, abbots and bishop, that we are all to become ever more completely the servants of Christ Jesus, who came among us, ‘not to be served, but to serve’. As a deacon you are mandated by the Church to teach and to bear witness to this in these ways: in your own life-witness, in your preaching and teaching, in the manner of your service at the altar, in the manner of your ministry to those to whom you are sent and who are put in your care, and especially in the way that you show your desire to reach out with love and compassion to the poor, the needy and the marginalised. Much of what lies behind this mandate is not new to you and I recognise your experience of sharing God’s love and compassion in prison ministry. Nevertheless, the prayer of ordination to the diaconate, which I will speak over you in God’s name this evening, does nothing to ease the high expectations of God’s holy Church for your diaconal ministry. Because, as we will hear in that prayer, you are being called to ‘excel in every virtue, in love that is sincere, in concern for the sick and the poor, in unassuming authority, in self-discipline and in holiness of life.’
"It’s surely a very daunting task for you, for any of us, for we all have our own frailties and our own wounds to bring to the Lord for his healing; and although this experience of our own frailties can serve to help us to be more understanding of the frailties and woundedness of others, there still remains the question, how could you, Liam, how could anyone of us, take on this calling if we had only our own life experience and strength to draw upon? It would be impossible; but, as we know, nothing is impossible for God. This evening you remind us, Liam, that it is only if we have the desire to serve the Lord, to be open to the working of the Holy Spirit within us, and so to be an instrument of His love, care, compassion and healing, it is only if we place ourselves humbly in his hands, that you, or anyone of us, could possibly offer ourselves as his servants! That’s why you have shared with us in this Mass some very heartening passages of God’s Word which give you the encouragement to make this life-long offering of yourself in His service as a Deacon, and later, please God, as a Priest. In the same way as the prophet Jeremiah, at the very beginning of his service of God, allowed God’s word to shape his ministry, so you recognise that your heart, and our hearts too, need to be open enough to be convinced of God’s personal love and care for each of us, and so you want us, alongside you this most special evening, to hear God speak those reassuring words: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…Go now to those to whom I send you and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to protect you’. As part of your ordination, Liam, you will be presented with the Book of the Gospels to show that, as a deacon at Mass, you will be called to proclaim the gospel. But, as your Bishop, the Church asks that I challenge you with these words: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practise what you teach”. Your life and ministry as a deacon demands that you are not just someone who is open to the power of God’s Word in the scriptures; but that you are called, like Jeremiah, to allow that Word to shape your heart, your life and ministry, so that you can become for others an authentic herald of the Gospel. As Timothy expresses it in the 2nd reading, ‘be an example to all the believers in the way you speak and behave, and in your love, your faith and your purity…Take great care about what you do and what you teach; always do this, and in this way you will save both yourself and those who listen to you’
"In the early Church the deacon was often the bishop’s eyes and ears, not in the sense that he was a spy on behalf of the bishop, but rather because the deacon ministered to, and so knew personally, the poorest and those most in need, both within and outside of the Christian community. That’s also why the deacon was given the role of reading the prayers of intercession at the Eucharist. Why? Because, as one who was expected to be working at the margins of the pastoral coalface of the Christian community, it was the deacon who knew who and what most needed to be prayed for by all in the community. This is also why, for the distribution of Holy Communion, the deacon is the one who administers the chalice containing the Blood of Christ. The chalice or cup, which is often associated with suffering (we speak of ‘the cup of suffering’), highlights the deacon’s calling to minister closely to those who are most suffering and in need both within and outside of the Christian community.
"The act of prostration which you, Liam, will make this evening, when we call upon for the saints to pray for you, symbolises your submission to Christ, your gift of self, your willingness to be His servant-disciple, and to allow your heart, mind and will to be shaped and more deeply configured to Him. May what we see you do this evening remind us of, and give fresh encouragement to, the calling of each of us to encounter God’s personal love, to hear and respond afresh to His call to follow him as his servant-disciples, and to go out to others as his Missionary Disciples bearing witness to that love. As you exercise your ministry of diaconate, under the guidance of Mgr Tom here in St Bernadette’s, please bear witness to and help everyone here in the parish and in the schools to deepen their understanding of what it is to be a disciple of the Lord. May the Lord, who has called you to this ministry of diaconate, be always at the heart of your prayer and of everything you seek to do in his name and in his power. AMEN."