Monthly Archives: January 2020

New Bishop Appointed

NEW BISHOP OF ACHONRY

Today, January 27th 2020, Pope Francis announces the appointment of Fr Paul Dempsey, Parish Priest of Newbridge, Co. Kildare and a priest of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, as Bishop of Achonry.  Locally the announcement was relayed by the Papal Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, at Mass in The Cathedral of The Annunciation and St Nathy, Ballaghderreen.  Archbishop Okolo celebrated Mass in the Cathedral to mark Catholic Schools Week 2020.  The cathedral welcomed pupils, teachers, members of Boards of Management from the parishes of our diocese as well as local parishioners of Ballaghderreen and neighbouring parishes.

This is a day of great joy for the diocese who has awaited this appointment for almost two years.  Fr Dermot Meehan, Parish Priest of Swinford, has during that time led the diocese as its Diocesan Administrator and we are all very grateful to him for his leadership and dedication to that role.

The diocese wishes Bishop-Elect Paul Dempsey every blessing and good wish as he prepares for ordination and to live among us as our bishop and shepherd.  We congratulate his family, parishioners in Newbridge and the Bishop, priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, assuring them that our new bishop will be welcomed with joy and assisted in full in this new and blessed chapter of his life.

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STATEMENTS RELEASED

 

FR DERMOT MEEHAN, DIOCESAN ADMINISTRATOR ACHONRY

Twelve years ago today, on 27th January 2008, Bishop Brendan Kelly was ordained in this Cathedral as Bishop of Achonry. During the ordination ceremony that day, the text of a prayer from our Irish tradition was sung in a musical setting specially composed for the occasion by Ronan McDonagh from Kiltimagh. This traditional prayer was said by generations in the past for the visit of the priest or the bishop, and the text reads:

Is céim go brách linn, is abháir sócháis agus réim ghairdis dár sláinte gur tháinig teachtaire Chríost in ár ndháil.

It is a great honour for us and a reason for rejoicing and a cause of joy for our salvation that Christ’s messenger has come into our assembly.

On 27th January 2020, the words of that prayer seem particularly appropriate as we welcome the announcement of a new bishop for Achonry. Today, Fr Paul Dempsey comes into our assembly as Christ’s messenger, having accepted his appointment by Pope Francis as pastor of the people and priests of Achonry. We warmly welcome his appointment and, on behalf of the priests, religious and people of the diocese, I thank him for accepting it. It is a reason for rejoicing for us in Achonry that a priest of Fr Paul’s calibre and extensive experience in pastoral ministry in his native diocese of Kildare and Leighlin comes to us as our new bishop. We assure him of our prayers as he prepares for his new role and we ask God to bless him with joy, contentment and peace in his ministry among us.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Okolo, for travelling to our Cathedral in Ballagahderreen today to preside at this Mass for Catholic Schools Week and to announce the appointment of our new bishop. We are greatly honoured by your presence, Your Excellency, and most appreciative of the part you have played over the past two years in the process of appointing our bishop. We look forward to welcoming you to Ballaghaderreen again in the very near future for Bishop-elect Paul’s ordination on Sunday, 19th April.

I also warmly greet Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin who has travelled to support Fr Paul today. I strongly suspect that our gain in Achonry in having Fr Paul as our new bishop is a great loss for the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin and we are grateful that you generously give him to us.

We have had a wonderful celebration here this morning and I am very conscious that such a celebration doesn’t happen without much work by many people. To all who helped prepare today’s liturgy and to all who participated in any way, our sincere thanks.

Finally, a big thank you to our young people here today for attending this Mass with your teachers and other staff members from your schools. We older people look to you in hope, for you are the future of the Church in our parishes. With the good grounding you get in our Catholic schools and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit whom many of you will receive in the sacrament of Confirmation this year, we hope that you will bring your natural enthusiasm and energy to your parish communities in the years ahead.


ARCHBISHOP ÉAMON MARTIN, ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH

In response to this morning’s announcement by Pope Francis, Archbishop Eamon Martin has congratulated Father Paul Dempsey, a priest of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, on his appointment as the new Bishop of Achonry.

Archbishop Eamon Martin said, “I wish to congratulate Bishop-elect Dempsey whom Pope Francis has appointed as the new Bishop of Achonry.  His service to the Church, particularly in the areas of youth ministry, communications and on matters concerning faith and culture, is well known and will provide a great foundation for his pastoral leadership as a diocesan bishop.”

Archbishop Eamon continued, “Since 2015, Bishop-elect Dempsey has been parish priest of Newbridge – one of the largest and most vibrant parishes in the country.  He is known as a hard-working and caring pastor who will no doubt be missed greatly by the people, clergy and religious of his native diocese.  The pastoral experience and wisdom he has gained in Kildare & Leighlin will be of huge benefit to him as he takes up the role of shepherd of God’s people in Achonry.  I also look forward to his contributions to our discussions at the Episcopal Conference as we move into a new time of mission for the Church in Ireland during the 2020’s.  I wish him all God’s blessings as he begins this new chapter of his ministry as Bishop of Achonry.”

