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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul


This morning I attended the Ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, and it is the first time I've had the opportunity to be present for such an auspicious event.

In following advice from a friend, I arrived sometime around 8:45, wanting to be CERTAIN to get a parking place, because, let's face it; women's shoes are NOT made for walking. Not the kind of shoes that go with nice skirts, anyway. So it was that I had time to wander around the Cathedral and pray Morning Prayer in Sacred Heart Chapel.

For those who have never been to our Cathedral, it is history personified. The stained glass, the pillars, the altar...everything is a link to the very beginning of the Church, right from the side of Christ. One cannot possibly look ANYWHERE without seeing a connection to the Universal Church, whether through those who built this structure, those who first touched American soil, the first converts, and even the immense marble pillars that support the baldacchin over the high altar have a tale to share for those who inquire.

But today wasn't about that...it was about something with far more impact on us all than any building will EVER have.

I found my way to a pew in the rear section as the entire front section of the Cathedral was reserved for concelebrating priests and friends/family of those being ordained. Although I know one of them, I didn't feel I could claim a place among such elect, so found a spot near the front of the rear. It wasn't long, though, before someone recognized me and beckoned me forward to join her in the frontward section, so gratefully I stood and found myself in one of the prime locations in the Cathedral; somewhere near the middle of the front.

Ironically, I might have seen more had I remained in the rear and held my aisle position! But I digress.

The Mass began with a solemn chant, and all turned towards the entrance. I was in fact, entranced by the Crucifix held aloft amidst the smoke of incense and back lit by the bright sunshine even as it reflected the lights of the cavernous Cathedral nave. Slowly the procession, the likes of which I'd never seen before today, passed through the center; acolytes (seminarians), first bearing incense and the cross and candles, then the MC's (Master of Ceremonies), Deacons, Priests...finally those to be ordained, followed by the principle Concelebrants, most notable being several Bishops, including one from Chicago as well as our most recent Bishop-Elect, and of course his Excellency the Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt. They were followed by two priests (or seminarians?) garbed in vimpae, which look like humeral veils, bearing something with great respect. I later saw them bearing the Mitres and the Bishop's Crosier.

The readings were alternating English/Spanish, and at first I wondered about this, then realized that one or two of those to be ordained had spent a great deal of time in service to our Hispanic Catholics, so clearly, they would be in attendance. As I speak Spanish, I enjoyed both reading the translations as well as listening to the Word proclaimed in that language. Truth be told, though, I still didn't clearly understood it, nor would I have in Latin. (And for Mass, I prefer Latin...it's far more universal than a bilingual Mass...again, I digress!)

Rite of Ordination

Now for the big moment. Or rather...moments. Quite a series of them.

This begins, other than the Consecration, the most beautiful Ritual of the Church, and the most meaningful. I realized just in reading the program that this entire semester has prepared me to be able to absorb the import of this Mass. There I was, with Luke-Acts fresh in my memory, having written papers that focused on God's call to those He intends to be set aside, and, of course, on the Priesthood itself...in awe at watching the first Century taking place before my very eyes!

I must say here, that with this realization, I became very very conscious of the four brick and stone pillars surrounding us, signifying the four Gospels and their authors. I became very aware of the sanctity of the Church, the foundation, the protection, and the safety to be found within those walls. It was a safety that is not earthly, but spiritual, for any of us might be called to shed our blood just as did our Lord...yet His promises would NEVER fail us. It was a profound moment of gratitude for Jesus Christ and His Priesthood. It was a profound moment of knowing what it means to be Catholic.

The Rite of Ordination begins with the deacon calling forward those to be ordained. At the sound of their name, each stood, in turn, called out "Present!", passed the communion rail and mounted the steps to the altar, then turned to face the Archbishop. When all three were there, after some additional prayers, came the Election of the Bishop and Consent of the People.

The program cued us with the following:

Bishop: "Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, for the Order of the Priesthood."

Assembly: Thanks be to God!

The program notes here that the people show assent with applause. Which was, of course, quite enthusiastic, as you might imagine!

After this, the Archbishop gave his homily, from his Chair, not the lectern. He was speaking to the three ordinands who were seated before him. Unfortunately, for some reason although I greatly enjoyed his homily, I can't tell you the content! I can say, however, that his words were not for those men alone, but for us all, in some way, and I hope to come across a text version so that I can take time to read and digest the wisdom he conveyed today.

After the homily came another major moment; this is the Promise of the Elect, where the candidates must declare their intention to undertake the office of the priesthood and exercise their ministry worthily in imitation of Christ the High Priest.

Then...the Promise of Obedience. An all-or-nothing moment. Even I got cold feet, and no one was asking me to commit to anything! One cannot help but realize the weight of the moment, the gift being offered...and the free will to refuse.

One by one, the men went forward, bowed, knelt before the seated Bishop, and placed his folded hands in the Bishop's, pledging obedience. This is not done as a group, but individually. After this, the three men stood facing the altar, and then prostrated before it, and Our Lord, as the congregation stood and prayed the Litany to the Saints.

My friends, I can tell you...the Cathedral was FULL. Both the seen and the unseen.

Laying on of Hands

The ordinands again approach the Bishop, and, each in turn, kneel before him as he lays his hands on their heads, signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit conferring the priestly office. They return to their places, the congregation is seated, and each of the priests present ascend the altar to also impose hands to signify the new candidate's incorporation into the presbyterate.

Following this is the Prayer of Ordination, and the Investiture with the Stole and Chasuble, where the newly ordained priests are vested. Finally, they, once again, in turn, approach the Bishop so that he may anoint their hands with the Sacred Chrism.

