The Bishop's homily for the Mass of the ordination to the Priesthood of Fr. Paul Smith


On Saturday the 26th of January, 2019, memorial day of the holy bishops, Ss. Timothy and Titus, the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Patrick McKinney, ordained to the holy Priesthood the Rev. Mr. Paul Smith, former student at the seminary of the Pontifical College of S. Bede, outside Rome. The following is the homily given by the Bishop at this event.

"Paul, from the scripture readings for this Feast of Saints Timothy and Titus, two disciples of the Lord and close companions of your namesake, Paul, I’ve chosen these challenging words. They were originally addressed by Paul to Timothy, but today I address them to you:

“You are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord…”

"Paul, as you know from your studies at the Beda College in Rome and, before then, for some twenty years, as a committed Catholic in the world of engineering work, the importance of Christian witness is a really central thread running through all of the Church’s teaching. So, rather than quoting lots of sources, perhaps one short quotation from St. Pope John Paul II might serve to encapsulate much of this teaching and illustrate what I mean. In a most encouraging document called, The Mission of Christ the Redeemer, he said this:

“People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission. Christ whose mission we follow is the supreme witness and the model of all Christian witness.” (The Mission of Christ the Redeemer, 42)

"That was written some years ago, but how increasingly true this is in our society, that we look for authenticity in others, for real witness rather than mere words. We expect authoritative words to be backed up by personal witness, so that they are credible. So what are some of the qualities of a good witness? In a court of law we call on witnesses because we need their help in affirming or finding the truth. So witnesses are people who give evidence about what they have seen or heard or lived, at first hand. But being a good witness goes well beyond the capacity to recall things accurately; it involves the whole person. Cross examination or questioning of the witness tests their integrity, their strength of character and their convictions because, under questioning, they can be left feeling exposed and vulnerable. In much the same way, being a Christian witness involves the whole person, and very few of us, if any, would say that bearing witness to Christ these days is easy, that it makes no demands upon us. Bearing witness to Christ, striving to be his faithful disciples today, comes at a cost.

"Paul, your own public witness here today, to give your life in service of the Lord as His priest, reminds all of us that we are each, in the varying circumstances of our lives, also called to bear witness to Christ. So who can we look to for guidance and help with this? As Pope John Paul II reminded us, we look to the person of Jesus himself, because He is the supreme witness to the Father. Why? Because, as Jesus teaches us, he knew the Father uniquely: ‘No one has ever seen God, it is the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known’ (Jn. 8: 28). When Jesus spoke he was testifying to the Father, ‘I do nothing of my own accord. What I say is what the Father has taught me’ (Jn. 8: 28). The same could be said about his actions. Above all, Jesus made the Father known, not only by word and actions, but by his completely authentic life; his attitudes and values; his willingness to serve rather than be served, his patience, courage and self-giving. In all these ways Jesus bore witness to the love which bound him to the Father and to all whom the Father gave him. He was the Father’s supreme witness because he was truly transparent, one with the Father. So, in a real sense, we might say that the Father was able to give his testimony, in and through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit who unites them. So Jesus could truly say, ‘the Father and I are one’ (Jn. 10: 30).

"There is then only one perfect witness to the Father, Jesus himself. But, in and through our baptism, we are each called to allow Christ Jesus to bear witness in and through us, through our words and actions, our strengths and our weaknesses. Paul, I know that in your pastoral ministry as a deacon you have enjoyed visiting, listening to and getting to know and be close to people; you have liked to ‘walk alongside’ people and to encourage them. I pray that, in your ministry as a priest, you will continue to bear witness to Christ, whose servant you are, by walking closely with the people to whom you are sent. Strive always, with God’s help, to be authentic in the witness you bear to them. May your preaching and teaching not be just words, but rather opportunities to share humbly with others your own personal knowledge of God’s love, of how you have encountered Christ, in your prayer, in times of Adoration, in the Sacraments, especially in the Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in and through the lives of others whom you meet. Share with them, not just by words but by the manner of your life, how Christ has called you into discipleship, and how your life as a deacon, and shortly as a priest, has been humbled and enhanced through your experience of the generous and dedicated Christian witness of the people you come into contact with. Above all, continually ask the Holy Spirit, given to you in Baptism, Confirmation, and again today in your ordination as a priest, to help you to become ever more truly authentic in your witness to Christ, and so increasingly more credible to those who meet you. As St Paul reminds us, the power given by the Holy Spirit is essential to Christian witness: ‘Nobody is able to say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12: 3).

"Paul, I say again, ‘You are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord’. I know it’s not an easy time to be a priest, or for any of us to be committed Catholics. Collectively, we have much to be deeply ashamed of in the behaviour of some of our priests and in the failures to deal with it on the part of some of our leaders. I know it’s tempting to want to keep our heads down and to avoid confrontation. It’s tempting too as priests and deacons not to wear our clerical collars out in the public square, out of shame and embarrassment, but we are the Lord’s servants and witnesses, and our public witness to Christ is especially needed at this time. Paul, be courageous in the living out of your priestly ministry; may you find real strength and encouragement in these words of St Paul from the first reading: “bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy”!

"Paul, I’m going to ask everyone here present to pray now for a moment in silence that the Lord, who has begun this good work in you, will continue to bring it to completion through a long and blessed and happy and fruitful priestly ministry. Amen!"