The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Priests must first be men of truth and prayer

Published: August 19, 2020   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Aug. 15 at Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

Many things were running through my mind as I sat down to compose this homily for Daniel and Joseph’s ordination. 

I thought of Betty Friend who from her deathbed entrusted both of her sons to me toward the beginning of their seminary formation, just a few days before returning to the Lord. I thought of Daniel’s parents who are in Mexico and could not be with us today and so are participating via the internet. And I thought of Daniel Phillips who might have been ordained today as well, had he not died so tragically after his first semester of seminary. 

Just as we consider baptism of desire to be valid in cases where sacramental baptism is not possible, Daniel Phillips went to the Lord with priesthood of desire and I am sure his prayers and Betty’s prayers helped bring Joseph Friend and Daniel Velasco to this altar today. 

All Christians, and especially we who are priests, are called to infiltrate the world, to change it from within.

Then I took a look at the readings that the Blessed Mother had chosen for us on this feast of her Assumption and I thought, wow. She knows what she’s doing. Our first reading is the same first reading we have on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and there is probably no feast more dear to me or to Joseph and Daniel than the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She obviously wanted to be with us on this special day. And then the Gospel we have contains the Magnificat, Mary’s beautiful words which we priests pray every evening as part of Evening Prayer. Mary has a special love for priests — after all, we are each an “alter Christus” — another Christ, and we have no better guide for our ongoing formation as priests than she who had such an important role in forming Jesus as he grew up in their home in Nazareth. In the Magnificat Mary proclaims powerfully not only that God has a special love for the poor, but also that they must be our special concern as well. 

All Christians, and especially we who are priests, are called to infiltrate the world, to change it from within. In the world but not of the world. And Daniel and Joseph, will you do that?

  • First, you must be consecrated to the truth. If you preach the full truth of the Gospel, not just the easy parts, you can expect a lot of resistance. What makes people so angry is that to embrace the truth we have to change, leave behind what is comfortable but false. 

But as we see in the Magnificat, it is only by changing hearts that we change the world, “lift up the lowly” — that requires us to grapple with evil — “scatter the proud in their conceit” — that isn’t always going to be pretty. But don’t worry, if people complain because you are preaching truths that people need to hear, I’ll back you up. And by the way, I am so grateful to our priests who consistently back me up when I must preach a truth that is not going to be well received in some quarters.

  • Second, you must be men of prayer. Our vocation as priests may be in the world, but we need to withdraw from the world too, for at least one hour of private prayer every single day, including on vacation. 

How else are you going to learn from the heart of Christ those truths that the Lord is trying to reveal to you and to your people? And how to communicate that truth in an effective way? Otherwise you’ll just end up preaching your own ideas or just what you think will please the hearers, but not the challenging Gospel of Jesus Christ. Besides, where else will you find the patience you need to be Christ for your most high-maintenance parishioners? 

  • Third you must die to yourself. Our Lady of Guadalupe adapted herself to the people to whom she was sent. She spoke their language, she reached out with preferential love to those who needed her the most, she was kind and as such she became the greatest evangelizer in history, quickly making Mexico the first Christian majority nation in the New World. 

And that is your calling as well, which will require you to die to yourself in order to live for others. Joseph and Daniel, I saw a little of that death to self in your remarkable patience with the delay in your ordination due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is much better than would have been possible in May. See how the Lord works? God bless you both.

No ordinary ordination

Click here to read Arkansas Catholic coverage of the priestly ordination of Father Joseph Friend and Father Daniel Velasco Aug. 15 at Christ the King Church in Little Rock. 

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