CHARLESTON — Bishop Robert J. Baker celebrated a Mass for Prayer and Healing for victims of sexual abuse at Bishop England High School Aug. 29 in conjunction with the Day of Prayer called for by the U.S. bishops.
During that Mass he also received seminarian Jeff Kirby into candidacy for the priesthood.
Here is his introduction to the liturgy at Bishop England High School on the Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist and his homily on the Day of Prayer and Healing.
Today we gather in prayer to call Jeff Kirby to candidacy for the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
That means he is formally and officially a candidate for Holy Orders, but he has a few years of prayer, formation, and education to go through before that sacred event.
Our celebration here today means that you at Bishop England High School are behind him, in support of him with your prayers, letters, and good wishes.
He needs that. Especially at this time of history. Thank you for being there for him.
Also today we pray for healing for our church and healing for victims of sexual abuse by people in authority in our church, and the forgiveness of the Lord for those in leadership who did not exercise their authority properly in failing to remove from ministry abusers of minors.
On behalf of those sins of leadership, I ask the pardon of God and the forgiveness of God’s people. For these grave failures of responsibility and for the sins of those who have abused, we seek the mercy of God today.
These two themes for our celebration coincide on the Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist.
St. John the Baptist is the patron of our diocese.
We look to him as an icon — a model of integrity, a model of serving, a model for Jeff Kirby, a model for all of us.
Let us ask him to pray for all of us as we seek the Lord’s pardon and peace.
Everybody needs a model and mentor.
Jeff Kirby and all of us have one in St. John the Baptist.
He is an icon of faith and integrity.
He is a man who wasn’t cowed by people who threatened his life.
He was a true prophet — a spokesman for God.
I’d like to hold up two icons or images for reflection.
First of all, a little model of the twin towers in New York City. Let’s look at these two towers as a symbol of economic and financial integrity and stability and a symbol of prowess and success in our economic system. These towers collapsed on Sept. 11 as a result of anger and hatred unleashed in a way we could never imagine. We knew there was hatred for us Americans out there, but we had not experienced such animosity in so vast a way in a long time.
The fall-out in the way of death, destruction, and depression, was unimaginable. The economic fall-out was great too, more than we expected.
We are grappling with the hatred, and we are grappling with some of the hidden problems behind the economic disaster which include a lack of integrity by leaders of corporations, who padded their own expense accounts before declaring bankruptcy and undermining the investments of thousands of people, seriously harming the U.S. economy.
For us to rebuild that success story, the first need is integrity.
In regards to the icon that is John the Baptist, we can look upon this saint as a symbol of religious integrity. That religious integrity was shattered by the recent sex abuse scandals and cover-ups by some ecclesiastics.
What will restore the credibility of those who minister to the people of God? Once again — integrity.
Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as the “quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sensitivity.”
Integrity is the virtue found in the life of people like John the Baptist.
He wasn’t willing to compromise in his commitment to Christ.
He was authentic.
He practiced what he preached.
We celebrated the feast of St. Bartholomew (Nathanael of John’s Gospel) on Aug. 24.
Jesus said of him that he was a man without guide. There was no duplicity in him. What you saw was what you got.
“What good could come out of Nazareth?” was Bartholomew’s comment to Philip.
Jesus took that as an honest observation. Apparently he shared the same perspective. Nazareth must not have been the most reputable site in the Middle East at that time.
About Nazareth, Jesus was to say — “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own home.”
I think we all know Jeff Kirby to be a man of his word, a man of character, a man of conviction, a man of courage.
And with your support, approbation, and prayers I will call him forth as a candidate for the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Jeff’s faith and fidelity was nurtured here at Bishop England.
He is one of our answers to the current scandals in our church, as a good Christian and faithful and dedicated teacher of religion at Bishop England.
I know you share with me the commitment of praying for him in the days ahead that he follow his and our patron — the patron of the Diocese of Charleston, St. John the Baptist — in courage and in honest and faithful service of the Lord, putting his life on the line for the truth of the Gospel. …
Jesus paid John and Bartholomew (Nathanael) a great compliment. Bartholomew he called a “true Israelite,” “a man without guile.”
About John the Baptist Jesus said, “Among those born of women, no one is greater than John.”
As we call forth as a candidate for the priesthood a man like John the Baptist, a man without guile, Mr. Jeff Kirby, let us pray that he be always faithful to the way of life of Jesus Christ.