Bishop Martin’s Homily at the Diocesan Chrism Mass – 27 May 2021

Bishop Martin’s Homily at the Diocesan Chrism Mass

Cathedral of St. Patrick & St. Felim, Cavan

Thursday 27th May 2021


Introduction and Welcome

I welcome all who have joined us this evening. I welcome those of you are with us via the Webcam from parishes across the diocese and to say to you that for this Chrism Mass our priests are gathered –  may I say are well scattered safely around the Cathedral – to renew our commitment to our priesthood and we are here to bless the oils of the Sick, Catechumens and to consecrate the Chrism with which we celebrate the Sacraments of the Sick, Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination, respectively.  We are joined by our Deacons and all the people who will participate and enhance our Liturgy in proclaiming the Word of God, and with music and singing.  I welcome Bishop Emeritus Leo and Msgr. Liam our Vicar General, conscious that this is a long awaited gathering for our priests and the diocese of Kilmore.  The last Chrism Mass took place on 29th March 2018 just over three years ago. 

Our readings for our Chrism Mass this evening, highlight ‘the spirit of the Lord among us’, of how God is with us in Jesus and of how the Word of God itself, “this text is being fulfilled today, even as we listen.”  


Firstly, as this is my first time meeting all the priests and deacons together, I want to say thanks to you, lay, including religious and cleric, for your welcome to me.  We would like to have representatives from all our parishes here this evening, however, in view of Covid-19 and wanting to keep people safe we will wait until the next time, next year hopefully, ”a year of favour’[1] into the future.  We are glad to bring everyone, who cannot be here physically, together via the Webcam.  You are most welcome.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your practical, personal and spiritual support for all our priests, deacons, religious and pastoral personnel.  I am conscious that I have come here ‘from a long way’ and that I am in new role in the midst of a pandemic crisis. 

As I am getting settled while still on a learning curve, I am discovering that the landscape here is different; I must be open to the unknown of roads of endless ups and downs, twists and turns around any number of hills and hollows, many of which form beautiful lakes which has me thinking – I should have a boat!  At this Chrism Mass, my first, I speak, in particular, to the priests, deacons, those in active pastoral ministry and conscious that everyone, all our parishioners are called to ministry in the priesthood of the People of God.

Reflecting on the reality of the pandemic.

It has been a tough past 18 months for everyone and for those in ministry, priests, deacons, pastoral workers, and all involved in parish ministry.  The reality is that we as priests, deacons, pastoral personnel have been out of real contact with each other and with people.  We have been isolated, anxious, lonely, fearful of Covid-19, feeling a loss of identity as priest, deacon, pastoral minister.  The role of pastoral leader, its busyness and what we thought was essential work seemed to wane into insignificance and so some are still wondering what we are to do and what we will be doing into the future.  At times we are left feeling helpless and we really missed the interaction with other people, with parishioners.  We are concerned about the future, the system seemed to be broken – it was broken, it took Covid-19 to reveal the brokenness.  That is our reality – the role of the pastoral minister, priest, deacon is changing and that brings its challenges for everyone.  Maybe, the invitation to go on a synodal path here in the Irish Church[2] and throughout the world is coming at the right time.  Synodality is the invitation to listen to each other, lay and cleric, to take account of what we hear and discern or sift out its content guided by the Holy Spirit so as to find our way forward.  It is a walking together as the People of God.

During this pandemic, we discovered the technology of Webcam, radio link, and social media as ways of keeping in contact with each other in faith, in particular, with the Word of God.  Such technology has kept us in contact, though it is not the same and we know that the celebration of liturgy needs the participation of people.  Hopefully, we may, on our return to public worship, discover a new appreciation of gathering around the Table of the Lord for Mass.  The immediate challenge is to communicate to people who may be reluctant to reengage, to let people know, for example, how many we can accommodate safely in our churches.

Learnings and questions arising from the pandemic.

There have been learnings over the past year and half or so and we are continuing to realise that for some we can be done without – as priests we are not the only ones called to leadership.  Leaders have emerged in our local communities who have been of tremendous practical help to neighbours and of course we have a new appreciation for health care and frontline workers.  They have been the bright lights, the champions who have taken initiatives, helped out, the new faces who in the spirit of our 1st Rd.[3] from Isaiah are bringing comfort to those who mourn, joy/garlands, gladness and they have earned our rightful praise.  It took a crisis to bring such leaders to the fore in our communities.  Now we need to search them out, acknowledge and celebrate their efforts.

We have had quiet times over the past while, time to reflect, to pray, to read as we have ‘not been busy’.  It has afforded us and continues to enable us to take stock of all that we have been busy with in the past and to reassess how we fulfil our role as priest, deacon, pastoral leader and parishioner.  Perhaps it is about more time in prayer, drawing closer to the one who has called us, Jesus, the one who is there all the time.  St. Augustine in the Office of Readings, yesterday, was reassuring us that ‘the Lord is very near’[4].  In our renewal of priestly commitment[5] this evening, we as priests are reminded to be united with Jesus.

