Today, was an unexpectedly emotional day. If I had to sum it all up in a few words, I'd say, "I love being a priest."
Today is Holy Thursday, the day in which Catholics celebrate the end of Lent, and the beginning of the Easter Triduum, the holiest three days of the year. It is also the day in which in dioceses around the world, priests come together to celebrate the Chrism Mass with their bishop. At this Mass, priests renew the promises they made at ordination. In the evening, each parish has the first Triduum liturgy, the Mass of the Lord's Supper.
I began the day as I normally do, with an hour of prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I then did some office work before I had to get ready for the Chrism Mass. Just before Mass and the renewal of priestly promises, I went to confession. I confessed those sins that I had committed since my last confession (as we always do in confession), but then I went through an extensive list of shortcomings in living out my priestly promises over the last year. It was humbling to admit how far I am from the ideal of the priest, from being an alter Christus, another Christ. I am far from perfect, but with God's grace I press on, confident that He can work with imperfect instruments.
|The crucifixion scene to the right caught my attention.|
I must admit I was a little saddened by the rain. Because of the weather, we did not process in like we normally do, which includes a row of Cathedral Carmel students on each side of the procession welcoming us and cheering us on as we make our way into the cathedral. This has brought me a whole new level of joy now that I am assigned at the Cathedral and know many of the students. Instead of the normal procession, we priests were seated when Mass began. I was moved up from one of the last pews to the second pew which for some reason had remained empty. This brought Luke 14:10 to life! Whereas before I was seated far away, and behind a huge pillar, now I was seated up close with a wonderful view of the beautiful stained glass windows that adorn the sanctuary. Gazing up at that window, which I have looked at many times, I was reminded of the fact that I am called to that too! Yes, today is a wonderful day of celebration and joy, but it is followed by Good Friday. As His priest, I am called to offer myself daily for my flock, and many times it will look like the cross, not like today. One thing I have come to learn though, is that even in the Cross, there is joy...maybe even especially in the Cross!
In just a few days, I will turn 33, the traditional age at which Jesus died. I have been commenting on this to a few people lately saying that this is my year! Of course, it is up to God when He calls me home, but I do think that this will be a very important year in my life. I'm not sure what He has in store for me, but I know that whatever it is He will also give me the grace to do it. With this in mind, I was moved by the opening hymn for the Chrism Mass. It was To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King, which we used to sing each week after Benediction at St. Ben's. It brought back great memories from my two years there. I was also struck by the final verse: "To You and to Your Church, great King,/We pledge our hearts' oblation;/Until before Your throne we sing/In endless jubilation." This was the fourth time I have renewed my priestly promises, but for some reason this year seemed more serious. Singing that I pledge my heart's oblation, I meant it...I really want more than anything to be holy and to help others do the same! Lord, help me to be a good and holy priest.
Another source of emotion for me today was that it was the first Chrism Mass without Msgr. Mouton (at least physically present...I know he was certainly there!). It helped me to realize once more just how thankful I am for his priesthood. He taught me so much, not only in the many conversations we had, but more so in the prayerful and dedicated way that he lived out his priesthood. I don't know if there is anyone I have known personally that has been more priestly in everything he did. Msgr, help me to be a good and holy priest!
Finally, the decorations! It probably isn't a big surprise that a church would use white roses for decorations during the Triduum, but they still got me! Anyone who knows me knows about my great love for St. Thérèse, and her great love for me! I can't get into the all the details, but suffice it to say that through a novena I prayed to St. Thérèse early on in theology, white roses have become a symbol for me of my call to the priesthood. Over and over and over again I have "received" white roses exactly when I needed them. Each time I am troubled, or doubting my call or my ability to live it out, white roses appear! What better day than today, the day of the institution of the priesthood to have that reminder once again from my tireless intercessor. One of my friends (a self-admitted creeper) kept some of the white roses from my first Mass decorations. Three years later she gave them to me arranged around one of my favorite quotes of St. Thérèse. She wrote it to a young priest who was struggling in his vocation, but I like to think she said it to me (and repeats it often); "Truly, only in heaven will you know how dear you are to me." St. Therese, help me to be a good and holy priest.
Did I say finally? One more thing. I was also reminded today what one of my seminarian classmates that shared my birthday pointed out to me. In 1985 (the year I was born), my birthday fell on Holy Thursday. Now I know that there are many, many priests who were not born on Holy Thursday, but I see this as another assurance of God's call, and of His great love for me. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." Before I was ever a thought on earth, God knew that He would create me to be a priest. I truly believe this. I truly believe that it is the source of my joy and happiness in being a priest...that I KNOW without the shadow of a doubt that I am being who God created me to be...that I am doing what God created me to do.
What a great day to renew my promises. Here is what that looks like:
on the anniversary of that day
when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood
on his Apostles and on us,
are you resolved to renew
in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people,
the promises you once made?
The Priests, all together, respond: I am.
Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus
and more closely conformed to him,
denying yourselves and confirming those promises
about sacred duties towards Christ&srquo;s Church
which, prompted by love of him,
you willingly and joyfully pledged
on the day of your priestly ordination?
Priests: I am.
Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God
in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites
and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching,
following Christ the Head and Shepherd,
not seeking any gain,
but moved only by zeal for souls?
Priests: I am.
I have met so many amazing people in my six years of seminary and now almost four years of priesthood. I know that I have been able to do many good things because of God's grace, and your prayers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and prayers. Please, continue to pray for me, that I may be a good and holy priest!
Lord, I don't know why you saw fit to call me to be a priest, but I am thankful, and I absolutely love being your priest!