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Header Image: Bishop Brian McGee

 

Archbishop Cushley praised the “long and distinguished history of the Church of Christ in Argyll and the Isles” in his homily on the occasion of the Ordination of Mgr. Brian McGee as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.

 

The Episcopal Ordination of Monsignor Brian McGee as the new Bishop of Argyll and the Isles took place at St. Columba’s Cathedral in Oban today, Thursday 18 February at 7.00pm.The new Bishop was consecrated by Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

 

In his homily, Archbishop Cushley, spoke of the journey of St Columba to Iona 1,400 years ago, where he and his successors became “the undisputed religious and moral leaders of the people” While the monks of Iona “were known and respected throughout Europe for centuries”

 

Archbishop Cushley said: “Scotland itself owes Columba a deep debt of gratitude for the faith’s benign and gentle influence upon our society, something whose positive impact can be felt to this day.”

 

The full text of Archbishop Cushley’s Homily is shown below.

 

The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, said:

 

"I congratulate Mgr Brian McGee on his nomination and consecration as Bishop of Argyll&the Isles and look forward to welcoming him to the Bishops' Conference. When I was Bishop of Paisley, Brian was one of my priests. He was a dedicated pastor and a thoughtful priest. I have no doubt that he  will make his own distinctive and valuable contribution to the deliberations of our Conference."

 

ENDS

 

Peter Kearney

Director

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5 St. Vincent Place

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Images from the ordination available for download from FlickR.

 

Homily on the occasion of the Ordination of the Right Reverend Brian McGee as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles

 

Oban, 18 February 2016

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

A warm welcome to all of you to the Ordination of the Right Reverend Brian McGee as the 11th Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.

 

On this happy occasion, I am pleased to welcome in your name His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, my brother bishops, priests and deacons, and the clergy and representatives of the other churches, ecclesial communities and faiths here present today, who have graciously accepted the invitation to be with us.  I would like to offer a warm word of recognition and thanks to Monsignor James MacNeil, who has looked after the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles in recent times and until today.  And I would like to thank the civil representatives and distinguished guests who have joined us, as well as the local authorities who have kindly assisted with the arrangements made to accommodate us this evening here in Oban.

 

As you know, Argyll and the Isles is among the earliest places to hear the Word of God in our country, and it has enjoyed a very distinguished Christian history indeed.  It is a place steeped in the Celtic monastic tradition, where St Columba and his successors, although not bishops, were the undisputed religious and moral leaders of the people.  From the glimpses that we have of it, the Catholic Celtic tradition was both austere and beautiful: it was tough and soldierly, and yet it was also deeply spiritual and uplifting, suited to both the land and the people of this beautiful place.  The faith was already known here when Columba came to Dunadd over 1,400 years ago to ask King Conal for a place to build a monastery.  The island he was given, Iona, became the heart of a missionary movement that saw numbers of tough, single-minded mystics trained in its hard monastic discipline; and those monks were known and respected throughout Europe for centuries.  To this day, in a corner of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, there is a map of Scotland, painted in the 16th century.  It is no surprise to find that the island of Iona is not to scale:  it is more the size of Mull or Skye – because, well, that artist thought it ought to be, due to its fame throughout the Christian world!  Iona is said to have begun with just Columba and twelve companions, but the impact of his love of Christ, his faith and his learning, consolidated the faith here in Scotland and was a force that was felt all over Western Europe in the centuries which followed: as the renowned historian Lord Kenneth Clarke once observed, it was these Scots-Irish monks and scholars who saved us and Western Civilisation by “the skin of our teeth”.

 

And we should not forget that Scotland itself owes Columba a deep debt of gratitude for the faith’s benign and gentle influence upon our society, something whose positive impact can be felt to this day. 

 

The scriptural readings chosen by Mgr McGee for today are a lovely choice from those passages set aside for the ordination of a bishop.  The first reading from Isaiah is the very one chosen by Our Lord himself when he first preaches to his own people in his home synagogue in Nazareth: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has sent me to preach the good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken”… St Luke tells us how, having read those words, Jesus adds: “The text is being fulfilled today, even as you listen”.  That is also perfectly true for us: today, here and now, this text is being fulfilled today, even as we listen, for Father Brian is being sent you, my dear brothers and sisters, precisely to preach the Good News to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken, anointed as he will shortly be, by the Gift of the Spirit and commissioned by God’s church to serve you.   


