Diaconate Ordination, 16th July 2020
Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
This week I would like to share a reflection on my ordination to the diaconate which took place just over one week ago. It is obviously the most important day of my life thus far, also the most intense. Six years of seminary formation has brought me to this point when both the Church and I say 'yes' to each other in a definitive way. I leave my life as a layman behind and enter the Church's ranks as a minister of the Gospel, a servant, and a man of God preparing for priestly ordination.
What a day it was. After months of uncertainty I was finally given a date, the 16th of July which was no coincidence. The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel means a great deal to me as I am deeply devoted to the saints of Carmel and even considered joining the order in the early days of my vocational discernment. This date is a beautiful reminder not only of my own Carmelite spirit, but also a sign of Our Blessed Mother's care. Many years ago I promised her that I would dedicate my whole priesthood to her and I now see that she is arranging things in the way she wants. The ordination just had to be on a Marian feast! The announcement of this date brought me great joy.
In order to find some peace of soul I was able to find a refuge to hide in for three days before the ordination; it was my Bethany before going to Jerusalem. The joy started to turn into trembling after I re-emerged from the silence. It was only a day and a half away and I was terrified. Filled with a holy fear like never before, I experienced the huge gap between God and myself in a new way. I really was unworthy to receive so great gift and did not deserve or merit it; yet God, in His infinite love and mercy, still calls me in my weakness and asks me to follow Him. It was a renewed call to trust in Him.
The joy and the trembling remained with me up until the Litany of the Saints at which point a great wave of peace came over me and covered me like a blanket as I lay prostrate on the floor. It was as if time had stopped, I was on the threshold of eternity awaiting entry into God's house as I heard the communion of saints being invoked for our intentions. The pass-over was moments away, the passing over from my life as a layman to being a minister of the Church.
The liturgical crescendo was starting to affect me in a powerful way. After having made the promises to live out the celibate life, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, lead a holy life in obedience to my bishop, I lay prostrate on the floor as a sign of giving everything to God; it was an act of pure adoration before the holiness of the Lord. I arose and waited for the Lord to lay his hands upon me and silently knelt to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, whom the bishop invoked as he said the prayer of ordination.
The most powerful moment was upon me as it was the defining departure from my home and entrance into God's house. I was already clothed in the alb, the garment of salvation; the amice – the helmet of salvation; and the cincture – the belt of chastity and continence. Here I received the stole which represents the yoke of Christ followed by the beautiful and heavy dalmatic. I had put on Christ, and I was wrapped in his robes. What made this even more special was the fact that my own mother was the one who had to vest me. The restrictions currently in place did not allow for any of the priests or deacons to do it, but only someone from my own household – who else but my mother ?! Again, this was a sign of Our Lady's care and her desire for me to serve her Son Jesus. A friend commented earlier on this when I told her what was going to happen. She said: “it will be like Mary presenting Jesus in the temple.” My mother has given me up to God and I leave home to enter God's home. I wept. The moment of my pass-over was complete and I will never forget this moment. I have moved from the body of the Church into the sanctuary: this is my home now.
The ordination was the most intense day of my life as I was drained not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. In a mysterious way, it was like a small passion that I had to go through. The experience was, without a doubt, one of immense joy but also one of pain and tears – and not in a bad way. It was the most spiritually-moving experience I've had and it shook every part of my being.
Do I feel different now? Yes and no. I feel different in various ways, first I am now called reverend and I am more particular about the way I dress. I also feel that a new capacity for God's grace has been cracked open in me, a new space has appeared in my soul for the Lord to work – this is the grace of Holy Orders! On a human level nothing has changed: I still need a cup of strong coffee in the morning. The day after the ordination I was mopping floors and hoovering the house. Nothing has changed yet everything has changed.