Bishop Earl Boyea used his homily during Saturday’s priestly ordinations at Saint Thomas Aquinas in East Lansing to make the case for the fruitfulness of celibate love as lived by Jesus Christ and those who are His priests.
“He has loved us as a celibate, a love which is pure grace, and so, with God’s grace, are we dedicated to love in this same way,” said Bishop Boyea to Deacons Tyler Arens and Peter Ludwig moments prior to their ordination to the sacred priesthood, June 11, and to seminarians Corey Bilodeau and Shea Kettner as they prepared for ordination to the transitional diaconate.
Bishop Boyea then identified four aspects of “celibate fruitfulness”: First, a commitment to celibacy is not a commitment to bachelorhood; second, celibacy is meant to bear fruit in the generation of many new sons and daughters in the faith; third, celibacy is real love; fourth, the real fruit of celibacy is its manifestation of the life of the Spirit, such that all that the priest has, and is, is a gift of God.
“My brothers and sons, this promise which you made as part of the diaconate ordination was already planted in you with God’s call to you. He wants you for himself. Please, bear fruit that will endure and live the great gift you have received,” concluded Bishop Boyea.
“Jesus’ total love of the Father, his being a sign of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of Heaven, his clear missionary life, and his manifestation of the Spirit of God now become your calling and your life.”
Bishop Boyea's homily is reproduced in full below. The accompanying images of the Saturday’s ordinations were captured by photographer Tom Gennara.
* Homily by Bishop Earl Boyea: Priesthood and Transitional Diaconate Ordination Mass 2022 Saturday, June 11, 2022, Isaiah 61:1-3abcd; II Cor 4:1-2, 5-7; John 15: 9-17 (St. Thomas, East Lansing, 10:30 AM; Deacons Tyler Arens and Peter Ludwig; Corey Bilodeau and Shea Kettner)
Thanks to: Bishop Mengeling; Fr. Gordon Riegle and the St. Thomas-St. John Staff. We welcome Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Ordinariate, Very Reverend Jonathan of St. John Vianney Seminary, and Very Reverend Stephen Burr and Rev. Charles Fox of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan, OP, of the North American College, and the many priests and fellow students from the various seminaries. Many thanks to Jeremy Priest and our MCs and serving team; Fr. John Whitlock and Denise Dell-Acqua and all those involved in making our celebration possible, including our musicians. We salute parents and family members of those to be ordained—welcome and thank you for your support of their vocations; invite all the seminarians present to stand; invite all the deacons and priests to stand.
My dear sisters and brothers in this wonderful congregation and those watching us on this live-stream, we are all invited to consider carefully the nature of the orders to which these, our brothers, are to be ordained today whether it be the order of the priesthood or the order of the diaconate. God has made, as we know, his entire holy people a royal priesthood. However, Jesus also chose his apostles to be his sacramental presence for building up the Body of Christ in service to all of us. These apostles and those subsequently ordained after them are configured to Jesus. As a result, they are entrusted by the Church to carry on Christ’s ministry in our midst to this day. So, please, keep them in your prayers as they fulfill their sacred ministries.
And now I turn to you, my brothers. “Love one another as I loved you.” So, directs the Lord himself. He has loved us as a celibate, a love which is pure grace, and so, with God’s grace, are we dedicated to love in this same way. In this 15th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus wants us, as he says, “to go and bear fruit that will remain.” So, allow me to speak about the life of celibacy you have chosen and how fruitful it is to be for you and for the whole Church. As we reflect upon these points, let us also recall how John the Baptist, while in prison, sent his followers to look at Jesus and note the fruits of his ministry (Mt 11:4-5). Many look at us as well and want to see the fruit of the Lord’s work in us. So, now, let me break this celibate fruitfulness into four points.
First, your commitment to celibacy is not a commitment to bachelorhood! As Isaiah says today, God has given you “a glorious mantel instead of a listless spirit.” So, you and your way of life are proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God, not as some future event but as something which is already taking place. You, my brothers and sons, are signs of that Kingdom through your focused relationship with the Father. Your celibate life is a summons to everyone you meet and serve that God is worth our all and that God satisfies all of our heart’s yearnings. Your life indicates that this is not just a possibility but is a reality here and now.
Secondly, as St. Paul often spoke of himself as both mother and father in his missionary endeavors, so, your celibacy is meant to bear fruit in the generation of many new sons and daughters in the faith. Again, this gift and grace of celibacy pushes us to be fishers of men and not only shepherds of souls. This missionary activity on your part will be the clearest sign of your celibacy bearing fruit that will endure. We know that we hold a great treasure in earthen vessels, as Paul tells the Corinthians today. Nonetheless, we are still to be that inviting light drawing others out of darkness and thus giving birth to new sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus. That is great fruit indeed!
Thirdly, this celibacy is real love. It indicates that you really believe in the Lord’s full presence to you. It is ardent. Your whole self is in love with the Lord. There is no greater love in your life and in your heart and in your soul and in your mind. You have given your all to Jesus. In spite of the difficulties of this life, your graced commitment to celibacy will manifest itself in joy. This is no different than the love of a spouse for another; in spite of difficulties, the dedication to each other brings forth a deep and abiding joy. This is the joy which Jesus invokes upon us, a joy which is his very own joy and which is complete. No sourpusses here; we are loved by Christ and are called and blessed to love with his love everyone else.
And, finally, the real fruit of your celibacy will be its manifestation of the life of the Spirit, that all that you have and are is a gift of God. This is not your offering to Him. This is His offering to you. I know that all of us can ask with great humility, “Why, Lord, have you given me this gift, I who am so unworthy?” Yet, that is what God has done. This is His gift to us and without Him we recognize that we are nothing. My brothers and sons, this promise which you made as part of the diaconate ordination was already planted in you with God’s call to you. He wants you for himself. Please, bear fruit that will endure and live the great gift you have received.
Jesus’ total love of the Father, his being a sign of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of Heaven, his clear missionary life, and his manifestation of the Spirit of God now become your calling and your life. You who, as deacons, are conformed to Christ the Servant, and you who, as priests, are conformed to Christ as Head and Shepherd, are all called to serve as he served. This is as true as St. Paul tells us today: “we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.” That is the kind of loving service to which we are called. That is what it means for you Priests to be Fathers, and you Deacons to be Servants, all of you to be rooted in Christ and filled with his hope. This you will be for the many you serve. Now, allow me to be a weak and sinful example to you as I seek to serve you who are to be ordained priests and to wash your feet.
God bless you all.