Archbishop Eamon also expressed his gratitude to Father Dermot Meehan who had been serving as the Diocesan Administrator of Achonry.  He said, “Father Meehan has been very generous in leading the Diocese of Achonry during the interim period since Bishop Kelly’s move to Galway.  He has faithfully attended the plenary meetings of the Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth and offered valuable insights to our deliberations which were grounded in the reality of pastoral ministry today in the West of Ireland. Father Meehan has always spoken highly of the priests and people of his diocese and he is clearly a gentle and generous pastor. I thank him for his diligent work at conference level, and for his pastoral leadership as Diocesan Administrator of Achonry, since February 2018.”


ARCHBISHOP MICHAEL NEARY, ARCHBISHOP OF TUAM

I welcome the news today that His Holiness, Pope Francis, has chosen Father Paul Dempsey, of the clergy of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, to be Bishop of Achonry, and I congratulate Father Dempsey on his appointment.

Father Dempsey has garnered a wealth of pastoral experience since his ordination in 1997 through his priestly ministry in Clane, Kildare and most recently as Parish Priest of Newbridge.  He has also served as Diocesan Youth Director and Director of Vocations.  A gifted communicator, Father Dempsey has hosted a very successful religious affairs programme on KFM Radio, and has also written a regular column in the Leinster Leader newspaper, as well as other media appearances.

I look forward to working with Father Dempsey, and on behalf of the bishops of the Tuam Province, I warmly welcome him and assure him of our help and support as he assumes his new responsibilities.

Today’s announcement is also great news for the faithful of the Diocese of Achonry who have been looking forward to a new bishop since Bishop Brendan Kelly was transferred to Galway two years ago.  In the interim, Father Dermot Meehan, as Diocesan Administrator, has led the diocese with the greatest dedication and competence, in addition to his responsibilities as Parish Priest of Swinford.  I take this opportunity to sincerely thank Father Meehan for his great work over the past two years, for his contribution to the Episcopal Conference and meetings of the Western Bishops.


BISHOP DENIS NULTY, BISHOP OF KILDARE & LEIGHLIN

I warmly welcome the announcement today that Pope Francis has appointed  Father Paul Dempsey, Parish Priest of Newbridge and Vicar Forane of Kildare & Leighlin North Deanery, as Bishop of Achonry.

Father Paul was born in Carlow, moving at the age of eight to Athy. He studied Philosophy in Milltown Institute before entering St. Patrick’s College, Carlow to study for Kildare & Leighlin diocese. He is the first native of Carlow town appointed a Bishop in Ireland in 130 years.

Since his ordination as a priest in 1997, Father Paul has served the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin with great distinction and dedication, while always demonstrating an immense capacity for work. His appointments have always been in the more populated Kildare end of the diocese – Clane, Kildare, Naas, Sallins, Two-Mile-House and more recently Newbridge, where he has been Parish Priest since 2015.

In addition to his parish appointments, Father Paul has in the past held responsibility in the areas of youth ministry and vocations. He is a great collaborator with priests and people. Working in one of the largest parishes in our diocese, his many initiatives empowered lay people and encouraged young people. His work expanding the Newbridge Share Food project and reaching out to those living in Direct Provision in the parish has been outstanding.

Father Paul’s going from Kildare & Leighlin leaves a deep void since his contribution to the diocese has been immense. We will certainly miss him but we are also very proud of his achievement and appointment this day. Today is a great day for Kildare & Leighlin, to see one of our own, with his gifts and potential, recognised by Pope Francis.

On a personal level Father Paul has been a tremendous support to me. I appointed him Vicar Forane and Diocesan Consultor in 2014 and in those roles he brought great clarity of thought and fresh perspectives. I have every confidence that he will fulfil his new ministry as chief shepherd of Achonry with the same dedication and commitment that has characterised the years of his priestly life. Father Paul can be assured of the prayers, good wishes and support of the entire Kildare & Leighlin family.


BISHOP BRENDAN KELLY, BISHOP OF GALWAY

‘I am delighted today with the news that the Holy Father has appointed Father Paul Dempsey as Bishop of Achonry.  It is just two years ago since I left Achonry after ten very happy years as bishop there, having been appointed to Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora.  Since then the diocese has been in the very capable hands of Father Dermot Meehan as Administrator.

I have no doubt this announcement today will be welcomed with great joy by the people and priests of Achonry.  Father Paul will find a deep sense of community amongst the priests and people in Achonry, and a ready willingness to work with him in furthering the vital mission entrusted to us all as God’s people.  Father Paul has had wide-ranging and varied pastoral and other experiences in the diocese of Kildare since he was first ordained.  These experiences, along with his many personal qualities and qualifications, will have prepared him well for this new responsibility and mission as shepherd of God’s people in Achonry.

Personally, I want to congratulate Father Paul and to assure him of my prayers and any support I can give as he takes on this new role.  I look forward very much to welcoming him to the West, and to working with him on the Bishops’ Conference and at our regular meetings of the Western Bishops’.


