June 9, 2013

FATHER BARNES! Congratulations to our own Fr. Nicolas Barnes, upon his ordination to the Holy Priesthood. Fr. Barnes, son of parishioner Donald Barnes, was ordained yesterday (Saturday, June 9) by Bishop Loverde, and will say his first Mass here at St. Raymond’s today at 12:15. All are invited to that Mass and to the reception afterwards in the Parish Hall.

Father is a fine young man, and I know he will make an excellent and holy priest. After two years at St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, he has spent the last four years studying in Rome. Now the Bishop has assigned him to return to Rome for one more year to finish work on his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in Dogmatics. After that it is anticipated he will return to the Diocese for priestly service.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders. Speaking from personal experience, I can attest that the priesthood is a wonderful gift. But it is not a gift given to a man for his own good or purposes, but rather for the good of the whole Church and for God’s purposes. So it is really a gift to the whole Church.

Although we sometimes rightly refer to the “sacrament of the priesthood” it is more proper to refer to the “Sacrament of Holy Orders.” But this can be confusing, since Holy Orders can be received in three way, or “degrees”: the diaconate (“deacons”), the presbyterate (“priests”) and the episcopacy (“bishops”). As the Catechism (1554) teaches:

Catholic doctrine…recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate . The diaconate is intended to help and serve them. For this reason the term sacerdos [priest] in current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called “ordination,” that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders.

By his priestly ordination the priest receives the permanent grace to act in persona Christi capitis—in the person of (in the place of, representing) Christ the Head (of the body/Church). He is, for the good of the whole Church, ontologically configured to Christ: priest, prophet and king, and so shares, with the Apostles, in Jesus’ threefold ministry to sanctify, teach and govern the Church. As such, the priest shares in Christ’s shepherdhood as “pastor.” Moreover, in this sacrament he receives the special graces to both fulfill these duties and to live the life of holiness his office demands.

To be ordained a priest today a man must normally be unmarried and undergo at least 6 years of intense full-time human, spiritual, intellectual, and academic formation in the seminary. Unlike “religious” priests (Dominicans, Jesuits, etc.), a diocesan (or “secular”) priest, does not take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but rather makes promises of 1) obedience to their bishop and 2) to live a life of chaste celibacy, and is required to live a “simple life.” (Actually, the priest’s promise of celibacy is made at his ordination to deacon about a year before he becomes a priest).

After 17 years as a priest, I can unreservedly say that I have thanked the Good Lord every day for the incredible gift of my priesthood. Although there are many crosses, there are so many blessings I can’t begin to describe them. Let me borrow the words of the great Dominican preacher, Fr. Henri-Dominique Lacordaire (1802-1861), in his poem, “A Priest.”

To live in the midst of the world // without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family, // yet belonging to none;
To share all suffering; // to penetrate all secrets;
To heal all wounds; // to go from men to God // and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to men // to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for Charity, // and a heart of bronze for Chastity;
To teach and to pardon, // console and bless always.
My God, what a life; // and it is yours, // O priest of Jesus Christ.

I am so happy for Fr. Barnes today, and pray that he will persevere in accepting this great gift and mystery. May he be a holy, brave, loving and humble priest and spiritual father. Let’s all keep him in our prayers, thank the Lord for this gift, and pray that many other young men from our parish will soon join him in accepting the call to Holy Priesthood.

Corpus Christi Procession. If you missed last Sunday’s Eucharistic procession, you missed a great treat. What a beautiful thing to see so many parishioners giving such public witness to their faith in the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist! Once again attendance was up from last year—I would guess somewhere around 250 came out. Let me thank all of you who came, but especially those who worked so hard to make things run so smoothly: the parish staff, the choir, the altar boys, the sacristans, the flower ladies, the Knights of Columbus, the youth group, and so many other volunteers—forgive me for not naming you all. And let me express special appreciation to Patrick O’Brien, who once again stepped up to coordinate everything. May our Eucharistic Lord shower you with His blessings.

Save the dates for “Fortnight for Freedom.” Beginning Friday June 21 (the vigil of the Feast of St. Thomas More) and running through July 4 (Independence Day), St. Raymond’s will join Catholics across the country in keeping a “Fortnight for Freedom” to pray and fast for the protection of Religious Liberty, especially with regarding the so called “contraceptive mandate” of Obamacare regulations, and challenges to traditional marriage. In addition to praying special prayers (and fasting) at home we will again have Eucharistic Holy Hours every day during the fortnight (some including “Exposition”). Please see next week’s bulletin for more details.

New Assignments for Priests. The annual re-assignments of priests were announced yesterday (Saturday). As I write this (on “deadline Wednesday”) I do not anticipate that we will be effected by the changes, although I am always hopeful that we will find another priest-student to live in residence. Please pray for the priests who do receive new assignments, which can be difficult—“To be a member of each family, yet belonging to none.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles