Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Men in Black 3-what is a priest?
This weekend Men in Black 3 topped the charts as the nations #1 movie. Today is the 13th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I wear black. I may not take on aliens as they do in the movie but black is my color. Yesterday I wish I could have worn white-the sun was hot at East Hampton's Memorial Day parade. A friend of mine has a t-shirt that says "real men wear black." Who is the man who wears black? What is a priest? The catechism of the catholic church notes that (1536) "Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate." The Catechism then asks:"Why is this sacrament called Orders?"...."The word order in Roman antiquity designated an established civil body, especially a governing body. Ordinatio means incorporation into an ordo. In the Church there are established bodies which Tradition, not without a basis in Sacred Scripture, has since ancient times called taxeis (Greek) or ordines. And so the liturgy speaks of the ordo episcoporum, the ordo presbyterorum, the ordo diaonorum. Other groups also receive the name of ordo: catechumens, virgins, spouses, widows...Integration into one of these bodies in the Church was accomplished by a rite called ordinatio, a religious and liturgical act which was a consecration, a blessing or a sacrament. Today the word ordination is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy spirit that permits the exercise of a 'sacred power' which can only come from Christ himself through his Church. Ordination is also called consecratio, for it is a setting apart and an investiture by Christ himself for his church. They laying on of hands by the bishop, with the consecratory prayer, constitutes the visible sign of this ordination." A lot of heavy language. I like the simple words of Vatican II: "The ministerial priesthood has the task not only of representing Christ-Head of the Church-before the assembly of the faithful, bu also of acting in the name of the whole Church when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the Eucharistic sacrifice." (Lumen Gentium 10)Indeed, I feel most priestly when celebrating the Eucharist-mass. It is the highlight of my day. Whether it is just the Lord and myself, or there is a full church, or I am standing on the infield of Yankee Stadium before 60,000 (as I did at the mass with Pope Benedict XVI)-it is one and the same mystery. It is calvary. Do I understand it? No Do I believe it with all my heart, mind, and soul? yes. I will never forget a Mass I was celebrating at St. Joseph in Willimantic CT. I was not particularly recollected and I felt myself racing through the prayers. All of a sudden, as if someone else were taking over, I felt a complete change. The tone of my voice changed, I began to read more slowly and reverently, it was then that I realized someone else was in charge. We believe that someone else to be Christ. It is fairly common when concelebrating with other priests to feel a surge like an electric current, run through my heart and hands as I say the words of consecration. To be present at the death of someone is a special grace. I will never forget another moment in Willimantic where I was called to St. Joseph Living Center to annoint someone. I did not go willingly or with a smile. In fact I was grumbling that it wasn't even a parishoner. I had been called out late the night before and was feeling sorry for myself. Little did I know that one of the greatest graces of my priesthood was awaiting me. I went in, anointed the woman and said the prayers for the anointing of the sick. I was preparing to leave when a little voice inside said, "stay". I stayed and prayed the prayers of commendation for the dying. We Went through the Litany of the Saints. I read scripture and as I said the final prayer something very special happened. Just as I finished saying "may you meet the living Lord Jesus, your savior, face to face in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," she took her last breath. She was waiting! I felt that all the angels and saints were there. It was very touching. I went into the chapel and all I could do was weep. Christ was using me, a useless instrument, to do His work. I still marvel at how God works. People today say "what is wrong with the priesthood?" There is nothing wrong with the priesthood. God is still working in His Church. Pray that I may be a worthy servant and that I will always treasure the awesome gift of the priesthood. I remember each and everyone of you when I daily approach the altar. Peace!