During my ordination to the priesthood, as I lay prostrate on the sanctuary floor listening to the Litany of Saints, my mind turned to the significance of the moment. As I placed my hands on the paten and on the chalice, listening to the bishop say, "Know what you are, doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate; model your life on the mystery of the Lord's cross," I wondered what the grace of Holy Orders would be like as a priest. It was so powerful for me when I was ordained a deacon, and I was expecting fireworks on June 21st of last summer. There is no denying the grace of Holy Orders, but in my case, the manifestation of that grace was not immediately evident.
For the first month of my priesthood, I was full of anxiety over every new experience. It did not take long, however, to realize that everyone to whom I was ministering was even more nervous than I was! And that was when the fireworks went off. It was the first time in my life that I could remember actually personally experiencing confidence. Confidence had always been a characteristic that I only saw in others. Now, with the grace of Holy Orders, I finally felt that it was a quality of which I could take ownership.
During my first Lent and Holy Week as a priest, I would often reflect on St. Peter in my prayer. I began to compare that grace of Holy Orders as being the same "grace of the Resurrection" that St. Peter had experienced. In a very short period of time, St. Peter went from denying even knowing Christ to being the one who would shepherd His followers. It was by the grace of the Resurrection that he was able to do this.
Christ saw the gift of confidence within Peter. But the grace was not manifested in Peter until the Resurrection. Just as Christ gave to me and to all priests the grace of Holy Orders, Christ had first given that grace to Peter. Christ would not have entrusted to Peter His Church, without first giving Peter the grace to lead it. And Christ did not entrust the shepherding of souls to me without first giving the grace to do so.
It was only by the grace of Holy Orders that I was able to make the transition from being a deacon in seminary formation to being a newly ordained priest. My first ten months as a priest have been filled with joy and have been filled with challenges that I never would have imagined. Thankfully, God saw a gift in me that I never knew I had and it was at my first experience of the Resurrection as a priest that my eyes were opened to the graces that God gives to his priests.
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