Back in April, I had the privilege of being part of a panel for the NRVC. We were talking about addressing parental concerns for those discerning. You can watch the whole video below.
The Deepest Truths
With the Ordination and First Mass behind us, I’ve been struggling a bit to find my footing in this strange new reality. Despite the fact that I’ve spent the past six years learning more about priestly formation and deepening my own understanding of Catholic theology, the actual reality of Evan’s ordination caught me flat-footed.
On Sunday, May 26, 2019 Evan returned to St. Rose of Lima (our home parish) to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving. Two of his Paulist brothers who had served as pastors of St. Rose in the 80s joined him and concelebrated. Our pastor, Fr. Clarence Sandoval, concelebrated as well. The church was packed with our parish family as well as friends and family of other faiths who came to celebrate with us.
It was a joyful worship, but one which was – at the same time – very, very strange. Seeing Evan at the altar leading the community in prayer, making the familiar gestures of blessing and consecration, and ultimately elevating the host and the cup was beautiful. He seemed so confident; his voice calm and clear as he recited the prayers and he moved through the liturgy as if he’d been doing it for years. It was a moment of fulfilment; the manifestation of something I’ve anticipated for a long time.
It was also deeply unsettling.
On Monday, Memorial Day, Evan celebrated a house Mass for us. So there, in our living room with our cats roaming about, we three enjoyed a quiet Mass before breakfast. In his alb and stole, Evan stood behind a desk which had been pressed into service as an altar. Just before he began, he said, “This is one of the most surreal things I’ve ever done.”
“Surreal.” That was the perfect word to describe what I’ve been feeling since the Ordination in New York.
I knew it was coming, but I don’t think I’d fully anticipated the impact. I hadn’t realized that Evan’s ordination would force me to confront the deepest truths of our faith.
In the language of the church, Ordination changed Evan at an ontological level. That is, through the sacrament, he has been changed and his relationship with the community has changed. The Evan who entered the church as a deacon, left as a priest. Those aren’t simply different titles; they are different states of being. At the same time, he is still very much the child Kit and I raised.
He has been given the authority to “confect the sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi.” Which is a poetic way of expressing that he acts in the person of Christ to consecrate the bread and wine at Mass.
At the same time, he delights in good meals, entertaining movies, and beloved video games. He groans at my bad puns and shares warm hugs with his mother.
His is simultaneously a minister of heaven and a child of this world.
This is the very heart of our incarnational faith. God isn’t some remote figure who sits in a distant heaven judging us. God is the love which forms and sustains the universe. To drive the point home, God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ; simultaneously fully divine and fully human.
This strange co-existence isn’t just something which happens only at ordination. It is the nature of every sacrament to bring us face-to-face with the truth of the incarnation. It’s just that sometimes we get so used to the sacraments that we forget exactly what’s taking place. We overlook the extraordinary truth.
In the language of the church we call this a mystery. It’s a reality we can wrestle with, but never fully comprehend.
Evan’s ordination drew me up short and sharpened my awareness of the sacraments and the mystery they express. It reminded me that I participate in a community which treats the physical and the spiritual as parts of a whole and that the rituals and practices of the church are designed to put us in touch with the Divine. It was an invitation to enter into the mystery of faith in a new and deeper way.
For this, and for the opportunity to walk with Evan on his vocations journey, I can only say, “Thank you, Lord.” (Even if it’s going to still be weird to see him saying Mass!)
We are back from Evan’s ordination and, honestly, I think it’s going to take me a while to process everything. It was an extraordinary, wonderful, and transcendent experience. There will be a longer post later sharing some of my impressions.
In the meantime, the Paulists have posted links to the videos of Evan’s Ordination and Mass of Thanksgiving. If you have time and want to join in the celebration with us, please take a look. http://www.paulist.org/the-conversation/video-paulist-fr-evan-cummingss-ordination-and-first-mass/
— Dad (of
Evan Fr. Evan)
Vocations, Journeys, Paulists and Bread
As of this writing, we are one week away from (God willing) Evan’s ordination to the priesthood. To be completely honest, it’s all a bit overwhelming.
Earlier today the Paulists released a brief video profile of Evan in which he talks about his calling, how this blog started, the broader Paulist family and how he prays with bread. If you have four-and-a-half minutes, I think it’s worth watching. (Of course, I’m Evan’s dad so my opinion in this matter is not especially objective.)