The sign of peace, an embrace, is passed between the ordained, first the Bishop, and then, again, all the priests present file forward to greet their brother priests.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

This was not in the program, but when the gifts were brought forward, a chalice and ciborium were taken to the Bishop, and these were in turn, given to each of the newly ordained priests with the solemn admonition of the importance of their priestly ministry in consecrating the bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

The new priests stood with the Primary Concelebrants in direct participation, for the first time, of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

From where we were seated, or rather, kneeling, it was quite impressive to be across the aisle from the hundreds of priests who remained standing, uttering, softly, in a reverent rumble, the words of Consecration. It was absolutely humbling, and in those moments, I was perhaps more able to sense the connection to priests all over the world, saying those same words, with the same intent, in union with one another, with the Pope.

The words of St. Irenaeus came to me: "There is one bishop, one altar...one sacrifice."

One High Priest. And all His chosen Sons, united, and He comes to us through their anointed hands.

Conclusion

There was a humorous moment as the Deacon stood and read where each of the three new priests would be available for blessings after the Mass. He read from a book and indicated simply that Fr. Ebert would be in St. Mary's chapel...to his right in the back.

The Archbishop, with a mischievous expression, standing at his Chair, just behind the Deacon but fully visible, quickly gestured to the back right of the Cathedral. A few chuckled.

The Deacon read that Fr. Eilen would be in St. Joseph's Chapel, to his left.

The Archbishop, right on cue, quickly gestured, pointing to the chapel to the rear left, immediately returning his hands to the proper pose. More chuckles. Louder, this time.

The Deacon read that Fr. Johnson would be found in St. Peter's Chapel, again, to his right.

The Archbishop, after a little pause, quickly pointed to his immediate right, and returned to his previous position. Outright laughter ensued.

The poor Deacon had NO IDEA what our beloved Archbishop was doing!

Blessings

I wasn't initially planning to go to one of the chapels for a blessing. I knew that only one of the new Fathers has met me and would not remember whether I was there to receive his blessing or not, although, of course I wanted to be a part of that tradition, as well. One of the wonderful things about attending an ordination Mass is receiving one of the First Blessings from the newly ordained, and perhaps kissing his newly-anointed hands!

So I let others leave, knelt down to pray for awhile, and then checked to see whether I had any time at all. Just a little. Feeling a bit "led", I walked towards St. Luke's pillar (and just now, as I write this, recognize the significance of that, given the studies of my semester). I paused to take a photo of the Saint, and just then, Archbishop-emeritus Flynn passed me, within arm's reach, Archbishop Nienstedt passed, blessing us (almost personal at that sparse point), and our new Bishop-elect passed by, greeting a Franciscan Friar who was actually waiting for me to take my photo, I think!

I continued on towards St. Joseph's chapel, praying to him as I also have a great devotion to him, and have for a long time. Somehow, I think my Guardian Angel must have orchestrated it, but I managed to weave through the crowd, never pushing anyone, just being moved along, even ushered by other people, and it wasn't long before I stood at the entrance to the chapel.

It was my great privilege to kneel before Fr. Eilen, grasp his hand, congratulate him, and receive his blessing, which was, as it were, almost a consecration to Jesus through Mary. Amen, Father.

*

And so, after this long winding epic post, please let me have the wonderful privilege to congratulate our Newly Ordained Priests: Father Douglas Allen Ebert, Father Allen Paul John Eilen, and Father Michael Chrun Johnson. You are all in my prayers. Thank you for giving your fiat to Our Lord!

*
*** You may be interested to know that Fr. Johnson was one of the seminarian blogers at Future Priests of the Third Millenium. Comments are turned off at that blog, but it is well worth following!

11 comments:

CUAguy said...

Sounds like you had a great time. Just a small point of clarification- The 2 seminarians processing behind The Archbishop were not wearing Humeral Veils, but vimpae. Those carrying them are commonly called vimps. The vimpae are like humeral veils, but are worn specifically so that no one touches the Miter and Crosier besides the Archbishop.

Adoro said...

CUAguy ~ Thanks! I asked a friend about that, he had a brain fart and couldn't remember the term...I still can't figure out why he was comparing it to a nun's wimple (but for the sound!) lol.

I just edited this post a bit, found some errors and bad sentence structure, will have to go back and add the proper term!

RJW said...

Thank you for posting this. What a wonderful celebration! Through your description I felt as if I was there. It brought back memories of my Dad's ordination as a Permenant Deacon 1n 1976. Thanks again

Fr. Leo McDowell said...

Thanks for sharing about this great event in the life of the Church in Minnesota :)

Suzanne Sadler said...

I wish I could have been there!

Adoro said...

RJW ~ Wow, that must have been so powerful for you!

Fr. Leo ~ Not just here, but EVERYWHERE! :-)

Suzanne ~ Oh, you would have loved it!

Maureen said...

In the Pope's biography, he said that when he was a kid, people said you should wear out a pair of shoes if you have to, in order to get a new priest's first blessings at the Ordination Mass. So you're pretty blessed! :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Adoro,

Please tell me about the tradition of kissing the hands of the newly Ordained Priests. I saw it happen today at St. Agnes but did know where it became.

May God bless all these new Priest!

Katie

Anonymous said...

Dear Adoro,

No need to reply. I found it. Here is the link: http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/zlitur225.htm .

God Bless,

Katie

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Yeah! I'm glad you were there!

Adoro said...

Maureen ~ God is very, very good to me. I don't deserve it...what a testament to His faithfulness!

Katie ~ Thanks for posting the link as I would not have been able to answer your original question! I've since passed it on to others. :-)

Cathy ~ Me, too. Wish you'd been there, too! Maybe next year? Only concern is the date...with Grad school, if it's during our year then I simply can't do it. Next year there's also the graduation date to consider. But...would LOVE to go again!