Ordained is a word we don’t hear much, but it’s a fitting description for what takes place at these intricate liturgies. In making promises of obedience and chastity–in giving their entire lives to the Church–these men are “ordered” to Jesus Christ. By their self-gift, they become instruments of His grace. In the sacraments they will administer, the men will act in persona Christi–in the person of Christ–as when they absolve penitents from their sins. Through their gift, they become so ordered to Christ as to act not just like Him, but as Him.
The ordination liturgy makes apparent the gravity of the gift and its spiritual implications. In a striking scene that every Catholic ought to see at least once, each man ordained lies face-down on the floor as the congregation chants the litany of the saints, invoking the intercession of all the great martyrs, mystics, and models of the faith to pray in earnest at this critical moment. The eloquent Msgr. Rondald Knox explains that the man ordained “was yielding his body to Christ to be his instrument, as if he had no life, no will of his own.” It’s not surprising, then, that Blessed John Paul II recalled that moment as one that “deeply marked” his priestly life. There are other moving scenes in the ordination liturgy, too–when the newly ordained priests are first vested in the stole and chasubule, when they are embraced by an endless line of their brother priests, when they give their very first blessings to the archbishop.
Usually, the ordinations give rise to a host of celebratory traditions. The faithful line up after the Mass to kiss the newly consecrated hands of the priest and request one of his first blessings. The new priests will celebrate their first Masses the next day, often in their home parishes. At those Masses, the priests will sometimes present their mothers with the maniturgium, a linen cloth used to wipe the excess holy oil from their hands after they are anointed in the ordination. The priests may also present their fathers with the stoles they wore to hear their first confessions. Traditionally, the priest’s parents are buried with these items–tokens of their gift of a priest to the Church to present at the gates of heaven.
Usually these things surround an ordination, but not always. The story is often told this time of year of a former New Orleans archbishop who asked the newly ordained priests for their blessings at their ordination many years ago. When none of them were able to provide a blessing in Latin, he reportedly suspended their faculties immediately and required additional training before they were permitted to celebrate Mass or the other sacraments! (In case it proves useful to anyone on June 1, try:Et benedictio Dei omnipotentis, Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti descendat super vos et maneat semper.)
In any event, we celebrate these ordinations and thank these men and God for their gift to the local Church. It is a moment of joy. But it is also a moment of great undertaking for both the newly ordained and the faithful alike. Our responsibility–our obligation–is to always pray for them and ask the Holy Spirit to keep them close to Christ so that they may more perfectly serve as instruments of His grace. And we are reminded, too, to pray for more priests so that these occasions might remain an annual event.
- For some years now, the Archdiocese has revived the tradition of the Corpus Christi procession, in which the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is processed through the city streets in a rite of adoration and blessing. This year, Archbishop Aymond will lead a procession from the Our Lady of Prompt Succor Shrine on State Street to Holy Name of Jesus Church on St. Charles Ave. on June 2 at 9:30 a.m., beginning with Mass and concluding with Benediction atnoon. The Archdiocese Office of Evangelization and Eucharistic Renewal has created a wonderfully organized event, complete with shuttle busses and snoballs, that should not be missed. Here are the details.
- Nola Needs Peace. Archbishop Aymond and others have been a terrific advocates for the campaign led by the Louisiana Right to Life Federation to stop Planned Parenthood’s plans to build a facility on Claiborne Avenue where abortions would be provided. Our city–particularly the Claiborne corridor–is already devastated by violence; it does not need a building dedicated to the destruction of human life. Please join the campaign to promote life and the protection of women by contacting your elected officials and speaking out against the evils of abortion and this construction project.
Brandon Briscoe is a commercial litigation attorney at Flanagan Partners LLP in New Orleans. He studied philosophy and theology at Notre Dame Seminary and is an acolyte, lector, and tour guide at St. Louis Cathedral. To read more about this blogger, click here.