BISHOP-ELECT PAUL DEMPSEY

I thank you all for your very kind and warm welcome here today – I welcome His Excellency, Archbishop Okolo, my own bishop, Denis Nulty, the Diocesan Administrator, Fr. Dermot Meehan, Fr. Joe Gavigan and Fr. Paul Kivlehan of the Cathedral Parish, the Diocesan Secretary, Fr. Vincent Sherlock, the priests of the Diocese, religious, deacons, the parishioners of the Parish of Ballaghaderreen and people from around the Diocese of Achonry, especially all of the young people, teachers and staff from so many schools throughout the diocese, it is wonderful to see you all and thank you for being here!

As we launch out into Catholic Schools Week, it is so encouraging to see so many young people here today!  During my life as a priest I have worked a lot with young people.  I have often heard it said that young people are the future of the Church, but we must remember you are not just the future, you are the Church of today!  Each one of you is created by God in a unique and special way.  He has a special mission in mind for each one of you.  You are His disciples!  Remember, the world needs Christ, Christ needs you!  He needs your energy, your enthusiasm, your generosity.  As you share these gifts in the life of the Church, you open up all sorts of new possibilities now and into the future.  So, let’s work together to build that future of hope!

Returning to my own story, one of the first questions people tend to ask is “Where are you from?”  My own answer to that question is a little complex.  I was born in Carlow Town and then, when I was seven, my family moved to Athy in Co. Kildare, where I lived until I was eighteen.  So, I normally say I’m originally from Carlow, but spent most of my life in Co. Kildare.  Indeed, all of my life as a priest over the past twenty-two years has been spent serving in Co. Kildare.  I’m presently working in Newbridge parish, on the edge of the Curragh of Kildare tracing its roots back to the time of St. Brigid who’s Feast Day we will celebrate in a few days, the 1st of February.

Those twenty-two years of service in the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, have brought me immense joy.  I have felt loved and supported all throughout the years by my brother priests, parishioners, deacons, friends and religious.  They have all helped me to grow as a person and as a priest, enabling me to say today that I love being a priest, despite the many challenges that have been part of the journey for any of us who have travelled this road.  As I take a new direction, there is a sadness within me as I leave the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin but I know the love and support I have received there, I bring with me to this new chapter of my life in the Diocese of Achonry.

The beginning of that new chapter started with a phone call from Archbishop Okolo on Monday morning, 16th of December, a phone call that would change my life.  Archbishop Okolo and I met later that day and he informed me that Pope Francis wished to appoint me as Bishop of Achonry.  I’m still not over the shock!  I would like to express my sincere thanks to Archbishop Okolo, firstly for gracing us with his presence here today as Pope Francis’ representative, but also for his welcome, kindness, patience and care shown to me over these past weeks.  He has been a true pastor to me for which I am deeply grateful.

To my own Bishop, Denis Nulty, a man who is held in the highest esteem in the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin by priests, deacons, people and religious.  His episcopal motto is; “Serve the Lord with Gladness.” His ministry as bishop encapsulates that wholeheartedly as he works tirelessly to share the Gospel every day with all those he meets.  Bishop Denis has been unflinching in his care and support of me since he became bishop over six years ago and especially these past few weeks.  He has been a true brother and friend, for which I say, thank you.

Fr. Dermot Meehan has been administrating the Diocese since Bishop Brendan Kelly was appointed to Galway almost two years ago.  I remember Bishop Brendan today, whose episcopal ordination took place here in this Cathedral on this date, twelve years ago.  I wish him every blessing on this his anniversary.  Fr. Dermot has been most welcoming to me and I am very grateful to him for giving of himself so generously in service of the people, religious, deacons and priests of the Diocese as well as serving the people in the Parish of Swinford.  I look forward to working with him into the future and drawing upon his rich experience and wisdom.

I’m sure you can understand how daunting it is to take on the role of bishop in a new diocese.  I’m conscious of my own unworthiness and sinfulness as I take on this role.  I ask you to be patient with me as I endeavour to get to know the priests, people, deacons and religious of the diocese in the coming weeks and months.  I have a strong connection with the diocese as my brother, Tony lives in Kiltimagh along with his wife Mary and family, a place I have visited many times.

Most of my life as a priest has been in parish ministry as well as youth and vocations work and some local media involvement.  I hope the experience gained in these areas will help me in my ministry in the Diocese of Achonry.  The Diocese here is steeped in faith going back to the sixth century with its patrons’ Saint Nathy and Saint Attracta.  Over the centuries that faith has adapted to changing times and now that faith is in our hands.  We need to reflect deeply on how we nourish and hand on that faith today in the midst of many challenging questions.  I look forward to us working together as we face those questions and respond to the call of Christ outlined in the Gospel of Luke; “Duc in Altum,” (Luke 5;4) “Put out into the deep.”  That call of Christ to “go out” is as real here today in the Diocese of Achonry as it was when Christ first called from the shore.

Pope Francis reflects this when he said in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium;

“Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”  (EG 33).

As we begin this new chapter together may we be “bold and creative” in our task and mission of reaching out to all with the message of Jesus Christ, remembering especially those who have been hurt in any way.

Many thanks for being here today, thank you to all who organised today’s gathering, your work and efforts are very much appreciated.  I ask you all to keep me in your prayers as I will remember you in mine.

Every blessing and good wish!


LIFE AND MINISTRY

 

Father Paul Dempsey was born in Carlow Town on 20 of April, 1971.  He is the youngest in his family, having one brother and two sisters.

