My latest runs this week in Cincinnati's Catholic Telegraph:
In the Catholic Church, spring brings not only ‘wedding season,’ but in dioceses throughout the United States, men, who have completed their training. are called forward to be ordained to the priesthood. In rites as ancient as the Church herself, those being ordained are consecrated for a higher purpose: to lay down their life in service of the Gospel, in service of Christ. Those who experience an Ordination to the Priesthood for the first time are universally struck by the power of the symbols and the beauty of the prayers. The entire rite speaks to so much of what makes us Catholic; it lifts the heart and mind to God in a great hymn of praise.
As the ceremony progressed and I watched now Frs. Muhlenkamp and Ralston move from the Order of Deacon to the Order of Presbyter, many thoughts played through my head. What awaits these two men in their priesthood? What challenges will God lead them through? Where will their future assignments bring them? How many lives will they touch as priests? Certainly these are questions that only God can answer at this point, but needless to say that their lives will be interesting from this moment on.
Thinking back on my own six years as a priest, I continue to be struck by how God is able to do so much from such a mundane source. Those called to the priesthood are not called because of some great talent that they possess. Rather they are called out of a deep love for Our Lord, a love which fosters a desire to lay down one’s life so that others might live. What is required for one who is called is simply a heart willing to serve. That willingness is transformed into something other-worldly as these newly ordained priests stepped to the altar the first time to utter the words of Consecration, words so powerful that Our Lord comes to dwell on this altar at their command.
Even the bread and wine offered at Mass reflect this simple, yet profound awareness. They are staples of our diet, just as they were during the time of Jesus. He took these two common items and left them as very uncommon realties: that of His True Presence. In our modern culture, perhaps we have lost something of the importance in these two common items, though. In bread, many kernels of grain are crushed, kneaded together and baked to form one loaf. In wine, many separate grapes are crushed and fermented to become a vat of wine. The work of human hands turns these simple elements into something more. In Mass, the work of priestly hands turns what is simply bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord.
To those who have been Catholic for many years, it is so easy to overlook how profound this truly is: a basic staple of life is turned into something dynamic. Tuning our eyes into this mystery of Christ’s presence in the Eucharistic species, we start to see miracles not just there, but anywhere we look. God’s handiwork surrounds and he recognition dawns: our God is truly a wonderful and mysterious God!
Turning back once again to the two men ordained for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati this spring, yes, they are just like any other man. Yet now, as priests of Jesus Christ, they have been given a supernatural power. In the economy of salvation, God continues to transform that which is simple into something much more profound. Let us continue to praise Him for His marvelous works are beyond compare.