Bishop Barbarito’s Homily - Permanent Diaconate Ordination, Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola, September 12, 2015
We are blessed with another class of fine men who will be ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Diocese of Palm Beach this morning. John Paul, Normand, José and Raymond have prepared for this day during many years of study, prayer and concentrated hours of formal class. By their teaching and preaching, they will be ministers of the word of God to all of us in a world that needs that word more than anything else. Most especially they will be ministers of that word by their living it among us.
My brothers, I am grateful to you for your willingness to be open to the call of the Lord and to take up this role of service within the life of the Church. I am grateful to your wives and families for their support and sacrifices during your preparation for today and as they will assist you in the ministry you are to carry out. I want to express deep gratitude to Deacon Dennis Demes for his dedication and competence in directing the program of diaconate formation in which you were involved. I also thank Father Alfredo Hernandez who has only been with you for a short time but has competently and enthusiastically taken on the role of directing the program of formation assisted now by Deacon Dennis. We have in the Diocese of Palm Beach an extraordinary program of diaconate formation centered at the Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul and our ordinands are testimony to it. It is one of the finest in the country and I thank Monsignor David Toups, Rector of the Seminary, as well as all those involved in these men's formation.
We are also blessed because our four ordinands represent part of the great treasure of cultural diversity that encompasses our Diocese. Normand is the first man from Haiti to be ordained as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Palm Beach. José is the first man from the Philippines to be ordained as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Palm Beach. The Haitian and Filipino communities in our midst are great testimonies of living faith which is well represented by Normand and José. Now I don't know what to say about John Paul and Raymond since they are both from New York. Being from New York myself, I think we may have to be careful in their regard. You may recall that when I was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach, I recounted the story of some men from Brooklyn who passed on and appeared at the pearly gates of heaven before St. Peter asking to be admitted. St. Peter anxiously went to the Lord and informed Him of their presence and asked the Lord what he was to do. The Lord said to Peter that he should not have any concern as God's mercy was for all and he should rejoice that the men from Brooklyn were there. At the Lord’s direction, St. Peter admitted them. However, the next day he went to the Lord with the frantic message that his concern was well-founded as now they were gone. The Lord replied that He could not believe that the men from Brooklyn were no longer with them but Peter informed the Lord it was not only the men but the pearly gates as well. Seriously, the presence of these men from New York and the many from that state as well as many other backgrounds in our Diocese adds to the richness of the people we are.
Today is a fitting occasion to celebrate this Ordination to the Diaconate. It is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary who truly is a model for all vocations and ministries within the Church. Celebrating her name gives us reason to reflect upon the importance of the call by name which God gave to Mary, to these men who will be shortly ordained and to each and every one of us in our lives. The biblical notion of name is a very important one for it understands that when we know someone's name, it is much more than simply a matter of identifying one person from another. To know and to pronounce someone's name is to enter into a particular relationship with that person in a manner that mysteriously evokes who the person is. In the Old Testament, the name of God assumed a preeminent importance among His people. Since a name carries the power of the person, the name of God was to be spoken with respect and given the same reverence as God Himself. In the New Testament, the name of Jesus Christ was equal in holiness and power to the name of God Himself. Jesus' name gave power to heal and perform miracles, to forgive sins, to exorcise and to baptize. The superiority of Jesus’ name is well testified to by St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians. Here, Paul proclaims, "God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:9-11).
Mary's name has a close significance to the name of the Lord. By knowing Mary we get to know her Son and to enter into a real relationship with Him. At the beginning of the Gospel of Saint Luke we are told that the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin and that the virgin's name was Mary” (Lk 1:27). She was greeted as one who had the Lord with her and who was highly favored by God. From that moment on Mary is the one who exemplifies what a true relationship with her Son is all about and who treasured His words and actions in her heart. She proclaimed her Son by living His word and that is the great lesson she gives to you, my brothers, who are to be ordained this morning. Mary is called by name into an intimate relationship with the Lord and she responds accordingly. All of us, those to be ordained as well as their families and all here present today, are called by name into that same relationship.
As I recently read the article in the Florida Catholic about our four ordinands, I was very impressed by how each one recounted how he heard the call of the Lord to the ministry of the diaconate within his life. Each call was different but each call was personal. It was a call not only to a ministry of service but one to an intimacy with the Lord as the means by which that service would be carried out. The recognition of this call is what empowered prophet Jeremiah in the first reading today. My brothers, it is essential for you to realize that your ministry will only be as effective as your relationship is with the Lord. The more you daily hear His call, by name, the more you will be able to remind those you serve that they too are called to an intimate relationship with the Lord. It is this personal relationship which is at the core of what the joy of life is all about.
As you carry out your ministry, in union with the Lord as did Mary, you must also do so in a way that reminds all those you serve that they have a name – a name that makes a difference to the Lord. Again, our ordinands remind us of the wonderful diversity of various cultural backgrounds that is our Diocese. We have a multitude of people who represent all lands and especially the poor and the vulnerable. It is essential for you to remind everyone that their name has been chosen by God and that Christ died for each and every one of them. This is what gives them meaning and dignity. After the Resurrection of Christ, Mary had a special ministry to the apostles. She was the one who shared with them all that she treasured in her heart. While the apostles, until the coming of the Holy Spirit, were still confused and afraid, it was Mary who held them together by name reminding them of who they were and what their mission was all about. She stands as a wonderful model as to what the meaning of ministry is all about. It is not in celebrating sacraments but in celebrating sacraments with faith and devotion to lead others into a deeper relationship with the Lord.
My brothers as you are about to undertake, by name, a unique role of service within the Church, look always to Mary and she will point you to Christ whom you will announce and proclaim. The words I will speak to you when I hand you the book of the Gospel today are words fully lived by Mary, "Receive the book of the Gospels whose bearer you are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach." By living Holy Orders in this manner you will continue to respond to the call by name which God has given to you and to support others in that same call to them.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
September 25, 2015