In the second reading, we hear a passage from a lovely letter of St Paul to his Greek friend and colleague Titus, just as Titus is being sent off to be bishop of a small church.  Paul says that, through the laying on hands, Titus has received a “gift of power, of love and of self control”.  Paul also tells him to fan that gift into a flame, and to rely completely on God, and not on his own limited resources.  Paul also urges Titus to remain faithful to the teaching handed on to him, and to look after it because it is something precious.

 

Perhaps most significantly, the Gospel passage we heard is from St John’s gospel, where our Lord urges the disciples to follow his commandment and example of love.  We also find embedded in the passage something at the very centre of the lives of all those in holy orders, something that they must all, sooner or later, understand, accept and take to heart.

 

It is true that we are called to keep God’s commands; we are called to love as he loved us; we are Christ’s friends if we do what he commands.  But at the very centre of this passage, our attention is drawn towards the words: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you”.

 

When we are young we think like St Peter.  We are headstrong.  We think that we can go where we like, that holy orders is something that I aspire to; that  the priesthood is mine, that it is my life, my hard work, my dedication, my strength of character, and that that will make me a good priest.  But St Peter learns gradually that in reality he didn’t choose Christ; Christ chose him.  He was instead called, he had a vocation, the call was external to him.  A belt was put on him and he was taken where he would rather not go.  Happily, he learned to entrust himself to God’s good grace, and that was how he would give glory to God and would fulfil the vocation received from Christ himself.

 

This text, then, surely tells us that none of what we see here is our doing.  No matter what we want or do, we cannot choose it on our own.  We cannot choose Christ before he chooses us.  And that is just as well.  “You did not choose me; no, I chose you”.  It’s a truth, but it’s one that we often only see in hindsight, looking back on the turns that our life takes.  Today is one of those occasions when Christ’s choice of one of us is placed in higher relief, and it is moving to see it for ourselves and to witness it for ourselves. 

 

As you are chosen and set aside today, Brian, Christ simultaneously commissions you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.  It will seem strange, it may feel a little unlikely for some time to come, but Christ has chosen you and placed you here to be a spiritual father and guide to the people of this diocese.  And he has commissioned to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last.  In a small way, you even imitate St Columba himself.  Your mother and sister Brona are here, and I’m sure your dad James, gone to God a number of years ago, would have been very proud of you. Your mum and many of your own people are from the north of Ireland, just like St Columba and, although you come here via Paisley, in a way you are following the trajectory of Columba and many other Scoti of Dalriada from the times when the people on both sides of the water here were essentially the same folk, with the same language, customs, kings and faith.  Providence or coincidence, you are where the Lord wishes you to be, and you should never forget that you are in the place where he chooses to send you and to commission to you bear fruit, fruit that will last.

 

In all great moments, the Church prays the litany of the saints, and today is no exception.  So during the litany of saints we are about to pray, what are gifts that we ought to beg for you on this most solemn occasion?  I think we need look no further than the figure of St Columba himself. Columba was a spiritual man; Adomnàn tells us that he was “island soldier”, devoted to prayer, fasts and vigils.  He says that he was “an angel in demeanour, blameless in what he said, godly in what he did, brilliant in intellect and great in counsel”.  Quite a tall order, then...

 

A soldier dedicates himself fully and risks his life for what he loves and believes in; an island soldier, imitating Columba, will add to that a love of prayer and personal discipline.  But Adomnàn also tells us that Columba was “loving to all people, and his face showed a holy gladness because his heart was full of the joy of the Holy Spirit”.  I would wish all of Columba’s virtues for you, Brian.  But perhaps this last virtue, of being loving to all people, would be the best gift of all that we could beg for you. 

 

Finally, be assured that all of us here pray earnestly that you will be a holy, humble and obedient Pastor after the heart of Christ, and in this Year of Mercy we ask the Lord to fill your heart with his love and compassion for others.  And we pray fervently that, today and throughout your ministry, you will be loving to all people, as Columba was himself. And may the “island soldier” always accompany you with his strong yet loving spirit, as you add your own steps to the long and distinguished history of the Church of Christ in Argyll and the Isles.   Amen.

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