Thank you all for your prayers for Evan and for all of us. Please continue praying and, if you can, please join us for the livestream of the Ordination at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, May 18, 2019. You can find the stream on the Paulist Fathers Facebook page or their YouTube channel.
Finally, if you think you might be called to be a Paulist, you can learn more at the Paulist Fathers Vocations page.
— Dad (of Evan)
An invitation arrived in the mail this week. It wasn’t, of course, unexpected. In fact, we’ve had the date for a while now. The arrival of the invitation moves the ordination more solidly into the realm of “this is going to happen.”
I very much wanted to write something insightful here — something which summed up the last six years, something meaningful and inspiring.
But as I contemplate this next step in Evan’s journey all I can really give voice to is a profound sense of gratitude to God. Gratitude for both my sons, for my wife, for the life God has given me, and for love that God has shown me through all of this.
So I’ll leave the invitation here and ask your prayers for us and for Evan as he takes this next important step in his journey of faith and service.
Discernment — It May Not Be What You Think
There’s a phenomenon known as “analysis paralysis.” In essence, it refers to being so caught up in thinking about a decision that you face that you never actually make the decision. You go back-and-forth over alternatives wondering “what if” and “why not” and never actually make a move.
It’s a phenomenon which causes headaches for businesses, families and (especially) those who are trying to discern God’s will for their lives. And not just those discerning religious life, but all of us who feel called to God and aren’t quite sure what that means. It is all too easy to fret away our lives wondering whether or not we’re doing what God wants.
If all you’re doing is fretting, I’d venture to guess that you aren’t doing what God wants. Over at Aleteia, Meg Hunter-Kilmer takes this idea and runs with it. She describes herself as a “hobo missionary” who travels with no set agenda or fixed destinations. Her practical, lived advice on discernment is as refreshing as it is startling.
It’s a life of near-constant discernment, trying to figure out where to go and when, how long to stay and what to speak on. But I don’t spend a lot of time sitting in prayer waiting for angels to descend and hand me an itinerary. In fact, I discern in just the same way I tell others to discern: I’ve largely quit seeking God’s will.https://aleteia.org/2019/01/28/if-youre-discerning-you-have-to-read-this-it-will-change-what-you-think-you-know/
Meg expands on the idea, giving some practical advice which is simultaneously simple and difficult to follow. At the end of the piece she takes a gentle, self-deprecating tone as she contemplates her ultimate encounter with God.
It’s entirely possible that I’m going to go to my judgment and find the triune God standing baffled before me, wondering why on earth I thought I ought to be homeless and unemployed for the sake of the kingdom. There’s a reason people don’t live this way, and perhaps I’ve gotten it totally wrong and I was really supposed to be an accountant in Idaho or something.
Still, I expect to see pleasure mixed in with the bafflement. “Oh, but honey, well done. It was a weird life you chose, but you tried so hard. You got it wrong, but you sure were seeking me.”https://aleteia.org/2019/01/28/if-youre-discerning-you-have-to-read-this-it-will-change-what-you-think-you-know/
So, if you’re not quite sure what God has in mind for your life, join the rest of us confused human beings and follow Meg’s sage advice on discernment.
— Dad (of Evan)
It’s been a wonderful Christmas for us … and I hope for you as well.
Both boys were able to come home. It’s been good to be together again as a family. We’ve had lots of meals and laughter and family time.
Evan served as the deacon for a couple of Christmas Masses and it was wonderful to see him moving farther into his vocation.
The Paulist Fathers media team has put together a nine-minute “highlights reel” from the ordination Mass in September. It was a moving event that I doubt I’ll ever forget … but it’s still nice to have the video to go back to.
— Dad (of Evan)
Paulist Promises Mass — In Six Minutes!
The good folks who provide media for the Paulist Fathers have put together a short video to give you a little taste of the Promises Mass.
If you have the time, I think you’ll find this well worth watching!
— Dad (of Evan)
My Brother the Deacon
I’m back from a whirlwind visit to Washington DC. My brother just took final promises and managed to get himself ordained as a deacon. In under a year that turns into a full on Roman Catholic Priest. My dad has already posted an overview of what happened here. You don’t need me rehashing the order of events from first promises through to his first Mass acting as a deacon. So forgive me if I skim those bits.
I never really doubted that Evan would continue down his path. It suits him fairly well, gives him a good and fulfilling life, and most of the other Paulists seem nice enough. I can’t speak for all of them as I haven’t met all of them. Anyways from the time he told me over Christmas break that he was changing his major to Philosophy with a minor in religious studies (to which my response, incidentally, was “Oh great my brother’s going to be a priest”), I figured he was set for life.