In 1978 his family moved to Athy, Co Kildare where he was educated by the Christian Brothers at primary and secondary level.  He joined the seminary in 1989.  His studies took place in the Milltown Institute, Dublin, Saint Patrick’s College, Carlow and All Hallows College, Dublin.  During his formation for the priesthood his mother, Berry, died from cancer in February 1994 and his father, Tony, died suddenly twelve days later.

He was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow, by Bishop Laurence Ryan, on 6 July 1997.

Father Paul’s first appointment was as curate in Clane & Rathcoffey Parish, Co Kildare.  It was during this time that he started a weekly article in the Leinster Leader newspaper.  After seven years he moved to Kildare Town as curate and was also appointed Youth Director and Vocations Director for the diocese by Bishop Jim Moriarty.  During this time, Father Paul organised two diocesan World Youth Day pilgrimages to Cologne (2005) and Sydney (2008) as well as many other youth initiatives.  Father Paul also presented a weekly religious and social affairs programme on Kildare FM Radio on Sunday mornings.

In 2008, Father Paul did further studies in the Milltown Institute, Dublin.  He completed an Honours Master’s Degree in Theology in the area of Faith & Culture.  His thesis was entitled “The Contemporary Irish Catholic Church – A Church in Crisis or in Question?”

On completion of his studies, Father Paul took up his appointment as curate in parish cluster of Naas, Sallins and Two-Mile-House in 2009.  In August, 2014, Bishop Denis Nulty appointed Father Paul to Newbridge Parish and also as Vicar Forane for the Kildare & Leighlin North Deanery consisting of 17 parishes.

On 1 September 2015, Father Paul was appointed Parish Priest of Newbridge and Administrator of Caragh and Prosperous Parishes.  The parish has approximately 32,000 parishioners.


A DAY IN PICTURES AND SOUND

Bishop-Elect Paul Dempsey

Thanks to Fr Joe Caulfield, one of our priests, who recorded some clips from today’s Mass and Announcement.  We will include them here.

Thanks to Carmel Williams (Kilkelly) who took most of these photos.  They capture something of the mood of a great gathering.  Truly, a day to be remembered with joy.A

Catholic Schools Week 2020

Catholic Schools Week 2020 will take place this year from Sunday 26 January – Sunday 2 February on the theme ‘Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony with God’s Creation’.

During Catholic Schools Week families, parishes and schools, North and South, are invited to participate in a week of celebration of Catholic schools and on their contribution to the common good of our society.

This year’s theme ‘Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony with God’s Creation’, encourages us to see that we all have a responsibility to care for the earth, not just for our own future, but for the future of every one of God’s creatures.

Daily themes for CSW2020:

Monday: Living in Harmony with God
Tuesday: Living in Harmony with our Neighbours
Wednesday: Living in Harmony with All Generations
Thursday: Living in Harmony with the Earth
Friday: Living in Harmony in our Catholic School

Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony with God’s Creation’

Between 2015 and 2017, Trócaire’s Lenten campaigns focused on ‘Climate Change, Climate Justice’. In 2015, Pope Francis’ wrote his encyclical Laudato Si’, which was the basis of Catholic Schools Week in 2017. This year, we re-echo the messages of that encyclical, but also present the apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit. It highlights key issues in society and gives us a clear direction on what to do. Pope Francis has very clearly delivered the message to Catholic people all over the world: ‘The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change’ (LS, 13). Part of this change is to recognise that we live in this world in harmony with the world and those around us. If we are conscious of our relationships with God, our neighbours, all generations, the earth and our Catholic school, we can identify the steps it takes to live in harmony. Pope Francis challenges us to look at our lifestyles. We must become aware of the impact our lives have on the lives of others. He asks for justice and equality, as it is clear that the vulnerable all around the world are further impacted by our actions here in the first world. The hope of Catholic Schools Week 2020 is that we realise how powerful each and everyone of us is and that even the smallest changes can have the biggest impact.

Again, this year, resources for Catholic Schools Week are available online. All lessons have resources for both Junior and Senior Cycle. Each lesson contains practices which support the national Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, as well as self-reflective practices as a way of supporting assessment in the classroom. They also provide extension exercises as an option for your students.

See www.catholicschools.ie to download the CSW2020 resources.

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Reproduced here, courtesy of www.catholicbishops.ie

Sunday of The Word

The following resources are supplied courtesy of catholicbishops.ie with contibutions from

Dr Jeremy Corley, Dr Luke Macnamara, Prof. Séamus O’Connell, Dr Jessie Rogers, Prof. Salvador Ryan, and Prof. Liam Tracey.

Thought for the Day visuals designed by Brenda Drumm, Catholic Communications Office.

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Sunday of the Word of God

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Introduction

In his Apostolic Letter of 30 September 2019, Aperuit illis Pope Francis established that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be the Sunday of the Word of God. He already proposed something similar at the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. It is a day to be devoted to the celebration, study, and spreading of the Word of God. Pope Francis is clear from the very first paragraph of this letter that the relationship between the Risen Lord, a community of believers, and sacred Scripture is essential to who we are as Christians.

The Sunday assembly gathering to celebrate the Eucharist is the unique moment in the week where a community gathers in a particular place and when their communal identity is nourished by Word and Sacrament. An important advance in 20th century theological reflection is that every sacramental celebration is founded and constructed upon the Word of God, and that every proclamation of the Word of God is sacramental.

While one might quibble with yet another Sunday being devoted to a particular theme that is superimposed on the liturgical celebration, this Sunday of the Word of God is certainly understood in a different way. It is not a new feast! After all, the Word of God is proclaimed at every Sunday Eucharist, and one of the great blessings of the liturgical reform and renewal flowing from the Second Vatican Council is a greater appreciation of the foundational role of the Word of God in every liturgical celebration. The reform of the lectionary has led to much more scripture being proclaimed during our liturgical gatherings and a greater awareness of the role of the Word of God in the life of faith.

This Sunday builds on the texts and prayers of the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time and is conscious that it comes just after the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. While we are not yet united around the table of the Eucharist, we do share on many Sundays of the year the same scriptural readings in our different Christian assemblies. Pope Francis urges us to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to continue our prayer for Christian unity.

This Sunday is a time when the community is called to give greater attention not just to the Word of God. It is also urged to reflect on how we honour that Word in our celebrations, the books that we proclaim the Word from. Is the Gospel book carried in procession? Is it a well-made book that shows forth its life-giving content? Is it honoured with incense, and do we sing during the Gospel procession? Are the readers who proclaim the Word formed in the art of proclamation, and the knowledge of what they are announcing?

Pope Francis suggests in his letter that this Sunday is an ideal time to reflect on these issues. For presiders, it is also a call to reflect once again on their preaching of the Word of God. This Sunday might well be an appropriate time to commission and bless those who serve the community as readers, and initiate new ones to this essential ministry. If the parish community does not enthrone the Word of God every Sunday, maybe today is an opportunity to start. Another way of nourishing the role of scripture is praying quietly together in a lectio divina style of prayer. Why not gather a group for an hour and pray these particular scriptural lections?

The resources below have been prepared for the ‘Sunday of the Word of God’ by the the Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University, St Patrick’s College Maynooth: 

Table of Contents

  1. Celebrating the Sunday of the Word of God
  2. What is the Word of God?
  3. The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures
  4. Opening the Law and the Prophets: On Reading the Old Testament as Christians
  5. Liturgy of the Word
  6. Reflection on the First Reading (Isaiah 8:23-9:3)
  7. Reflection on Psalm 26 (27)
  8. Reflection on the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17)
  9. Reflection on the Gospel Reading (Matt 4:12-23 or Matt 4:12-17)
  10. Homily
  11. Enthronement of the Word of God
  12. Commissioning or Blessing of Readers
  13. Commissioning Ministers of the Word
  14. General Intercessions in English and Irish
  15. Thought for the Day visuals

Celebrating the Sunday of the Word of God

In Aperuit illis (§3), Pope Francis suggests the following ways to celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God:

  • Enthrone the sacred text.
  • Highlight the proclamation of the Word of the Lord.
  • Emphasise the honour due to the word of God in the homily.
  • Celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a commissioning of Readers.
  • Provide training for Readers.
  • Give a Bible, or one of its books, to everyone.
  • Encourage people to read and pray with Scripture daily, especially through the practice of lectio divina.

What is the Word of God?

We often identify the Bible as the Word of God. This is not wrong, but God speaks to our hearts in many different ways. For instance, he speaks to us in prayer and through our conscience, and often through other people. Hence, the Word of God covers much more than a printed book. Nevertheless, the Bible is the privileged collection of communications between God and his people. These stories and poems have nourished the lives of the people of Israel and the Christian Church right through the centuries, and they continue to nourish us today. They tell the story of God’s love and our salvation from ancient times onwards. The scriptural texts offer us both challenge and encouragement for our lives, and are especially valuable to us through the hope they offer us at dark moments.

The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures

The Holy Spirit was at work in the whole process of the formation of the Scriptures. This is why, even though many people across different times and places contributed to the writing, we believe that the Scriptures are divinely inspired. But the Holy Spirit’s work does not come to an end with the writing of the text. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in us by virtue of our baptism, is also at work in us as we listen to the text. Therefore, through the Spirit’s inspiration, the words of Scripture can become a living Word of the Lord to us here and now.

Opening the Law and the Prophets (see Luke 4:17): On Reading the Old Testament as Christians

When Saint Luke, in his Gospel, portrays the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he does so in the following way:

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (4:16–18).

For Luke, the one in whom Christians place their trust as their Lord and Saviour, who is—in the words of the Nicene Creed—God from God, Light from Light, and who sits at the right hand of the Father, was, is, and remains, a Jewish male from Galilee. Our saviour is a Jew from Galilee. To lose sight of his essential and enduring Jewishness is to distort Jesus; it is to divorce him from his people, and to blind us to the reality and power of the Word made flesh (see John 1:14).

Jesus, the Galilean Jew, began his “public” life with words from his Scriptures. His life ended with word from his Scriptures: in his anguish of the cross, he prays the beginning of Psalm 21 (22): “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” To express what he’s about, and to say who he is, Jesus proclaims his Scriptures—what Christians call the Old Testament.  Today also, truly to understand what God is doing in Christ (see 2 Cor 5:19), the followers of Christ are called to read and pray the Old Testament so that we may come to a sense of the mysteries that are veiled in all our lives and revealed in Christ (see St Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter § 27).

