Of Pride and Priesthood.

A mother and son sharing a special moment

If I still used yellow legal pages this post, or rather the false starts over the past 10 days, would have filled many pads and waste baskets! I finally realized that one image from the ordination of Frs. Leo and Luis yesterday captured so much for me. It actually brought tears to my eyes… and I suspect many others.  A mother and son hugging with the oils of anointing hardly dry on his hands. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate a picture of the moment.)

Embracing so many images 

I knew the image struck a chord deep within me but it is only now, a day later, that I am beginning to understand why. Of course, it could have been the memory of my long-deceased mother hugging me at that same moment in my life 54 years ago. But it was so much more. The image spoke of the special kind of pride manifested by so many people at this first ordination in 9 years!

  • It was the parental and familial pride of both their families.
  • The parochial pride of the busloads that travelled great distances from the tip of Long Island and South Carolina respectively, to those closer to home parishes they served during their deacon year in formation.
  • The pride of the people of Honduras and Mexico whose homeland is desperately looking for signs of hope in their all too often violent world.
  • The pride of a Province which was palpable as more than half of the province filed past to impose hands on the heads of the newly ordained, and again, moments later, to express that pride in a fraternal embrace. It was especially powerful when Leo and Luis they went to the section where our elderly and infirm confreres in their nineties were seated so these confreres in their 90’s could also impose their hands.
  • The pride of the cloud of witnesses of the Vincentian Family around the world today stretching back to the embrace of the God who says you are my people.
  • The pride of each of the three bishops… Bishop Alfonso, one of our own, who attracted, formed, and now ordained these two men. Bishop Deliman who in Philadelphia has become a model of the way priests should minister and who taught them much through his contact with them. Bishop Senior the rector in whose seminary they did their final four years of formation.
  • The pride of another Mother as we concluded the ceremony with our tradition pf singing Salve Regina at the foot of Mary’s shrine, the image of the entire church.

I realize that each of these images needs to be unpacked. Here I simply begin to catalog the many manifestations of a holy pride that was palpable in yesterday’s ordination of two priests.

The challenge of the Master image

In the background is yet another and more powerful image. It is an image of Jesus at the Last Supper.

After supper, he stood, took a towel and basin, then washed the feet of disciples, something a lowly servant did for his master. He became their servant. Then he pointedly asked them. “Do you understand what I have done?” He explained to them… very directly! Do this in memory of me!  (John 13:12)

We hear the words at every Mass.  “Do this in memory of me.” But I wonder if we hear it as something the priest is privileged to say over bread and wine missing that those words are directed to each one of us.  The words are actually just a graphic way of saying what he said to each of us in other contexts… “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me!”

In our pride we can not forget the challenge of the Last Supper and the Last Judgement. We are a priestly people, each of us called to wash one another’s feet as servants just as Jesus did. “I have come not to be served but to serve.” With Leo and Luis we accept the challenge and look for them to keep reminding us of what we are all called to do… To follow Christ the evangelizer of the poor and bring “good news” to those who are poor, our brothers and sisters.

[An “insider ecclesiastical footnote”…In the sacristy before Mass Bishop Alphonso invited the other two bishops to jointly impose hands with him. Both local bishops quickly pointed out that if they did that they would be promoting them to the order of Bishops!]