August 5, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Priestly and episcopal ordinations are high points of summer

The month of June was the apex of my summer because of the priestly ordination of Father Dustin Boehm, and the episcopal ordination of Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville.

I have had numerous requests for the text of the homily on these two occasions, and so I am presenting them here. Because they are longer than my usual weekly column, they will be presented in serial form starting with the ordination instruction for Father Dustin.

Ordination Instruction - Part 1

Dear Family and Friends of Dustin, Brother Priests, Seminarians, Sisters and Brothers in the Lord,

One of the entrance antiphons for the Mass commemorating a holy priest reads: “I will raise up for myself a priest; he will do what is in my heart and in my mind, says the Lord.” How might that be for Dustin?

Dustin, you know well that you are being ordained a priest to proclaim God’s Word, to celebrate the sacraments and to serve God and the people of God humbly and generously and in the person of Jesus Christ, the High Priest.

Priestly ministry is awesome. You will be able to serve because of God’s special grace which you receive in the sacrament of Holy Orders this morning. God’s grace will accompany you all the days of your priestly life.

Dustin, you are realistic enough to know that living your priestly commitment in the real world will also bring challenges. And so, we count on his grace, we trust in God’s Providence.

In 2007’s Chrism Mass homily, Pope Benedict said: “The theology of baptism returns in a new way and with a new insistence in priestly ordination. Just as in baptism an ‘exchange of clothing’ is given, and exchanged destination, a new existential communion with Christ, so also in priesthood there is an exchange: in the administration of the sacraments, the priest now acts and speaks in persona Christi. In the sacred mysteries, he does not represent himself and does not speak expressing himself, but speaks for the Other, for Christ.”

In baptism, you received the white garment that symbolized your new existence in Christ. Today, you will be clothed with liturgical vestments that symbolize yet a radically new relationship with Christ.

Dustin, today you put yourself at Christ’s disposal. You offer yourself to serve the people of our local Church generously in persona Christi, in the person of Christ the High priest and bridegroom of the Church. Today, we pray with you that Jesus will take you by the hand again and again and lead you in your priestly ministry. May he help you build your trust in him.

We pray that you will serve your sisters and brothers with an unwavering and enthusiastic missionary vision—like the two missionary pioneers of our local Church, Bishop Simon Bruté and St. Theodora Guérin.

They gave themselves entirely into the hands of Divine Providence; they devoted their lives entirely to Christ, especially to the poor and the people in the shadows. Like our pioneer founders, may your ministry be filled with a deep and heartfelt love. As it was for them, may it be a pure love nurtured before the tabernacles of the churches where you serve.

Through the imposition of the hands from Bishop (Christopher J.) Coyne this morning, the Lord himself lays his hands upon you. Some years ago, in your own way, you heard the Lord’s call, “Follow me.”

Perhaps, to start with, like all of us, you followed him cautiously, looking back and wondering if this really was the road for you. Maybe like St. Peter, you may have been frightened by your inadequacy so that you were tempted to turn back.

St. Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8). Then, however, with kindness, Jesus took him by the hand. So he does for you, my brother. He will draw you to himself and tell you “do not fear. I am with you. I will not abandon you.” Keep in mind, Bishop Bruté and Mother Theodore are courageous witnesses of Christ’s companionship along our missionary journey.

Dustin, today you renew your promise of obedience and doing so you place your hands in the hands of Bishop Coyne. The Church tells us that the bishop, human as he is, is the “vicar and legate of Christ.”

I like to recall the words of Benedictine Cardinal Basil Hume. He said: “Let us link two gestures together: the kiss of peace exchanged with the bishop and the promise of obedience. The sign of peace sets the tone for the promise; your promise is an expression of your willingness to be part of the Archbishop’s responsibility for the people of God” (Light in the Lord, p. 47)

He also remarked: “I think obedience is very close to love, indeed it is an aspect of love” (p. 90). †

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