I just posted this on "The Catholic Guy Show" Blog - which I had written for them - but post here as well:
So this morning, the Archdiocese of Newark celebrated the ordination of 11 men to the priesthood - 9 for service to the Church of Newark and 2 for the religious order “The Society of Divine Vocations.”
It was, as it always is, an incredibly beautiful celebration. Over 3,000 people filled the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart to standing room only that flowed out the doors of magnificent Cathedral (you can see it virtually at http://www.cathedralbasilica.org/ ).
The ordination rite has some incredibly powerful moments. If you’ve never been to one, and have the opportunity to, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it will change your perspective on priesthood. (Well it did for me some 18 years ago when I went to my first ordination!) Justa few “highlights” of the ordination:
The candidates come forward. They are “elected” by the Bishop, which is approved by the People of God in their applause. The sound of thousands of people: family with tears in their eyes, friends who might not understand “this whole priesthood thing” (but are somehow drawn into this moment), priests and parishioners from throughout the diocese; it all helps in building this immense anticipation for the ordination itself.
Because the ceremonies and rites are very elaborate, a simple and important thing occurs right after the homily. The candidates lay prostrate on the floor as the entire congregation asks the Saints to intercede to God for all of us, but especially for these men chosen by God to be His Priests (this is the Litany of the Saints). It’s a moment for the candidate to realize the humility necessary to be a Priest.
As the Litany ends, the candidates kneel before the Bishop who lays his hands on each of the candidates heads in silence and all the priests do the same. This morning, there was well over 100 priests, 8 Bishops. It’s a moment where you have a sense of the Holy Spirit working through the Bishop, through the Church as the Holy Spirit has done since the time of the Apostles.
After a prayer of consecration, the newly ordained is “vested” with the chasuble and stole of a priest (the traditional vestments you would see a priest wear at Mass), His hands are anointed with the Holy Oil of Chrism - the same holy oil used at Baptism and Confirmation - where we recall Jesus Christ is the High Priest and now the newly ordained priest participates in Jesus’ ministry.
As the gifts of bread and wine are brought forward, the newly ordained are handed the patten and chalice - with bread and wine in it and are told - Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross. In those words, the priest is reminded that Celebrating the Holy Eucharist is the central to the life of the priest.
I share this because I believe that Jesus is still calling a lot of great men to this great vocation. But it’s hard:
- it’s hard for guys to “discern” is Jesus actually calling me to this
- it’s hard for guys to find support from the world around them who are skeptical or suspicious for a bunch of reasons
- and it’s hard after all of this to say “yes” to Jesus’ call - not just on ordination day, but every day we’re blessed to serve Him and His people.
This Thursday it will be 9 years I have been ordained. Sitting, standing and kneeling in that incredible cathedral this morning - I couldn’t believe that - 9 years, wow...
I wish I could say that I didn’t have moments of serious doubt, “dark nights of the soul” where I wondered where God had gone, times of abysmal failures in my service to God and his people where I wasn’t (or am not) the priest that Jesus has called me to be. I wish I could say those things didn’t happen in these past 9 years, but they have.
But the other side of it, is in a sense even more frightening. How I’m somehow able to be with God’s people from the moment they come into this world till the moment they return to Him and at all the incredibly intimate moments in between. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s too much to truly absorb. If I really think about it, I ask myself – who am I to be here?
Which is why it’s so essential to remember that it’s Jesus’ ministry that somehow I’m participating in. It’s Jesus who forgives my screw ups - It’s Jesus who enables me to serve the people when I serve - all done in his amazing Love.
For those of you who are discerning a priestly vocation out there - I just want you to know I offered my intention at this morning’s Ordination Mass for all of you. That the Lord continues to bless you as you remain open to His calling - that the Holy Spirit will open your ears and heart to truly hear his voice (particularly if you’re having difficulty believing “this could be happening to me!”) and that ultimately you will humbly and simply say the prayer that our Archbishop John J. Myers wrote Lord help me to want to be what you want me to be...
For all who are still reading this (I know this is long!) - please pray not for an increase in people called to the priesthood - Jesus is calling them - pray that they are able to say Yes to that call...
And finally I ask that people remember Pope Benedict’s a few weeks ago at the Papal Mass in Washington DC - love your priests and affirm them in the excellent work that they do. I know in my own ministry that it is the people’s strength, support, prayers and love which has helped make me more attentive to my relationship with Jesus every day.
OK - I’ve probably written WAY too much!