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.

Photo of Evan at his first Mass at St. Paul the Apostle in New York.
(Photo courtesy of the Paulist Fathers.)

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!)

Ordination Weekend

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

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.

Diaconate Ordination

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)

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.

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Fr. Eric Andrews, president of the Paulists, receiving Evan’s final promises.

Final Promises

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.

Deaconate Ordination

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Crypt Church at the Basilica.

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.

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Evan laying prostrate before the altar.

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.

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Ian assisting in bringing forward the gifts during the ordination Mass.

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.

First Blessings

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.

IMG_2198.jpgFirst Mass

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.

–Dad

Next Steps – Final Promises and Deaconate Ordination

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Paulist seminarians (now priests) Ryan Casey and Mike Hennessy lie prostrate before the altar during the chanting of the Litany of the Saints at their ordination as transitional deacons in 2017.

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.

— Dad

Paulist Ordination

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:

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

346px-ordination_sacerdotaleA 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)

Holy Acolytes!

254px-Solomon_Abraham_The_Acolyte.jpgA few days ago the Aleteia blog ran an article about a group of deacon candidates who were being installed as “acolytes”.  This reminded me of a piece we ran a couple of years ago about the “minor orders” and their role in priestly formation.

Back then, I wrote:

During formation, the candidate would go through the four minor orders — porter, lector, exorcist and acolyte. The progression through the minor orders was a bit like gaining rank in the military, each of them brought the candidate new responsibilities.

I went on to point out that two of the orders — lector and acolyte — are still used today in formation for both priests and deacons.  What I failed to do was to explain these to important offices.

You may already be familiar with lectors — those who read a portion of the scriptures at Mass — but it may surprise you to learn that this can be a formally instituted ministry.  The Code of Canon law (the law which governs the Church) states:

Can. 1035 §1 Before anyone may be promoted to the diaconate, whether permanent or transitory, he must have received the ministries of lector and acolyte, and have exercised them for an appropriate time.

§2 Between the conferring of the ministry of acolyte and the diaconate there is to be an interval of at least six months.

These ministries are important steps on the way to ordination as a deacon which, in
turn, is an important step on the way to priestly ordination.

Lectors, as you would expect, are tasked with reading the scriptures at Mass.  This practice goes back to the Jewish church where the scriptures were read as a matter of course in worship.  In the early days of the church, it was necessary to find someone who had sufficient education to be able to read.  The origins of the office are found there.

Candidates for the priesthood or deaconate are installed as lectors (typically) by a bishop.  In a lector’s installation, he is given a lectionary or book  of Gospels while the bishop says, “Take this book of holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people.”

There are lay lectors as well, of course.  Men and women who have been identified as fit for this service to the church.  They are not instituted by a bishop, but rather trained at the local parish.  They fill the role  of lector, but are not formally installed in the ministry.

The role of the acolyte is somewhat more complicated and represents a more technical level of service during the Mass.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal — the book which outlines all of the rules and rubrics for Mass– explains the role of the acolyte this way:

The acolyte is instituted for service at the altar and to assist the Priest and Deacon. It is his place principally to prepare the altar and the sacred vessels and, if necessary, to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful as an extraordinary minister. In the ministry of the altar, the acolyte has his own proper functions, which he must carry out in person.

It goes on to list specific duties including carrying the thurible if necessary and purifying the vessels used for the Eucharist.  There’s a nice summary of the duties at CatholicAcolyte.com.

Acolytes are instituted by a bishop, who places the sacred vessels in the hands of the candidate and says “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.”

People often express surprise at how long the process of priestly formation takes.  To someone outside of the Catholic church it can seem a long road, indeed.  Yet there are milestones as the young men move through their training and find themselves growing in both skill and dedication.  Lector and acolyte are two of the more visible milestones and it is worth remembering that each plays an important role in both formation and service to the people of God.

–Dad

 

Path to the Priesthood

Saturday, May 24, 2014 saw the addition of a new priest to the Paulist ranks.  “Jimmy” Hsu, having completed his formation period was ordained by Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas.

If you dig into the archives of the Paulist Fathers’ website, you can trace Jimmy’s formation.

It starts with an article from August 2009 detailing the Mass at which Jimmy marked the transition from novice to student by making his first promises to the community.  In part, the article says:

For Yao “Jimmy” Hsu, the novitiate year was a chance to experience St. Paul, the legacy of faith left by Paulist founder Servant of God Father Isaac T. Hecker and being part of a community.

“[Making first promises] is the first formal step to being part of the Paulist community, but is another small step in the road ahead,” he said.

Fast-forwarding to September of 2013 brings us to Jimmy’s final promises, payment for service (one penny) and ordination as a transitional deacon.

Jimmy Hsu, CSP, took his final steps toward the priesthood by pledging a lifetime of service with the Paulist Fathers before his Paulist brothers, family and friends Sept. 6 in the chapel of St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C. The next morning, Mr. Hsu was ordained to the diaconate in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception by Most Rev. Barry C. Knestout, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C.

After one year of ordained service as a deacon, and update on the Paulist Fathers’ website reflects on Jimmy’s journey and his impending ordination.

Encouraged by family and friends, Deacon Hsu was inspired by the example of the Paulists he met at the University Catholic Center while earning a philosophy degree at the University of Texas at Austin.

“My family has always been supportive of whatever I do, and they are proud of my decision [to become a priest],” Deacon Hsu said. “And the Paulists have been there to help me process my experiences in formation and become part of the community.”