Because the Old Testament communicates the mysteries of God’s life and ours, to come to know God’s word in the Old Testament is to know the power of God. This is why St Jerome famously says that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ: it is not that we gain “information” about Christ that is otherwise inaccessible; rather, to have one’s heart opened by the word of God is to come to know the one in whom the “the power and wisdom of God” has taken flesh. It is to know “Christ—the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24).

This means that Christians are called to read the Old Testament like Christ read it: in a way that opens the heart; that recognizes the faithfulness of God to his people and to the everlasting covenant made with them; that sees in the words of the Law, the Prophets, and the writings, the threshold of the Word of God. To read like Christ is to see the Law not as a burden, but as the revelation of God’s will. To read like Christ is to see in the Psalms the most wonderful school of prayer. To read like Christ is to submit oneself to the prophets’ call to justice and their witness to the power of God. To read like Christ is to read as one who is “last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35), who avoids all haughtiness and refuses to put the other in the wrong. Such a person resists the distortions of history which have caused so much suffering to God’s chosen people, the brothers and sisters of our Lord.

In this context, then, the “Sunday of the Word of God will be a fitting part of that time of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity.” (Aperuit illis §3)

Liturgy of the Word

Isa 8:23b-9:3. In Galilee of the nations the people have seen a great light.

Psalm 26 (27). The Lord is my light and my help.

1 Cor 1:10-13, 17. Make up the differences between you instead of disagreeing among yourselves.

Matt 4:12-23 or 4:12-17. He went and settled in the Capernaum; in this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled.

Reflection on the First Reading (Isaiah 8:23-9:3)

The reading from Isaiah speaks of good news for the people of Galilee. Whereas previously they have lived in darkness, now they have seen a great light, and hence they can rejoice. The cause of their joy is the lifting of oppressive power that burdened them and weighed them down. This joyful light comes because a Davidic king has taken control as the Prince of Peace. We usually understand the text as speaking of the birth of a royal child: “There is a child born for us, a son given to us.” But in its original context, the passage may have applied when a new king (perhaps Hezekiah) ascended the throne. In Christian usage we think of the coming of the long-awaited “son of David”—Christ our Saviour. Not only did his birth bring rejoicing, but his adult arrival in Galilee to begin his public ministry brought light and hope to a troubled people. Christ offers us today his light and hope through the Scriptures.

Reflection on Psalm 26 (27)

Psalm 26 (27) overflows with confidence in the Lord. The Lord is the psalmist’s light, his help, his stronghold; the one with whom he wants to live. The Lord is the one in whom he has confidence; in whom he hopes; the source of his courage. This is a long way from psalms like Psalm 21 (22) and its cry of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

To pray this psalm by savouring its words is to be touched by its confidence in the Lord who is our light, our help, and our safe place; it is to permit us to be moved by the God whose real strength is not some mountain-moving power, but that which is discovered in the closeness of the One who embraces us, who holds us within.

To say the Psalmist’s words, over and over again, is to savour the sweetness of Lord. Gently to ruminate them is not only to “behold his temple”; it is to stand at its threshold. All we can do is stand at the threshold. Will the One who – through birth and death – brought Jesus to life in his house, not do the same for the sisters and brothers of Jesus?

Reflection on the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17)

St Paul writes to the Christian community in Corinth to challenge them to live the reality of the Word of God that he had preached to them. It is obvious that they have not taken that word to heart because their community is torn apart by rivalries and divisions. When our lives are transformed by the Word of God, they radiate peace, patience, harmony, love and acceptance of each other’s uniqueness. Pope Francis has said that unity in diversity is a sign that the Holy Spirit is at work. God does not make us all the same. That would be bland uniformity. But our differences should not lead to disunity or chaos either. When we allow God’s Word to transform our hearts and our imaginations, we will discover that we can celebrate each other’s differences even as we work towards a deeper unity in Christ. We will begin to recognise the huge variety of ways in which the Holy Spirit is at work among us and in the world.

The Bible is the book of the Lord’s people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division towards unity. The word of God unites believers and makes them one people.” (Aperuit illis §4)

Reflection on the Gospel Reading (Matt 4:12-23 or Matt 4:12-17)

The Word of God, proclaimed and heard at every Sunday liturgy, opens a dialogue between God and his people. Jesus is a model for entering into this dialogue. Jesus does not treat God’s word spoken in the Old Testament simply as a set of predictions, but he himself takes the initiative to fulfil scripture by retracing the steps of the prophecy of Isaiah. Christ preaches his word to people of all times, and so Jewish Galilee becomes Galilee of the nations. Especially in the proclamation of the Word of God at the liturgy, the Risen Christ is present, speaks, and desires to be heard. The imminent kingdom of heaven is now come through Christ’s death and resurrection. Through the work of the Spirit, the Risen Christ’s appeal to repent echoes in the deep recesses of believers’ hearts. Although we are among those in darkness, we now, in Jesus’ words, behold a great light and recognise his saving work. By engaging God’s word, and by beholding the light, we become changed, which is analogous to the transformation we undergo through participation at the table of the Lord. Our horizons expand as Jesus speaks of all nations and all peoples living under death’s shadow, and our hope extends for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, that together we might be one.