I mentioned earlier that we have had more time with the scriptures in the absence of gathering for the Eucharist – how is the Word of God speaking to us in new ways?  In our scriptures this evening we hear that “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me”….as in our 1st Rd.[6] and in our Gospel[7] thereby reminding us of our calling.  Also, we have heard this evening the phrase “This text is being fulfilled even as you listen[8].  As we reflect upon this Old Testament text from Isaiah given emphasis by Jesus in our Gospel, we must ask; Who are the new poor arising from this pandemic? Who are the captives – not just those in lockdown but those in parts of the world where the health systems are under-developed?  Who are the blind? Are we coming to new realisation of what matters most in life, of what is really essential, what of our interdependent relationship with each other and with creation? And who are the downtrodden today? –  the victims of an economic system biased towards the wealthy.  The pandemic has revealed a broken world.  Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti states “the brutal and unforeseen blow of this uncontrolled pandemic forced us to recover our concern for human beings, for everyone, rather than for the benefit of a few”[9].

Staying with our current reality.

The Bishop of Killaloe, + Fintan Monahan[10]writes that we must stay with the unease, the uncertainty.  I believe we must work out ‘is it our faith that is keeping us going or a loyalty to a system, an institution?’  People may or may not come back to what we have now.  In fact, we must grieve for what we had.  Dr Jessie Rogers, now Dean of Theology in Maynooth, reflecting, somewhat prophetically in the February 2020 Furrow on the prophet Jeremiah emphasises that we are invited to “a genuine grieving over what we are losing[11].   She alerts us “not to push through too quickly to a solution or complacently deny the crisis[12].  We will have to grieve, reflect, and take time to move forward.  Then, in time we can reach out to those who emerged as leaders during this pandemic crisis, call them, be the means of linking them together.  Fintan Monahan highlights that we are living in a time of obvious change and what is here now will not last.  He points to the many ecclesiastical ruins that are around our countryside.  This may leave us with a feeling of sadness.  However, ways of living out the Gospel message through the ages have come and gone. 

Remaining hopeful.

We are like that boat out on the waters without an engine relying on the wind, trying to orient our sails and at times doing our best to pull along with the oars, not knowing where we will find land!  Cardinal Mario Grech who is leading the process of Synodality for the Church worldwide, uses the image of a boat stating that we are not to be preoccupied with building the boat, the structures, rather he invites us to be inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and ‘long for the endless immensity of the sea”[13].  In other words, let us get onto the water, ‘put out into the deep’ (Lk. 5:4) – a theme familiar to those who have put their hearts into pastoral ministry here in Kilmore Diocese.  We are called to once again in faith, in accord with the themes of the worldwide synod, to communion and participation so as to allow the possibilities of our mission to emerge. 

We must remain hopeful, the structures, may disappear, the buildings may fall into ruin – what remains – is our hope in “the Lord’s year of favour”!!!!  We are learning – from Covid-19 our teacher – that it is more about being rather than doing, finding a balance between busyness, and caring for oneself and others, while remaining close to the Lord.  Perhaps, we as priests in parishes can move to delegate responsibility and empower leadership in others – we must! 

We can begin by acknowledging the loss of what we have had, grieve for it and in doing that we can reach out to those who have suffered loss, the new poor who are enduring economic loss, those who have had their health compromised and of course, those who have been bereaved of close family, friends.  We have much need to grieve and to acknowledge those who have died, not just due to Covid-19.  We have not been able to grieve with the comfort of the ritual of funerals and the support they provide.  We remember and give thanks for all our Faithful Departed.  In that regard, I would like to remember all those priests who have died[14] since the last Chrism Mass on 29th March 2018 in our Eucharistic Prayer this evening.


In conclusion, we are experiencing tough times.  We, in the Irish Church, by going on a synodal pathway, beginning in each diocese, including Kilmore this October, have come again to a place where we realise the value of listening, to ourselves, to others so as to discover our calling to ministry and reconnect with the hearth of our ministry as people, priests, deacons, religious and pastoral ministers.  We are called to be in communion, by way of the active participation of everyone so that together we can be on mission in the name of Jesus Christ.

Words of Thanks.

Thanks to all involved in preparing our liturgy, all who have participated online and in person in proclaiming the Word and enhancing our celebration with music and hymns.  Thanks to, Bishop Emeritus Leo for his presence and ongoing support, to Msgr. Liam for his work as Diocesan Administrator and his role as Vicar General, to all the priests, deacons, religious, pastoral personnel for your ministry and to you, our parishioners for your support


[1] Isaiah 61:2


[3] Isaiah 61:1-3.6.8-9

[4] St. Augustine, Always rejoice in the Lord, 2nd Reading, Office of Readings, 26th May 2021.

[5] Chrism Mass, The Roman Missal © 2010, ICEL.

[6] Isaiah 61:1

[7] Luke 4:16-21

[8] Luke 4:21

[9] Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti (3 October 2020), 33

[10] + Fintan Monahan, One Flock, One Shepherd from ‘I Am With You Still’, Faith Reflections from a Covid-19 World (Veritas, 2021)

[11] Dr Jessie Rogers, To Tear Down and to Build Up, The Furrow, February 2020,

[12] ibid

[13] Cardinal Mario Grech, (General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops), Towards a Synodal Irish Church, (3 February 2021)

[14] Priests of Kilmore Diocese who died since the last Chrism Mass in 2018; Andrew Gerard Kearns 2018, John O’Donnell 2018, Micheál Quinn 2018, Felim Kelly 2019, Dan Sheridan 2019, P.J. McManus 2020, John Quinn 2020, P.J. Corrigan 2020, Eugene Clarke 2021, Fintan McKiernan 2021, Bernard Fitzpatrick 2021.  May they rest in peace.