The big moment came on May 24, 2014 when Jimmy Hsu was ordained.

“You will be consecrated to Christ in a very special way,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of the Diocese of Austin, Texas – Deacon Hsu’s home diocese – who presided over the ordination.

“Impart to everyone the word of God you have received with such joy,” the bishop said, “so that by your example you will build up the house that is God’s Church.”

One of the things that has impressed us the most about the Paulists is the strong sense of community.  (I suspect the same is true of most orders.)  Evan has become part of a larger family and considers Jimmy a brother.

We extend our congratulations to the newly ordained Reverend Jimmy Hsu and pray that God blesses his ministry.

— Dad

Minor Orders

320px-StMarysWestMelbAltarThe holidays are over and it’s time to get back to ordinary time — which, for me, includes blogging.

While Evan was home (we had him for the better part of a month) we spent some time talking about the seminary and what’s he’s been learning and doing.  Among other things, this past fall he was working at drop-in shelter/soup kitchen.  When they found out that he could bake, they set him to work making cookies and pies and such — anything that didn’t need to rise to be cooked.  We also spent a little time talking about how religious formation has changed over time.

This might sound a bit esoteric, but it actually gives an interesting peek inside the history of the church in the post Vatican II era.

Prior to 1973, candidates for the priesthood went through several well-defined steps during their training.  It started with the tonsure — a ceremonial haircut to mark the candidate’s entry into religious life.  Think of the bowl cut you associate with Friar Tuck or Brother Cadfael.  It was considered a sign that the candidate no longer cared about worldly fashion.  By the middle of the last century, though, the bowl cut had given way to a ceremonial clipping of five tiny tufts of hair as the points of a cross on top of the candidate’s head.

During formation, the candidate would go through the four minor ordersporter, lector, exorcist and acolyte.  The progression through the minor orders was a bit like gaining rank in the military, each of them brought the candidate new responsibilities.  None of them were Divine or Apostolic in origin and they were added to the church at different times.

Formal ordination began with the order of the subdeacon.  As the name implies, the subdeacon shares in some of the responsibilities, but not the full authority of an ordained deacon.

Candidates then — and now — go through ordination to the deaconate before making their final vows as priests.

In 1973 Pope Paul VI issued the Ministeria Quaedam which changed the minor orders into ministries.  In doing so, he said:

Nevertheless, since the minor orders have not always been the same and many functions connected with them, as at present, have also been exercised by the laity, it seems fitting to reexamine this practice and to adapt it to contemporary needs. What is obsolete in these offices will thus be removed and what is useful retained; also anything new that is needed will be introduced and at the same time the requirements for candidates for holy orders will be established.

Two of the minor orders — Lector and Acolyte — have been retained as ministries in formation programs to mark the candidate’s progress.

Many of the tasks which had been reserved for those in training have been taken over by the laity.  This reflects the goal of Vatican II to encourage “full, conscious and active participation” by “all of the faithful”.

What’s interesting to me is that there are groups seeking a return to the use of minor orders.  They feel that we have somehow lost something important.  I wouldn’t want to interfere with anyone’s personal piety, but I think they may be missing the larger picture.  Minor orders were never dogma nor did they reflect core theology.  They were simply a process which reflected the needs of the church at the time.  I would even suggest that the minor orders made it possible for the laity to sit back in the pews and treat the church as something to be observed rather than experienced; an inactive religion that kept faith at a distance from life.

For myself, getting involved has helped grow my faith.  When you dedicate time to an activity — a job, a hobby, a cause or a religion — you naturally engage more fully in it.  You learn, you question and you grow.  Which, I guess, is my ultimate point.

The formation for Holy Orders is vital to the future of the church.  We need the religious to fulfill their particular roles.  But we’re fooling ourselves if we think that we shouldn’t be in constant formation as well.

— Dad

So Many Questions

In the two-and-a-half years since my wife and I became aware of our son’s vocation call, it’s been interesting telling people about it.

I remember telling some good Catholic friends about it the December after he told us. Their first response was surprise, followed closely by something that looked almost like sympathy.

We’ve seen that look over-and-over among our Catholic friends. They are all pleased, but they also understand the level of commitment that comes with the vocation.

“Is he old enough?”

That’s an interesting question. When I was his age, I was newly married. I’d made a lifelong commitment of fidelity and obedience and no one seemed to mind overmuch. It would be wonderful to believe that everyone knew how mature I was for my age and that I’d make a wonderful husband. It would be wonderful…and inaccurate. Nobody really knew what lay ahead for me — for us — but I guess we trusted in God’s grace.

As an aside, it is interesting that many people perceive priestly vows as more binding and difficult than those of marriage. Perhaps this is because a priest is taking a vow of service to God. Or, perhaps it is because people don’t fully understand the rewards of the priesthood.

Whatever the case, God has blessed Cathy and I with a long and satisfying marriage.

We approach our son’s vocation with the same faith. (We try to, at least.) His period of discernment has already lasted longer than our engagement and he has quite a bit of time yet to go. If he continues on this path to the point of ordination, he’ll be blessed with the ontological change which occurs in all priests.

Is he young? Yes. But so were we when we got married. So were thousands of priests. All any of us can do is put our trust in God and move ahead.

P.S.
Of course, this isn’t the only question we’ve been asked. There have been lots of others. We’ll be addressing them in future posts. If you’d like to ask us a question, feel free to post in the comments or e-mail us at SeminarianParents@gmail.com

–Dad