Homily

Words, words, words, we are surrounded by them. There is a surplus of talk, from early morning till late at night: chat shows, phone-in radio programmes that seem to be a flow of words; we can now even watch the radio on the television or on our computer screens, watching people talking. The power of words to create and sustain worlds and lives is ever before us. Words that can harm and damage lives and the sense of how people understand themselves; words that console and communicate; words of enduring and broken relationships. The human ability to speak and communicate is a constant wonder; its power and its fragility is ever before us. Words reflect the inner life of the person who spoke them.

How we speak is who we are. As Christians, we believe that all that is comes from the mouth of the One who spoke and all things were made. In the act of speaking, creation happens; it is a blessing or a curse for those who speak and those who listen and hear. In listening, the voice is heard, and recognition of the one who speaks may dawn. This dynamic of speaking, listening and knowing the one who speaks is the very dynamic of how God’s word is addressed to the people of Israel. God speaks and calls a people; they draw close to God in a gracious covenantal relationship. Their relationship endures and continues to this day.

Jesus also calls to himself a group of disciples in today’s gospel account. He invites them to come and walk in his ways. Through their response, they set out on a path of discipleship leaving all behind them; it is a way that will lead some of his followers to martyrdom and others to betrayal: words of fidelity and words of treachery. The Scriptures nurture the path of the disciples in their following of Jesus and walking in his ways, by taking the word and allowing it to shape and mould our identity as Christians. The word proclaimed every Sunday in our Eucharistic celebration; the word heard in the very ordinary circumstances of our daily lives; the words that we speak every moment; let all of them be, for us, moments of salvation and gifts to others.

As ever, the Word that is proclaimed in the midst of the celebrating assembly names that very community. Today we hear that we are the people who walk in darkness, but we have received the gift of a great light. Communities are, or have been, in the past riven by dissension, at times perhaps even for very good reasons; but this can tear apart the fabric of discipleship. Rather than being for Christ, different groups and parties can multiply. Christ continues to call every disciple by name to come and walk with him. The Proclaimed Word is a Word not just in the past, but a Word here and now, given to this liturgical assembly to shape, challenge and sustain their ongoing following of the Lord. Every time a Christian community gathers, it is making a bold statement about where they have come from, who they are, and where they hope one day to be. The Scriptures nourish the boldness of the community; once more today we are urged to allow the Word of God to nourish us as both individuals and communities.

Enthronement of the Word of God

In paragraph 3 of Aperuit illis, Pope Francis requests that “the various communities will find their own ways to mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity. It is important, however, that in the Eucharistic celebration the sacred text be enthroned, in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s word”.

It is hard to see how enthronement of the Word might take place within the celebration of the Eucharist. What is perhaps envisaged here is that attention is given to the carrying of the Book of the Gospels in the procession at the start of the celebration, and that it be then placed on the altar.

During the procession, the Book is raised, and can be seen by the congregation. During the singing of the Alleluia, a solemn procession with candles and incense accompanies the Book of the Gospels to the ambo where it is incensed, honoured, and kissed. The lectionary should never be carried in this way.

Some groups with a biblical apostolate propose enthroning the Word of God in a domestic setting. Several online examples are available, for instance, on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catechesis/catechetical-sunday/human-dignity/enthroning-the-bible.cfm

Commissioning or Blessing of Readers

The Pope also speaks about Bishops celebrating the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a Commissioning of Readers. The ministry of Reader in a parish community could well be highlighted on this Sunday. Perhaps a formation session might be organised during this week for readers; new readers could be recruited; or those who have served the community as readers could renew their commitment and new readers begin their ministry. As always, formation for this, or indeed any ministry, is crucial. A parish could have a commissioning of ministers of the Word during the Sunday Eucharist, or may decide to have a prayer of blessing.

An Order for the Blessing of Readers is available in chapter 61 of the Book of Blessings (USA version). Two options are provided: one within the celebration of Mass, and the other within a celebration of the Word of God. Both are parish celebrations, and the blessing is given by the parish priest. After the Prayer of the Faithful, the readers are blessed and may be presented with a lectionary or a Bible. The following is the prayer of blessing (Prayer of Blessing, n. 1833):

With hands extended over the new readers, the celebrant says immediately:

Everlasting God,
when he read in the synagogue at Nazareth,
your Son proclaimed
the good news of salvation for which he would give up his life.

Bless these readers.
As they proclaim your words of life,
strengthen their faith
that they may read with conviction and boldness,
and put into practice what they read.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Commissioning Ministers of the Word

After the Homily, those to be commissioned (or re-commissioned) as parish Readers are presented to the people in these or similar words:

Dear Friends in Christ,

Our friends are given the great privilege of proclaiming God’s Word in the Assembly. Through them, God will speak to his people of the salvation and redemption won for them by the Lord Jesus, so that, nourished by this word, the people will grow in the love and the knowledge of God.

