Consecrated Hands for Heavenly Food
It’s an incredible experience to participate in the Liturgy of Ordination to the Priesthood. Actually, if you enter into the spiritual depth, it’s almost surreal! This past weekend I joined over 100 of my brother priests and approximately 1,500 people to pray for Fr. Jesse Bolger, Fr. Michael Triplett, Fr. Dan Goulet and Fr. Michael Foppiano as they were ordained to the Order of Priesthood at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
Although it’s a fast-moving, 2-hour ceremony packed with incredible symbols and rituals, there’s one highlight that leaves an impression. The Ordinand (the men to be ordained) lay prostrate on the floor, a sign of death to self and surrender to Christ. A cantor chants, calling the names of Saints, and the people respond in chant, “pray for us.” The men eventually stand, as if given new lives and new strength. They remove their dalmatics – the vestment of the deacon/servant – but not because they will no longer “serve.” Instead, these four men will put on the robes of the priest, because they will not only serve the Heavenly Food from the Lord’s table, but they must now prepare the sacrifice as well. In fact, and most importantly, the priest will act in the Person of Christ and be the sacrifice for God’s people! Their hands were then consecrated with Chrism Oil to prepare them for handling the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation!
Everyone should experience a priesthood Ordination at least once in their lives. You’ll see that priests are normal people. They aren’t somehow plopped out of the sky. They come from your homes. And statistics show that the majority of priests are truly joyful! No matter what the media may say about priests – and I’m not mitigating the problems – I can’t forget the positive things a priest can do for his people. I love being a priest, and seeing the four men get ordained last Saturday only renewed my enthusiasm for this awesome calling.
The faces of these new priests showed me true joy! Yet they were also keenly aware of the struggles of the priesthood, especially in this day and age when God and religion are debated rather than discerned. These men showed me how they are responding “yes” to their vocation! They helped me to want to say “yes” to mine! They can help you say “yes” to your vocation.
I know we had an email blast about vocations before. The word comes from the Latin “vocare” – “to call,” or “vox” – “voice” and “ationes” – “action.” But in light of this past weekend’s ordinations, I can’t help but offer another nuance to vocations. Also, this past weekend we celebrated the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24), the child destined to be the “voice” crying out in the wilderness. In other words, St. John the Baptist and our newly ordained priests must speak with their own voices - not their own words, but the Word of God!
This email Blast reminds us that we need to be a voice for God too. Are we taking time to hear His Word in prayer? Do we have the courage to speak up and speak out – with charity, of course? Do we practice what we preach, letting our actions speak loudly and clearly?
This week, I will be going on a weeklong spiritual retreat for myself. It’s actually a canonical requirement, establishing the importance for a priest to take time to pray, be silent, rest, and listen for God’s voice to rejuvenate him for the work that lies ahead. Although I’m writing this email Blast a few days before you receive it, I want to let you all know that I’ll be praying for you in a special way. I kindly ask you to say a prayer for me, and for the Grace Before Meals “mission.” We have so many exciting things happening, and I look forward to sharing some of the good news with you. In the meantime, trust in my prayer for you while I’m on my retreat, and please remember me, your own priests and pastors, and also our newest priests in prayer!
After the Ordination, I had the wonderful opportunity to gather with a few brother priests, including the Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, Most Rev. Daniel Thomas. He was my spiritual director when I was a seminarian in Rome. He is a warm, gentle, loving and strong leader. It was affirming to share time with him and a few other good friends: Fr. Duarte of Richmond, VA; Fr. Porter of Wilmington, DE; and Fathers Buening, Peach and Arnold from Baltimore, MD. They are incredible witnesses of God’s Love. We went to the famous Rusty Scupper Restaurant in Baltimore, a place where I had my Deacon Ordination Reception. It was only fitting that I go there for a “priest reception.” This place has a stunning view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and a wide selection of tasty plates that highlight the world-famous Maryland seafood. Here’s my version of the salmon that I ordered. Give it a try! I know it will be a big hit! For the recipe [click here].
The ritual of priestly Ordination has many fascinating aspects based on history, theology, tradition and mysticism. One prayer that always stands out for me is when the Ordinand takes up the chalice and paten and prays to conform his life to the sacrifice and oblation that he will undergo in order to lead his people. Priests obviously need prayers, so please consider saying a prayer for your priest! We’ve got lots of hungry souls to feed, and in our limited humanity, we need all of the grace we can get. Pray for your priests.
Loving Father, bless Your servants whom You have called to bear witness by their words and by their very lives. Help them become loving spiritual fathers in our churches and in our communities. Give them the grace they need to feed Your hungry children. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.