Last Friday 8th December 2023, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, our principal diocesan patron, I was pleased to ordain Diego Hoyos to the diaconate. Please pray for him as he continues his journey, please God, to the sacred priesthood next summer. Here is the homily I preached…
Today we have the joy of ordaining to the sacred diaconate Diego Hoyos. I warmly welcome all of you to this Mass: brother clergy, especially Canon John O’Leary, Rector of Allen Hall, and Diego’s family, friends and parishioners, not least his parents Sigifredo and Tulia, and his sisters Roxana, Valery and Rosa. Diego’s vocational journey has been long and circuitous. Born in Columbia, as a teenager he was brought up in London, and after leaving school, he belonged to the Franciscans of the Immaculate until recently when he joined the Diocese. His ordination to the diaconate today, and please God, in the summer to the priesthood, is a testimony to God’s grace and to Diego’s generous response. In this Mass, we pray for him earnestly, as he gives himself to the Lord.
But today is a happy day not just for Diego and the Diocese but for all of us, indeed, for all humanity. For today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Woman referred to in the First Reading Who will crush the serpent’s head. Her conception on this day in the womb of her mother Anne, without the poison of the Original Sin, marked the beginning of God’s great plan to re-create the universe. For of Her would be born the Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who by His death and resurrection would overthrow Satan, opening the gates of Paradise and inviting us to a new way of life in a new world. Mary is thus the first creature since Genesis to have been fully redeemed, an integrated human being once again at one with God, at one with others, at one with Nature. Like Advent leading to Christmas, She is the Morning Star that ushers in the bright dawn of a new and everlasting day. No wonder the angel calls Her kekaritomene highly favoured, full of grace, gratia plena.
Diego, today you receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and become a Deacon. What is a deacon? A deacon is a man of service, a fellow-worker with the bishop and his priests, a helper ready to do whatever is needed to further the Church’s mission. The Catechism sums it up, speaking of a deacon as a Minister of the Altar, a Minister of the Word and a Minister of Charity. I’ve asked you to serve the parish of St. James’s, Reading. There is much to do there and you will surely be to Fr. Chris an invaluable help. But as you know, this country is marked by a very great poverty, the greatest poverty of all, the absence of God, the lack of a relationship with God in a person’s life. Many people, even in our own families and friends, are agnostic or indifferent. It will be your task to bring them closer to Jesus Christ through His Church. Of course, as fallen beings, it’s always tempting to detach ourselves from God. Why trust Him? Does He not limit our freedom? Would we not be happier if we relaxed our moral absolutes, experiencing just a few of the things our imagination suggests? The Virgin Mary shews this never works. In fact, this Woman of Truth, Goodness, Beauty and Love demonstrates the opposite: it’s only by saying yes to God, that we find true freedom. It’s only by giving that we receive. It’s only by friendship with Him that we find the way to heaven and happiness. It will be your task as a deacon by prayer, persuasion and example to help realign people’s thinking.
I am the handmaid of the Lord, said Mary: let what you have said be done to me. Here in these dark days in the northern hemisphere, in these dangerous times when the world faces enormous difficulties, Mary is a lantern beaming brightly in the darkness guiding our way. She is a true Deacon, the model Servant of the Lord, totally devoted to Her Son. Diego, in your ministry, you can do no better than to imitate Her. Keep close to Her; ask Her prayers; pray every day cum Maria Matre Iesu, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. In this Mass, as you lie on the sanctuary-floor ad orientem, giving your life to Christ and His service, we call on Her prayers. We ask Her to be at your side. Indeed in the days ahead, with Her help, we ask the Lord to make you, and those you serve, full of joy.