(The celebrant pauses and then addresses the candidates)

You have been called to proclaim the Word of God in the assembled community of God’s people, and in so doing you are sharing in the Church’s mission to preach the Good News to all peoples. May God’s Word be living and active in your lives, that you may worship the living God in spirit and in truth. In proclaiming God’s word to others, accept it yourself in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Meditate on it constantly, so that each day you will have a deeper love for the Scriptures, and in all you say and do, show forth to the world our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

After the address, the candidates stand before the celebrant who asks them these questions:

Are you willing to act as a Minister of the Word and to proclaim God’s word to the people assembled in this Church?

(I am)

Are you willing to prepare each proclaiming of God’s word by study and prayer?

(I am)

The celebrant then hands a Lectionary or Bible to a representative of (or to all the readers) and prays:

Let us pray to God our loving Father and ask him to bless our brothers and sisters chosen to proclaim His Word:

God our Father, you have given our brothers and sisters faith in you and in your living word. We ask you to help them grow in that faith as they meditate on your word, so that they may worthily proclaim the word to the assembly, and by the manner of their lives. Through Christ our Lord.

General Intercessions

Introduction:

Gathered as the people of God, sustained by the Word of God, and called to be disciples of Christ, together let us pray:

For the Church: that rooted in the Word of God, we may continue to build up the Body of Christ and promote the common good.
Lord hear us. R/. Lord graciously hear us.

For Christian leaders: that they walk in the ways of the Lord and encourage others to do the same.
Lord hear us. R/. Lord graciously hear us.

For peace among nations: that God would inspire light to shine on all parts of the world that know the darkness of division and war.
Lord hear us. R/. Lord graciously hear us.

For all who teach and preach the Word of God: that their words may renew the faith of those who listen and encourage them to trust in the promise of God.
Lord hear us. R/. Lord graciously hear us.

For this community: that we may have an ever-greater openness to the Word of God and allow it to enlighten the darkness of our hearts and free us to follow Jesus evermore faithfully.
Lord hear us. R/. Lord graciously hear us.

For healing between Christian churches and communities: that God will free us from past rivalries and wounds, so that all Christians may work together in serving Christ who calls us to be one.
Lord hear us. R/. Lord graciously hear us.

Where readers are blessed, the concluding prayer of the Prayer of the Faithful is the prayer of blessing as given above.

Idirghuíonna Ginearálta

Réamhrá:

Agus sinn cruinnithe mar phobal Dé, arna gcothú le Briathar Dé, agus arna ngairm chun bheith inár ndeisceabail ag Críost, guímis le chéile:

Ar son na hEaglaise: agus sinn fréamhaithe i mBriathar Dé, go leana muid orainn ag cur le Corp Chríost agus leas an phobail a chur chun cinn.
A Thiarna, éist linn. F/. A Thiarna, bí ceansa agus éist linn.

Ar son ceannairí Críostaí: go siúla siad i mbealaí ár dTiarna agus go spreaga siad daoine eile chun déanamh amhlaidh.
A Thiarna, éist linn. F/. A Thiarna, bí ceansa agus éist linn.

Ar son na síochána i measc náisiún: go ngríosfadh Dia solas chun soilsiú ar gach cearn den domhan ina bhfuil cur amach ag na daoine iontu ar dhorchadas an easaontais agus na cogaíochta.
A Thiarna, éist linn. F/. A Thiarna, bí ceansa agus éist linn.

Ar son na ndaoine go léir a mhúineann agus a chraobhscaoileann Briathar Dé: go ndéana a gcuid focal creideamh na ndaoine a éisteann leo a athnuachan agus iad a spreagadh chun muinín a bheith acu as gealltanas Dé.

A Thiarna, éist linn. F/. A Thiarna, bí ceansa agus éist linn.

Ar son an phobail seo: gur mó fós an oscailtealacht a bheidh againn do Bhriathar Dé agus go lige muid dó dorchadas ár gcroíthe a shoilsiú agus sinn a shaoradh chun gur dílse fós a leanfaimid Íosa.
A Thiarna, éist linn. F/. A Thiarna, bí ceansa agus éist linn.

Ar son cneasú idir eaglaisí Críostaí agus pobail Chríostaí: go saorfaidh Dia sinn ó sheanchoimhlintí agus seanghortuithe, ionas go n-oibreoidh Críostaithe uile le chéile ag freastal ar Chríost, a iarrann orainn bheith aontaithe.
A Thiarna, éist linn. F/. A Thiarna, bí ceansa agus éist linn.

I gcás ina ndéanfar léitheoirí a bheannú, is í paidir an bheannaithe, arna tabhairt thuas, guí dheiridh Ghuí an Phobail.

Thought for the Day visuals for sharing on Social Media

These visuals are selected quotes from Pope Francis from his Apostolic Letter of 30 September 2019, Aperuit illis and can be shared on social media to coincide with the celebration of the Sunday of the Word.

ENDS

Contributors:

Dr Jeremy Corley, Dr Luke Macnamara, Prof. Séamus O’Connell, Dr Jessie Rogers, Prof. Salvador Ryan, and Prof. Liam Tracey.

Thought for the Day visuals designed by Brenda Drumm, Catholic Communications Office.