Life on the Chrism Trail

Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Sixtieth Anniversary of Priestly Ordination of Monsignor Raymund Mullan

June 28, 2022
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, TX

Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12
Psalm 5:4b-6a, 7, 8
Matthew 8:23-27

“They came and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us!  We are perishing!’ He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’ Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”

In many ways, it is the pastoral responsibility of a priest, who is configured by his ordination to Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church, to stand as Christ stood amidst the tumult and storm with peace to impart among the disciples who are weak in faith. A priest must be a man of faith. As a man of faith, he can see the world as it truly is — a world described by the paradox of being loved and redeemed by Christ yet fallen and riddled by sin. A priest is called to bring the peace of Christ in his preaching, in his sacramental ministry, and simply in his presence as a father of the parish among God’s people to whom he has been given and who in turn have been entrusted to him. The young Father Ray Mullan knew this from early in his life and ministry. He wrote:

Yet deep within us is that might,                

   The seed of Truth, the fire of Light         
Which makes us seek His mercy out          
   To save us from our present grief.           

And in distress so turn about                      

   To that which soothes and gives relief —

His love, His mercy and His grace             
   Which aids us in this bitter place.            

Today we join with our brother, Monsignor Raymund Mullan, in thanking God for the gift of sixty years of priesthood granted to him and shared with us as brother priests who also have been so blessed and entrusted with the same immeasurable gift. Just over half of those sixty years have been spent as a priest of the Diocese of Fort Worth, with the prior years being spent as a priest of the Archdiocese of Pretoria in South Africa. As we celebrate this wonderful gift and accomplishment with our brother, I especially wish to consider the peaceful ministry of a priest amidst the tumult of the world as offered and received by Monsignor Mullan in light of the Gospel reading offered us by the Church today. The ministry of Monsignor Mullan as a priest has been marked by the peace of Christ amidst great tumult in society and the life of the Church.

Father Mullan’s early years of priesthood included service as a chaplain in the Military of the Republic of South Africa. His ministry included service with the soldiers under fire in battle in Angola. He served with great courage and fidelity, caring peacefully for the flock entrusted to him in this specialized ministry during the tumult of war. This soon became ever more challenging when the bishops of South Africa began to refuse to allow priests to serve as chaplains in the military because of the official policy of apartheid of the government in South Africa. This policy was heavily supported by the Calvinist theology of the Dutch Reformed Church and Father Mullan soon found himself amidst the political tumult of something almost as stormy as war: church and state politics. Father Mullan remained focused upon Christ and fulfilled his ministry with integrity for the Catholics in the armed services who would have otherwise been completely abandoned without the sacraments and comfort afforded by a chaplain. He did this completely without any disrespect or disobedience for his priestly superiors. “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”

We heard in the reading from the prophet Amos, “Hear this word, O children of Israel, that the LORD pronounces over you, over the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt.” In a particular sense, the family of Father Mullan experienced deliverance from the destructive storms experienced in South Africa at the time. Like all such transitions, the experience was at times very painful — the loss of a familiar way of life and the storms of change into a different culture in Texas. Yet, Father Mullan, ever the priest, accompanied his parents to Texas where his dear brother Bert and his wife Francie had settled with their family a few years before. He came to this diocese as a faithful priest and kind pastor who very much brought with him a love and appreciation for the authentic priesthood of Jesus Christ during a stormy period of life in this diocese where many priests had abandoned the ministry and the priesthood itself was too frequently diminished in its true character. In his priestly ministry, he calmed these waves in his family’s life and in the life of the Catholic Church in St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills, Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton, and at St. Mary’s Parish in Graham and St. Theresa’s Parish in Olney.

Today in our lives and priestly vocations we minister amidst tumult and storms in our society and in the life of the Church. It is the character of our vocations as priests of Jesus Christ not to lose our focus upon the Lord nor to lose our conversation in prayer with Him. It is that conversation in prayer with Jesus that keeps us strong in faith and able to impart Christ’s peace to His disciples of today and keep our boat pointed in the right direction.

The Lord offers us our daily bread in the celebration of the Eucharist, that nourishes us and brings us close to Jesus as His trusted priests and collaborators in the mission of the salvation of the world. In a few moments we will make this offering yet again and approach unworthily the altar to which Christ has called us and where He saves us from being of little faith. We thank God for the sixty years of faithful and priestly ministry of Monsignor Mullan. We ask God to bless Him and to bless us with greater peace and fidelity to the truth of His Gospel, to the compassion of His merciful love, and the peace of His Kingdom for which we pray to come.

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