The human frailties of priests — and even of apostles — can help to make them attractive figures.
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said this in a homily during the annual Mass for the deceased clergy of the diocese, celebrated at St Patrick’s church, Panmure, on November 6.
The bishop noted that he had just returned from his ad limina visit to Rome the previous month.
“The two great apostles of the Church of Rome are Peter and Paul — and we are very aware of the failings of Peter and Paul,” he said.
“That’s what makes them so attractive to us — that they are living reminders that sanctity is the fruit of fidelity, not perfection.
“You don’t have to be perfect to be a saint — you just have to be faithful, day by day by day, walking in the footsteps of the Lord. And we are very aware of that.”
Bishop Dunn touched on themes of the cost of discipleship and the struggles, weaknesses and failings experienced in living a Christian life. He imagined Jesus having his own struggles as he was on the “way to Jerusalem”, knowing what was to happen there.
The bishop told the congregation that, in the prayerful procession through the cemetery that was to follow the Mass, priests would pass the graves of
“And we know that they too had those struggles, faced those struggles. [But] . . . they had great seeds of holiness and enriched the lives of tens of thousands of people, through their preaching and their fidelity.
“But we also know that we are all human beings and they too had their struggles — for that is what it is to be human.”
Bishop Dunn named — and spoke about, in note form — several recently deceased priests, including members of religious orders, who had ministered in Auckland diocese. Among them were:
“Brian Arahill: We remember him. Loved the liturgy. Hospitality. Encouragement of priests in difficulties. Mentor of seminarians. Beautiful gifts, Brian.”
“Felix Donnelly: Great passion for the young, which led him, for some years, to walk in a parallel path. But a heart really filled with God’s love and trying to help those, especially those, who are most in need, on the fringes of society.”
“Stuart O’Connell: Bishop Stuart. Who spent so many years working in the Pacific and then retired here to Auckland and again served so faithfully and with such a joyful heart.”
“Ray Green: Based here in Panmure for some years. Then the founding pastor at Pakuranga. And parish priest at Owairaka. Beautiful gifts, but also we know the human frailty too. Could be a bit grumpy at times. But that was Ray. But we remember the gifts — his generous response to serving the Lord.”
“Denzil Meuli: We know Denzil. Love for the Latin Mass. He would have liked the “requiem” being sung (at the start of the Mass in Panmure). But Denzil too, a lovely pastor and a nice sense of humour. Very warm relationship with his people in Titirangi.”
“Ikenasio Viteliano: At the start of this year. I think (Fr) David made the point that we all knew that Ike wasn’t a saint. But much loved. Thousands of people on facebook saying how much they appreciated his ministry.”
“And that is the mystery of the priesthood,” Bishop Dunn concluded, “that often our humanity is what makes people feel that they can approach us and trust us.