Peter Wheatley preaches for the sixtieth anniversary of the ordination of Fr Aidan Mayoss CR
‘God has appointed me as a priest of Jesus Christ, and I am to carry out my priestly duty by bringing the Good News from God to the pagans, and so make them acceptable as an offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit.’ (Rom. 15.16)
The Holy Spirit had a lot of work to do in the autumn of 1958. He worked through the hands of Bishop Arthur Stretton Reeve in the ordination of Fr Aidan to the sacred priesthood in Lichfield Cathedral. The Holy Spirit was already stirring the hearts of the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. On 28 October they elected Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli as Pope. Only two days later Pope John XXIII told his secretary of the importance of holding a council of the whole church. So the Second Vatican Council was called. How very different the church is now to what it was in 1958, and we thank God for Fr Aidan’s faithfulness through all the changes and challenges of the subsequent 60 years.
Through the Council a wind of change began to blow through the church. You may know the story of elderly cardinals coming to see Pope John to ask him what sense there was in calling together a council. The Pope is supposed to have silently risen from his chair and opened the window. It was to let the wind of the Spirit blow into the church. Bringing fresh air into our lives also characterizes Fr Aidan’s presence among us. By his priestly ministry, sin and a lot of other nonsense is blown away.
I know the parish of Holy Trinity, Stroud Green in which Fr Aidan was baptised and the churches near here in Colindale and Burnt Oak which nurtured him in the catholic faith. This reminds us all to be faithful in our witness to the church, because the Holy Spirit may be at work in some young person among us, capable of offering another lifetime’s service to Jesus Christ and his Church, unless by our faithlessness we spoil that sense of calling. ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. So ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.’
I know little of Father’s title post and training incumbent, except that it must have been good. I remember Fr Aidan asking me what I had been reading. I replied that I had read the biographies of a prominent bishop and archbishop. ‘Just think,’ he said, ‘how much greater they would have been if they had had a good training incumbent.’ Father has retained a lively sense of what makes for good parish ministry and the formation needed in parish priests. He has put this to use as a member of the General Synod and on the national Board of Ministry, at times the scourge of erroneous chief officers. We give thanks for his service of the wider church and this was recognized in the Archbishop of Canterbury awarding him the Cross of St Augustine.
St Paul in his Letter to the Romans defines priestly ministry in this way: ‘God has appointed me as a priest of Jesus Christ, and I am to carry out my priestly duty by bringing the Good News from God to the pagans, and so make them acceptable as an offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit.’ That is the essence of Fr Aidan’s ministry: bringing the Gospel to people and then offering people up to God in prayer and above all in the Eucharist. For most of Fr Aidan’s priestly ministry he has been a member of the Community of the Resurrection. A community of priests is a strong force for exercising priesthood corporately. It is more than the sum of their numbers. The Community at prayer together is in itself a powerful force for bringing people to God, for sanctifying them and making them a sacrifice to God. A community can allow a degree of specialization if a priest has particular gifts. So we give thanks today for Father Aidan sharing in the life of the Community: preaching, missions, retreat-giving, spiritual director to a wide range of bishops, priests, laity and fellow religious such as the Sisters of St Margaret and the Sisters at Horbury, chaplain to university students in Stellenbosch and London and keeping the Community on track as its Bursar. For all this we give thanks to God.