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Tuesday, June 10, 2008


From Vita Mea Blog
By Fr. Dennis Schenkel June 9, 2008

Someone asked me this weekend if there was any particular moment during my ordination mass that grabbed me. The whole thing was so amazingly amazing that it took me a few seconds to go through it all in my head. The bishop was really “on” as he preached his homily just before the ordination rite began, and my own prostration during the Litany of the Saints was just as moving for me as I lay on the floor as it has been at every other ordination I have ever attended for other priests.

There is a point in the ordination rite, just after the bishop imposes his hands and calls down the Holy Spirit upon the ordinand (person being ordained), when every other priest who is present at the mass comes and imposes hands as well, participating in the ministry of the bishop and signifying the intimate sacramental brotherhood of the presbyterate. I was kneeling on the hardwood steps that lead up to the altar, and one by one, each priest came past me and imposed hands on me.

The floor was hard, and the particular angle of my knees was such that the floor seemed to be digging into me. The line of priests was long, and many of the priests, when placing their hands on my head for prayer, added just a little bit of pressure, just a little bit of pushing down, as they prayed. It wasn’t much. It was just a little. But my knees noticed it. After 10 or eleven went by, and there seemed to be many more still to come, I began repeating to myself: “Priesthood is about the cross. Priesthood is about the cross. Priesthood is about the cross.” The last priest in the line had actually grown up down the street from me and my brothers and his dad had been Scoutmaster when I was a kid.

But then it turned out he wasn’t the last priest. All the priests had gone back to their places, but one was still making his way down. He couldn’t move very quickly. Every step involved pushing a metal walker forward, and then taking a step-and-a-half and pushing the walker forward again. I happen to know that diabetes has wrecked this man’s feet and legs, and every step for him is a painful thing. If I thought my knees were sore at that moment, it couldn’t have been anything like the struggle of this priest to work his way down to the front of the altar.

Father John and I know each other well. When I was in high school, he was made pastor of our family’s parish. He is known for being outspoken on issues around social justice and civil rights, and I remember times when his zeal for “full, active and conscious participation” of the people of God in the liturgy resulted in new and creative liturgical practices that my more conservative friends would frown at.

There have even, sometimes, been personality issues and some unresolved slights or offenses. I don’t say this as gossip but to show how very moved I was that this man, this particular priest, struggled from his seat to touch me and pray over me.

He and I are of different generations, and of different ideological perspectives. Yet despite our differences, he was a priest. He had seen many changes in his time. Many of his peers, the ones who graduated from the seminaries of the 60’s and 70’s filled with a fire to bring the Church kicking and screaming into the realities of the modern world, did not remain in ministry. But he did. He did not leave or quit when it got hard. He did not abandon his vows out of frustration or hardship. He toughed it out. He remained faithful in his own way to the Lord and to his vocation.

And on Saturday, he was still toughing it out, making his way across the hardwood floor, ignoring the pain in his feet and legs, bringing the sacred mysteries of the sacraments to a member of the faithful on his knees before God. No one would have blamed him if he had stayed in his seat. Everyone knows how hard it is for him to do what he was doing. He didn’t have to go. But there he was.

He not only touched my head, but my heart as well. Priesthood is about the cross.

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