Hands that Serve

On Saturday, June 27, 2009, I had the privilege to attend the ordination of eight men to the priesthood.  On Sunday, June 28, 2009, I had the joy of attending a friend’s first mass – his Mass of Thanksgiving.   It is such a blessing to have the ordination coincide with the Year for Priests.  There is sure to be extraordinary amounts of prayers going up this year.  Especially remember the newly ordained.

Read the Georgia Bulletin article – Eight New Priests Ordained for North Georgia

Part of the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood is the anointing of hands with holy chrism.   Later, when receiving a blessing from my newly ordained friend, the fragrance of the holy chrism still lingered like the incense of prayer.  I recalled my Confirmation and chrism that was rubbed on my forehead — the aroma that something mystical took place.  The night of my reception into the church — I didn’t wash it off and slept with the fragrance into the next day.  Witnessing my first Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood — the sights, sounds, and smells — reaffirm that God is in this place.  In the same way that God looked down on his baptized Son, said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” God most surely looked down on the men that day and is very well pleased.

On my morning commute, I pray the rosary with the Daughters of St. Paul.  At the conclusion of each set of mysteries, the sisters sing a song.  During the weeks leading up to the ordination, I looked forward to Thursdays — the recitation of the Luminous Mysteries — the ministry of Jesus.  The fifth luminous mystery is the institution of the Eucharist.  Following this, the sisters sing “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris.  It is really for this that I looked forward to Thursdays — as I have prayed for this ordination — this song is a celebration of praise.  I cannot sing this song without thinking of the hands of the priest.  Enjoy and remember to pray for our new priests and for more vocations.

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World Day of Prayer for Vocations and the Elijah Cup

A few weeks ago, I looked ahead at our Elijah Cup schedule and saw that the May 3rd 9:00 Mass was still open.  Perfect.  Nothing better than bringing the Elijah Cup home on the Sunday designated as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  In the many years my parish has participated in the Elijah Cup, this is only the second time I have signed up to bring it home.  I’ve never needed to have it in order to remember to pray for vocations.   We are asked to place it in a place of honor in our home. 

Elijah Cup in my home

Elijah Cup in my home

I did this upon returning home; however, when the tornado warning siren went off in my county, I snatched it and the prayer book up and raced to my basement.  While taking cover, with the cup clutched close to me, I browsed through the pages of the prayer journal that accompanies the cup.  I actually found my prayer dated – 2/11/01 – where I wrote, “I ask the Lord to guide and bless those of our youth who may be discerning a religious call in their life.”  It is indicative of my ministry at the time — Life Teen Core Team member.  It was very short while many of the entries are longer.  I was not yet fully professed with the Secular Franciscans.  Here and there I find entries with men named who have been ordained to the permanent diaconate or the son of a parishioner who was in the seminary — now fully ordained to the priesthood.  In the last year, I expanded my church family via the Internet and methods of new media.  I met Fr. Roderick Vonhogen,a priest in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, who has to bicycle between Masses at various parishes — there are not enough priests.  In the last year, I witnessed a friend’s ordination to the Transitional Diaconate.  My daily vocation prayer has become a familiar routine.  I do pray in general for a increase in vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate, and to religious life.  I also pray specifically for my friend, for the Franciscan family — most especially for the OFM Conventual Friars of the St. Anthony of Padua Province and for an increase in vocations to their way of life.  I pray specifically for Fr. Roderick and for an increase in vocations to the priesthood in The Netherlands.  Fr. Roderick reminds me of the severe shortage of priests in many parts of the world.  He shares so well and so honestly in many of his Daily Breakfast podcasts the challenges he faces.   Here is one of Fr. Roderick’s episodes with a lengthy opening segment on vocations that I highly recommend. Daily Breakfast 612 – Vocations  Click on arrow to play the MP3 file.

More information on the Elijah Cup from Serra Atlanta

For Extra Credit:   Fr. Roderick played some voice feedback I sent him in March about the Elijah Cup.  I was responding to his episode on Vocations from the above link.  Daily Breakfast 632 – Alien Potatoes  click the arrow button to play the MP3 file.  My feedback is near the beginning but the entire programs are usually around 27 minutes.  You will enjoy the entire episode.  Sometimes I’m in the chat room when he is live broadcasting the recording of his programs.  I was in the chat room during this episode.

God Beyond All Praising

Last week, I was in Rome to attend a dear friend’s ordination to the Order of Deacons.  It is not every day that you have the opportunity to attend an ordination at the Basilica of St. Peter.  My friend is one of 25 who were ordained from the North American College (NAC).  While it will be hard to find the right words to describe the experiences of the week, I must try.