That said, sure or not, it seemed like a fun idea to lay a side bet. So about four years ago I made a promise to Evan. If and when he took final promises I would get a tattoo of the (then current) Paulist Fathers logo. Now I fully intended to keep to this promise. But I had briefly forgotten it in the rush of travelling from one coast to another and prepping for a con the next week. So it came as something of a surprise to me when the first thing he said to me after his Final Promises Mass–literally the first thing–was “you owe me a tattoo”. To which I could only respond that he was right.
So I guess I need to find an artist, and scrounge up the money. There is also a small debate as to where to put the tattoo. He requested it be somewhere I could show off by rolling up a sleeve. I’ll figure something out.
Other than that everything was a massive blur of receptions, family, Mass, more Mass, another reception and sneaking off to do homework when I could. I am not as overwhelmed as my parents are. Maybe it hasn’t sunk in but it doesn’t feel like much changed. He made this choice years ago. Yes now there are official titles, duties, responsibilities and abilities to go with it but it’s just another step on the path. He’s still my brother, he’s still brother to all the Paulists and he’s still doing that thing he set out to do back in college. Good for him.
A few small notes about proceedings.
First the Ordination Mass: the one bit he got to control was who in his party would help carry the gifts. Usually the choice is one’s mother but he picked me. Apparently in equal measure because I am his one and only biological brother and because between the lack of a tie, long hair and generally scruffy appearance even in formal attire I helped to embody the Paulist rebellious streak. Works for me.
Secondly, gift giving. He wanted various texts of the forms, prayers, rituals and so on for various sacraments. The parents got him Marriage, his godmother sent Baptism, so it fell to me to provide for funerals. I’m gothic enough to pull it off. When I get back to the coast I will also be sending a small secular gift. After all he may have devoted his life to God but that doesn’t exactly take every second of his time. Oh and the Mission Crucifix he got is awesome. Never seen one with a skull and bones on it before.
–Brother of Evan
Eventful Weekend – Promises, Ordination, Blessings and Masses
We’re back from Washington, D.C. and I don’t know that there’s any way I can properly capture the experience for you. It was, in truth, a little overwhelming. Perhaps the best thing to do is to share little slices of what happened to give you a sense of what it was like.
Friday evening was the Promises Mass for the Paulist community. At present, the Paulist seminary occupies the top floor of St. Joseph’s seminary. The main chapel is a beautiful, compact space with a soaring ceiling and a sanctuary space surrounded by marble. The Mass was a celebration of the community during which two novices made their first promises, the continuing students renewed their promises for the coming year and Evan made his final, lifetime commitment to the community.
The Mass was lovely, with Fr. Andrews hitting the right notes of service and devotion during difficult times. The voices of the congregation, led by seminarian and cantor Richard Whitney, filled the worship space giving the occasion a sense of unity.
When it came time to make his commitment, Evan spoke clearly and firmly. I don’t think I was prepared for the emotional impact of the moment. I keep rewriting this paragraph over and over trying to find the words to capture the experience and I just can’t seem to manage. (Which doesn’t exactly bode well for the rest of this post as there are bigger things coming!)
After the Mass there was a reception for everyone in attendance. Kit and I had some time to meet and mingle with the Paulist community. Over the past five years we’ve gotten quite close with several of the Paulist priests and others who are associated with the community. (Shout out to the Paul and the media team who were providing great coverage for the event.) We also met the parents of a young man who made his first promises. It was great talking to them and reflecting on our own experience of having a son in seminary.
After Final Promises, the next step on the road to the priesthood is ordination as a transitional deacon. Bishop Roy E. Campbell presided over the Mass in the Crypt church in the basement of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Evan was one of four men ordained that morning. The others represented other orders, but all of them had family there to support them. We have been to a deaconate ordination once before–for a friend who was entering the permanent deaconate in Salt Lake–but it is very different when it is your own child.
With an acapella choir of Franciscans for accompaniment, we spent about two hours in the solemn observance of the Mass and ordination. As has been the case in other ordinations, the most powerful moment came when the candidates lay prostrate on the floor while the choir and congregation chanted the Litany of the Saints. It was a few minutes of heaven on earth as we asked the Universal Church to pray for the men as they moved forward in their formation as priests.
A bit later in the Mass Evan was vested in his stole and dalmatic (the traditional vestments of the deacon) by his friend and inspiration Fr. Michael Hennessey C.S.P.
