Ordination of Cuthbert Brennan, osb

On Sunday 11th July Cuthbert Brennan was ordianed to the Priesthood by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly in the presence of the Glenstal Community and a very large circle of family and friends. It was a liturgy which was adorned by calm, prayerfulness and beautiful vocals. Rarely has the acoustic of the Abbey Church been so superbly deployed.

There was a very relaxed and generously prepared reception in the Castle Rooms afterwards with the excellent catering talents of Campbell Catering on show as well as a minimum of fuss, bother and speeches!

On Monday 12th July Fr Cuthbert celebrated his first Mass in the Abbey Church, again in the presence of his Community, Family and Friends. Fr Brendan was the invited homilist, and his homily is included below.

FIRST MASS – Homily by Fr Brendan Coffey, o.s.b.


Many years ago, Cuthbert, you began a search which eventually led you to this school of the Lord’s service.  Since then it has led you, as a monk – to Chicago and back again – to this monastery and to this day, and that search continues until it ends in Him.  Much has changed in those years and there is much for which we now give thanks.  As the reading you chose from Ecclesiasticus puts it – has anyone who trusted in the Lord been disappointed?

Those of us who were here yesterday will remember the archbishop presenting Cuthbert with the bread and wine which Michael and Breda brought to the altar.  A simple gesture and a profound one.  A gesture which we repeat every time we gather to celebrate this mystery of Christ’s love for us in the Eucharist. 

You might even recall what the archbishop said when he gave Cuthbert these gifts – let me remind you:  “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him.  Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

In a few moments we will repeat this very gesture and it is worth our while reflecting on the meaning of it all.  

Bread is fruit of the earth and therefore a gift of God, but it is a gift which has to be transformed by the work of our hands to become bread.  Wine too is fruit of the earth, fruit of the vine, but the grape has to be crushed, destroyed, and thereby transformed into wine which gladdens the human heart.  This food and drink transformed once by our labour are further transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit that we might share in the banquet of heaven.

These are our gifts – as they were the gifts of Melchehisedech (that mysterious figure of the Old Testament who we hear mention of in our Eucharistic Prayer), for we are a priestly people.  These are the gifts we offer on our altar and we do this in memory of him. 

This has profound implications; for it means that our lives – my life, is the fruit of his death.  The history of salvation has become my history.  Therefore, I must live well.  Model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.  For we must love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and our neighbour as ourselves.

Cuthbert, as a priest, it is your privilege, for privilege indeed it is, to preside at the celebration of the Eucharist, to lead the people of God in this timeless celebration of the mysteries of Christ.  It is your privilege to preside over the Liturgy of the Word; God’s revelation to his people.  It is your privilege, in the name of the Church, to pray the Eucharistic prayer and invoke the Holy Spirit, to stand before the altar of God as earth unites with heaven in this one great act of giving thanks and praise.  This day there are some in heaven who have an extra reason for that thanks and praise and who are without any doubt very proud.

To understand what all this means we need only think of the disciples in the upper room, behind closed doors, on the day of resurrection.  Christ came and stood among them.  They saw, they could even touch the risen one.  Here, now, he stands among us.  What we celebrate is the icon of heaven.  It reveals the face of God to us and there is nothing more beautiful than the face of God.   

To lead God’s people in prayer, Cuthbert, must adopt the attitude of Christ himself: the one who serves, who humbles himself, who bends down and washes the disciple’s feet; something, which as a monk, you also learn from the daily worship of God in choir.  As St Paul put it in his letter to the Phillippians; keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and the God of peace will be with you.

On a day like today there is no greater wisdom that you can receive, no greater advice which can be given you, than that which the Church in her mysteries places before us day after day for us to ponder in our hearts.  And so Cuthbert – Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him.  Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.  Ad multos annos.