Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

Congratulations to my brother seminarians Antonio Racela and Nelson Usuga for their formal installation as lectors earlier tonight! The rector of St. Patrick's, Fr. Gerald Brown, called each of the candidates by name and every man responded "Present." The bishop of Santa Rosa, Daniel Walsh, then presented each man with the holy Scriptures and charged them with meditating upon them and really knowing them so that they can help the laity know our Lord and allow Him to enter into their hearts.

My academic adviser once told me he found it amazing anyone could seriously wonder what is the spirituality of the diocesan priesthood. Every religious order has its own spirituality or charism: the Benedictines pray and work, the Carmelites have contemplative prayer, the Dominicans preach, and so on. But what is that diocesan priests do? The priest stands in persona Christi during the Mass. Therefore, it is essential that all priests and those considering or studying for the priesthood thoroughly know the Word of God. It drives my spiritual director crazy when people accuse Catholics of not knowing the Bible. It's true that we might not be able to quote chapter and verse, but most Catholics know the Bible better than they themselves may think. They hear readings from it at least every Sunday after all! When I was growing up my household only had the King James version on hand, so when I recall a verse or one of our Lord's parables, I still recite it in Elizabethan English :p

Last semester we had what's called "Priest Day," where alumni - priests and sometimes bishops - return to St. Patrick's and give us talks on life in the seminary and life in the parish. The guest of honor last year was Fr. Clement Davenport of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, St. Patrick's Class of '48. He told us something else that I think every Catholic should hold, but especially we seminarians: love Jesus in the Mass. The Second Person of the Triune God condescends to become our bread of life in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass at the words of the priest; that's an enormously humbling thought. Who am I to think I am in any way worthy to do this? The answer, of course, is that I am not. No man is, but God calls whom He wills, despite our countless failings and ingratitudes. All we can do is say "yes" in a spirit of deep filial love and tremendous humility in that the Lord God of Hosts would call us through no merit of our own.

Finally, since the priest is another Christ in both Christ's priesthood and victimhood, it's essential that any man who believes he is called should have a deep devotion to Mary. Our Lady has an especial love for her son's priests since they are configured to her son's heart. Speaking as a convert from a kinda-sorta Protestant upbringing, it took me a while to embrace Marian devotion. When I first started as a Catholic I followed a "Just Jesus and Me" approach to my prayer life. Through the grace of God though my prayer life deepened over the next several years. Conversion and formation are both ongoing for me and probably will be for the rest of my life.

So I would recommend to any man who has ever had thoughts of becoming a priest: 1) Really know and really love the holy Scriptures since this is one of the ways God communicates to us; 2) Really know and really love what happens at the Mass which is the source and summit of all Catholic lives, but especially that of the priest; and 3) Place yourself under Mary's protection and love her as your own mother.

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