Ian, Evan’s older brother, was given the opportunity to bring forward the gifts during the Mass.
It was a timeless sort of experience. We were participating in a centuries-old ritual as our son joined an organization which is two millennia old. The cool perpetual twilight of the Crypt church, the smell of the incense, the plain chant and the ancient prayers and formulas made this a moment out-of-time; at once ephemeral and eternal. We were able to be fully present as the Mass unfolded and, at the same time, it seemed to end too soon.
Kit and I wanted to be completely present to the Mass, so we didn’t take any pictures. We’re grateful to Kit’s sister Beth and to the Paulist media team for sharing the pictures they took.
As a consequence of their ordination, deacons are able to impart blessings on objects and people. Some time ago Kit and I realized that we didn’t actually have a crucifix in our home. We decided we’d buy one and ask Evan to bless it for us. We found a San Damiano crucifix at the Basilica gift shop. We took it (along with a few other religious items we picked up) to the seminary after the ordination. Evan put on a stole and blessed everything by following a rubric from a book of blessings he received as an ordination gift.
This was, for me, a very surreal moment. I have seen hundreds of objects blessed. I have a modest understanding of the theology involved. But, to see my own son performing the ritual was … odd. It reinforced the fact that by virtue of ordination he has been ontologically changed. Again, words fail me in conveying exactly how it felt.
The final event of the weekend was the first Mass at which Evan served as a deacon. He’s been assigned to work at St. Elizabeth’s parish in Rockville, Maryland. To this point, he’s mostly worked with the young adults and RCIA groups. As a deacon, he’ll be spending a lot more time in the sanctuary. We were able to attend Mass with him before we had to catch our flight home.
The Paulists brought along the students and novices and some of the priests who had come for the ordination. We watched as the familiar beats of the Mass moved along, but with a new joy as we saw our son performing the actions of a deacon. This rendered the ordinary extraordinary in every sense of the word.
For Kit and I, the overwhelming response is gratitude to a God who has invited us to a ringside seat as our son cooperates with grace. It is humbling and beautiful to witness. We are also grateful for the many people who have prayed for Evan and for us through this experience. May God richly bless you as he has blessed us.
Next Steps – Final Promises and Deaconate Ordination
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.
Thoughts on Obedience
(Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Megan Dahle shares a few thoughts on an aspect of the priesthood that is sometimes overlooked.)
Many Catholic parents are excited when their sons show, on their own accord, increased devotion to Christ and to his church. When many young men fall away from the truth, it can be especially joyful to see the opposite happen in your family.
They smile when their children show interest in the saints or attend mass more than once a week. They are excited to see their children partake in the sacrament of reconciliation or buy religious medals to remind them of the lives of the faithful.
When parents see that devotion turns into a desire to take holy orders, parents can sometimes have objections and worries about their son’s future life and happiness. When a young man is ordained a priest, among his vows are celibacy and obedience. While most of the conversation around the discipline of the priesthood surrounds the vow of celibacy, obedience can be difficult for parents to accept, too.
Obedience Can Be Scary
Why do parents object to the idea of obedience? We all want to think that we are independent, free to choose our own life’s path and direction. This is particularly the case in America and the rest of the west, because we often confuse the general good of political freedom with complete personal freedom as well. But the desire to remain independent is not something that God desires for us.
Being Fully Human
To understand the virtue of obedience, one must understand what it means to be human as God designed us to be. For that, Christians across the world turn to the creation story in the book of Genesis, because it describes what God intended for his creation.
In Genesis, chapter one, we read, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God created humans in his image, which means that God’s image is manifest in us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the image of God is made manifest when we live in accordance with the created order and obey God’s will.
The Image of God: Sin and Redemption
Independence from God’s will, however, comes from sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s will by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they marred humanity with “the wound of original sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1707). Our desire to be independent comes from our desire to be independent of God.
Jesus Christ’s passion and resurrection, however, heal the wounds of sin and restore the image of God in us. The adoption we receive in baptism gives us the power to live rightly and obedient to God’s will. The life of a faithful Catholic is a struggle between the desire to obey God and the desire to sin (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1707-1709).
The Paradox of Obedience
We cannot be completely free, because we always obey one master, whether it be God or sin (see Romans 8). Being fully human, by manifesting the divine image, means we live in perfect obedience to God’s holy will. When we are independent, however, we end up as prisoners to sin and bound in chains of our own making.
Even St. Paul lamented how frustrating this can be for the faithful Christian when he writes, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:23). This rule is counterintuitive, and provides a seeming paradox: obedience is freedom. Independence is slavery.
The Life of Jesus
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, demonstrates this principle most completely in his obedience and submission. Though he was the eternal Son of God, he submitted himself to fallible human beings, his parents. “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51). Not only does Jesus follow God’s will, but he submits to the proper authorities, which, in this case, means his parents.
The whole of Jesus’ life was following his Father’s will. He says in John, chapter eight, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.”
We see perhaps the most beautiful example of Jesus’ total obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus leaves his disciples to pray, and he asks God to spare him. He prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus expressed his freedom through submission to God and His will.
The Religious Life
The religious life helps us to see the freedom of obedience, not just to God, but also to religious authorities above us. Monks and nuns across the world follow orders or rules that guide their daily existence. One of the most famous of these orders is the Order of St. Benedict. He writes about the virtue of obedience:
“not living according to their own choice nor obeying their own desires and pleasures but walking by another’s judgment and command, they dwell in monasteries and desire to have an Abbot over them. Assuredly such as these are living up to that maxim of the Lord in which He says, ‘I have come not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me’(John 6:38).”
These orders prescribe a pattern for daily life including the most mundane details like the clothes one wears. The order prescribes daily life in such detail, because obedience in small things trains the heart to obey God when temptation arises. Following the rule helps the faithful Christian obey God when it counts.
Thomas a Kempis wrote about this in his famous book, Imitation of Christ. “Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.”
For people who are used to talk of freedom, obedience can seem scary. We imagine harsh dictators and cruel oppression.
In the Catholic Church, however, obedience is a great virtue. Obedience to Christ and to religious authorities opens the door to manifesting the image of God by submitting our wills to the will of another. In this way, we train ourselves to be obedient to God.
Megan Dahle is a Catholic Blogger who likes to emphasize in her writing both the life of prayer and how to live bravely as a Catholic in modern society. She is a devoted mother and wife and a Catholic business owner. Before this eCommerce adventure, she was an accountant. She enjoys coaching robotics for her daughters’ FLL teams and gardening.
God willing, three men who have been in formation to become Paulist priests will be ordained on Saturday.
In anticipation, the Paulist website been running some profile pieces and reflections by these three men. Here are some handy links:
- Stuart Wilson Smith — An Adventure in Service
- Matt Berrios — Last-Chance Mass Leads to Ordination
- Steve Petroff — Audio Interview
Please join us in praying for these men as they prepare for their ordination. May God bless them and their ministries!
— Kevin (Dad of Evan)
Mother’s Day is give and take
A Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! With a child who is discerning a religious life, you wonder, how do you act as “mother” now. Do they still need you? Are you still relevant? Do you have something to offer in their life choice? The answer is of course, yes.
As a mother, you understand that giving of yourself is how you care for your children. From this life long giving, your child has learned to be a generous giver themselves. Mother’s Day is a time when most people take a moment to give their mother a special thank you for all the giving they have done. From an early age, the child in return gives a card and gift. At first they are the handmade items from school, the handprint plaque, the freely drawn hearts, the macaroni necklaces. All these things come from the heart of the child and the imagination of the teacher. Later, it turns to candles, bath soaps, and gift cards. The child has matured enough to know they should give, but are too immature to understand their mother as a person.
The last stage is the mindful gifts. The time when the child understands that the mother is a person in her own right and knows what would mean the most to her. This is different for each family and is as diverse as families themselves. The child has truly learned how to give from the heart the way the mother modeled for them.
There is a gift I haven’t received yet but know (hope) will be coming to me. At the time of ordination, the hands of the priest are anointed with sacred Chrism Oil. Traditionally the ordinand’s hands were then wrapped in a cloth called the maniturgium. This tradition has been discontinued and now the newly ordained priest just wipes clean with a purificator cloth. The second part of this tradition was to present the cloth to the mother of the newly ordained. This part of the tradition is being revived with the purificator. The cloth is being set aside for the son to present to his mother.
That is the first gift.
The second comes when the mother dies. She is to be buried with this cloth in her hands. Upon greeting the Lord in heaven, He will say “I have given you life, what have you given to me?” The mother then presents the cloth and replies “I have given You my son.”
I was given the gift of a son, I am pleased to return this gift to God. I cannot wait to receive the maniturgium from my son’s ordination. This is the final gift.
— Kit (Mom of Evan)