I must begin with my recent article on anxiety.  You see, at the time I wrote that article, I was experiencing a great deal of travel anxiety.  I have never been to Italy without a tour group and had not traveled International stand-by in many years.  I thought of everything that could go wrong.  I worried about being alone and trying to get around on my own.  By the grace of God, nothing went wrong.  Settling into first class with a mimosa, I was thinking this will be one of the best trips of my life.   Before you wonder about a Franciscan enjoying first class, it did not come without humility.  Be sure of your seat adjustment buttons — especially when seated next to the pilot crew rest seat.  If your seat is not moving, it might be because you pressed your neighbor’s seat button.  I woke up the pilot.  I was so embarrassed.

So much for my previous anxiety.  I found myself feeling very liberated during times that I was on my own.  I discovered that I would not starve.  I could communicate and read my map.  It was my fourth trip to Rome, so I am no stranger to the city.   I arrived in Rome on a Monday morning and by that night, I confidently walked back to my hotel on my own.  Of course I was not entirely alone.  There were family and other friends in attendance.  There were several things planned during the week as well as plenty of free time.

Immaculate Conception Chapel NAC

One of things I enjoyed the most was the invitation to join the seminarians for evening prayer.  They assemble in the Immaculate Conception Chapel.  Coincidently my Secular Franciscan fraternity is the Immaculate Conception.  As a Secular Franciscan, we promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  A majority of the time, we pray in private — alone.  I pray aloud and alone at home.  Once a month, we pray together at our fraternity meeting.  NAC currently has an enrollment around 200 seminarians.  The chapel was full and I believe the largest group with which I’ve prayed.  The rich sound of the voices reminded me that, although I pray mostly alone, it is the prayer of the Universal Church.  Even now, I’ve been home a few days — I still hear all those voices when I’m praying alone.  I remember what it sounded like and I remember them in prayer.  I remember that I am not alone in my prayer.

While on my own Tuesday, I mapped out a path from my hotel that would take me by Ss. Dodici Apostoli.  Our pilgrim guide book said it is the Mother Church of the OFM Conventuals.  It is through the OFM Conventuals of my parish home that I discovered St. Francis.  This church in Rome has a magnificant ceiling painting, “Triumph of the Franciscan Order.”  I spent some time in this church.  Coincidently, the Bishop ordaining the deacons is an OFM Conventual.  My friend introduced me to him and I was delighted to express my gratitude in person.

The day of the ordination came Thursday October 9th.  The events began with a scheduled scavi tour.  This is a tour of the excavation beneath St. Peter’s.  We got off to a late start due to the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI was celebrating a special mass in the tomb of the popes.  This area ajoins the scavi tour so security held us outside.  We got under way about an hour late.  The tour ends with veneration of the bones of St. Peter.  Following this, we moved to the upper church to wait for our seating.  Half the basilica had been blocked from tourists at this time.  We waited with tickets in hand — ready to rush for a good seat.

Next April, I will celebrate my tenth anniversary as a Catholic.  My friend being ordained is a big part of my faith journey — the person who explained the Real Presence to me and suggested I should be Catholic.  The first evangelical Catholic I’d ever met.  I took in all the sites around me as I sat in my pew — 4th row aisle.  The statue of St. Francis of Assisi has a prominent place at the Altar of the Chair.  The sun streams through the window and across the Holy Spirit window (now my blog header picture).

The procession begins at 4:30P and the basilica is now closed to tourists.  There must be near 1,000 in attendance.  I look around at the faces of parents, family, and friends.  We are united in that one of the 25 men to be ordained is our son, brother, uncle, or friend.  The diaconandi make their way up the center aisle and the particulars of the Rite of Ordination begin.  To say that heaven’s doors opened wide and angel choirs were singing might do justice to what we experienced.  I had thought I might cry, but, instead I had an incredible smile.  I had not felt like this since my own reception into the church.  I felt united with God and Christ in heaven and in celebration.  I’m not at all surprised that my friend has the honor of being ordained at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Elect prostrate themselves in a gesture of humility and supplication

The Elect prostrate themselves in a gesture of humility and supplication

Following the ordination and Mass was blur of camera flashes, hugs, and security telling us to leave.  Later there was a wonderful reception dinner with champagne, laughter, good wine, good food, more photos — more champagne.  A crazy taxi drive back to the hotel.  On Friday morning, we attended the Mass of Thanksgiving where the new deacon proclaims the Gospel and delivers the homily for the first time.  We are at Santa Maria in Trastavere, the oldest church in Rome.  I am still smiling — perhaps a little tired.  I could barely fall asleep the night before.  It reminded me so much of my feelings at Easter Vigil 1999 — I was awake well into the night after the mid-night vigil.  Final good-byes were said after this Mass.  My week in Rome ended with a delicious dinner, gelato, and a coin toss into the Trevi Fountain. 

I returned home in first class.  I began to think, how will I ever describe this week.  You just had to be there.  I know I had to be there — and I was never really alone. 

Related Article – Conversion Story