As we’ve noted elsewhere, one of the challenges involved in blogging about the seminary experience is that there’s a lot to write about at the beginning, not much in the middle, and then a whole lot to write about at the end.
Evan is entering his last year of formation and we find ourselves approaching a couple of important milestones. Although the process of priestly formation no longer includes the full formality of all of the minor orders, there are still several important milestones along the way. Those who are members of a society of apostolic life must make final promises and all who are headed toward priesthood must be ordained as transitional deacons.
God willing, this coming Labor Day weekend Evan will make his final promises and be ordained a transitional deacon. To help understand these two important events, it we’ll take a look back to last year’s final promises and deaconate ordinations with Ryan Casey and Mike Hennessy.
Final promises Mass is the time when a seminarian (who has been making annual promises) makes a final, life-long commitment to the Paulists. You might be wondering why “promises” and not “vows”. As the Wikipedia explains:
The Paulists are a society of apostolic life, meaning they do not make religious vows; rather, by means of promises they are supposed to pursue their mission through living in community.
This is an important moment in the life of a Paulist. It was a moving moment for both Mike and Ryan:
Like Ryan, Mike Hennessy was also touched by being surrounded by brother priests. The most moving moment for him was “when the other Paulists who have already made their final promises came up and we were all together — surrounded each other.”
“They’ve all been where I’ve been,” Mike said. “And, you know, they have years of experience and ups and downs and struggles and joys that I’ll be able to, God willing, share in now myself.”
Fr. Eric Andrews presided over the Mass and carried on a Paulist tradition.
Friday’s celebration also included a traditional moment of levity when Fr. Eric gave Ryan and Mike each a symbolic penny in payment for a lifetime of ministry work. The men also were given the traditional Paulist Mission Cross, dark wood crucifixes that symbolize the community’s mission.
“For some, the cross is foolishness, for others a stumbling block,” Fr. Eric prayed during the blessing of the mission crosses. “But for those who believe, it is the Power of Christ and the Wisdom of God.”
The day after final promises, Ryan and Mike were ordained as transitional deacons.
Ryan and Mike committed to several promises including obedience. One of the most moving points of ordination masses is the moment when the ordinands lie prostrate in front of the altar and the congregation sings the Litany of the Saints.
As part of [the ordination] liturgy, Ryan and Mike were publicly vested in new garments to indicate their new status, and they immediately took their place at the altar, and then, seated on either side of the bishop.
“These days after surgery you’re up and walking within hours,” Bishop Knestout said. “After ordination, you’re serving at the altar within minutes.”
Deacons, whether transitional or permanent, are ordained clergy. As a result, deacons are permitted to do a number of things which aren’t possible for lay people. They can:
- preach during Mass
- expose and repose the blessed sacrament for adoration
- impart many types blessings
- conduct Baptisms, weddings and funerals
Deacons may not:
- celebrate Mass
- hear confessions and grant absolution
- perform the anointing of the sick
- ordain anyone
There are some people who think of a deacon as a sort of “lite priest,” but that misses the point. The role of the ordained deacon is different from and complimentary to the roles of other ordained clergy. (For more information on the deaconate in the U.S. check out the resources available from the USCCB.)
By the way, the passage through the transitional deaconate isn’t just an idea that someone came up with to mark the time. It is a requirement of the law of the church. Canon law requires that a man entering the priesthood must be a transitional deacon for at least six months before being ordained as a priest.
We are looking forward to being with Evan and our extended Paulist family in D.C. in a few weeks. We hope to celebrate not only Evan’s milestone, but also the dedication and faith of all the in the Paulist community.
The deaconate ordination is a time or great joy for the community and the families of those involved. To give you a taste of that, I’ll leave you with a some sound clips from Ryan and Michael’s families.