Archbishop Nichols: "Make each day a prayer and pray for your priests"

Archbishop Nichols (centre) pictured during the Mass, with (left to right) Bishop David McGough, Bishop Philip Pargeter

Archbishop Nichols (centre) pictured during the Mass, with (left to right) Bishop David McGough, Bishop Philip Pargeter

Archbishop Vincent Nichols returned to his former diocese for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul and the beginning of the Year of Priests, yesterday with a clear message: "Make each day a prayer and pray for your priests".

The Eleventh Archbishop of Westminster presided and preached at a special open-air Mass concelebrated by more than 90 priests, in the grounds of St Mary's College, Oscott, the diocesan seminary, attended by about 2,500 people from parishes throughout the diocese, yesterday afternoon (28 June).

The newly-elected President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales wore the red vestments used by Pope John Paul II when he celebrated Mass and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation, at Coventry on the feast of Pentecost, Sunday, 30 May 1982, during his Pastoral Visit to Great Britain.

During his homily Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: "One year ends and another begins. Today, in response to Pope Benedict XVI, we begin a Year for Priests. The Holy Father wants it to be a year in which we treasure our priests, in which we support them with our
prayers, in which we thank them for their generosity and celebrate with them their anniversaries and the greatness of their calling."

He continued "For us priests, the Holy Father wants this to be a year for our renewal, in which we refresh in ourselves that initial fervour, that first great generosity with which we
accepted our calling and threw ourselves into it. We may have lost some of that. We may occasionally feel weary or overburdened. This is a year for a new start."

Archbishop Nichols said: "The Holy Father has given us, as a patron for the year, St John Vianney, the Cure of Ars. He is a good model for us all. I say this because, above all else, he was a man of prayer and this Year for Priests must be based and built on prayer. After all prayer is the essence of priesthood."

Archbishop Nichols stressed: "Every baptised person shares in the priesthood of Christ. That means that we are to make our world holy. We do that, each one of us, by offering to the Lord the work of each day, allowing God to make it holy through us. A morning offering is the first act of a priestly people, of a people who prays. Without that our daily work can be no more than drudgery and unrelated to our faith. So make each day a prayer and pray for your priests.

"St John Vianney teaches us priests so many things: to be identified with the place to which we have been sent. That is still a struggle for me. To be dedicated to the work of reconciliation and of letting people know that our good Lord is always ready to receive us, to welcome us and to forgive us. He also teaches us priests to care for each other and to bring each other to the Lord, through mutual support and through mutual prayer."

Archbishop Nichols concluded: "I hope that this Year of Priests will bring great blessings to this wonderful Archdiocese of Birmingham.

"So what better way to end than by thanking Bishop Leo for 60 years of faithful priesthood, by thanking Bishop Philip for 50 years too, and Bishop William for his 40."

Archbishop Vincent Nichols added: "But let us also thank all the priests here, and back in their parishes for their faithful and generous service. May those who are preparing here at Oscott soon be ready to step up to the plate and take their places in this great tradition and may many more young men take the 'Leap of Faith', and find the joy of the adventure that stirred Paul and so many since: the adventure of following Christ in our world today."

At the start of Mass, Bishop William Kenney CP, the Diocesan Administrator, presented Archbishop Vincent Nichols with a gift of a cheque from the bishops and priests of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Bishop Kenney said that he was to have presented Archbishop Vincent with a new crozier, made in the Birmingham Jewelry Quarter but unfortunately it was not ready. He explained that the crozier is modeled on the crozier presented to Bishop Bernard Griffin when he was ordained Bishop on 20 June 1938.

Bishop Kenney described the new crozier. He said: "On the head of the crozier are two enamels depicting the Archbishop's two favourite Saints - Saint John Fisher and Saint Clare. Archbishop Vincent completed a post graduate degree on the writings of Saint John Fisher and used the phrase: 'The Church doesn't need any more golden chalices, it needs golden priests'.

"On the front of the crozier, on a small plaque is the Archbishop's personal coat of arms with his motto from the Song of Songs: 'Love is strong as death'.

Bishop Kenney added: "Two further details are incorporated into the hook of the staff: the waters of the River Mersey and the shells; the pilgrim shells from the pilgrim hospice in Rome which is now the Venerable English College and where Archbishop Vincent studied for the priesthood."

Mgr Mark Crisp, Rector of Oscott College, then presented Archbishop Vincent Nichols with a replica of a 14th century Pectoral Crucifix that he wore on many occasions as Archbishop of Birmingham.  He explained that the original was worn by the Abbot of Croyland Abbey near Peterborough before the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols promised that he would wear the replica Pectoral Crucifix, when he received the Pallium from Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's Basilica today.

* On Saturday evening, Archbishop Vincent presided over a  candlelit Taize-style service at Westminster Cathedral to mark the end of the Year of St Paul. More than 1.500 people took part.

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