This past weekend, four new priests were ordained by Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSsR, for service in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis: Fr. Danny Bedel, Fr. Dave Marcotte, Fr. Ben Syberg, and Fr. Tim Wyciskalla. As Vocation Director for the Archdiocese, I was privileged to walk with them along the final part of their journey to priesthood and to publicly present them to the Archbishop for ordination. Recently, I was asked to write an article for the newsletter of my home parish, St. Jude Church in Indianapolis, on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, in which I reflected on the Rite of Ordination. I share that article with you below. Congratulations and blessings to our four new priests, and welcome to the presbyterate:
As a priest, each year I gather with my brother priests and the Archbishop of Indianapolis at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday to renew the promises we made at our ordination. This annual recommitment is a reminder that our priesthood – our Sacrament of Holy Orders – is a life that we are called to live out each minute of every day. Our priesthood is our identity – not our job or our public persona or a temporary commitment – but we are priests all day, every day. My priesthood defines who I am and guides my decisions, the way I spend my time, and the quality of my relationships. Each year, when we renew our priestly promises at the Chrism Mass, we priests remind ourselves of our fundamental identity and the responsibilities that come with that identity.
As Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, I have the privilege of walking alongside men who are discerning the priesthood and being formed for a lifetime of priestly ministry in the Church. At their priesthood ordination, as I present them to the Archbishop, he asks, “Do you know them to be worthy.” Worthiness is the single quality that the Church, speaking in the voice of the bishop, seeks to confirm in the presence of candidates for ordination. To me, it calls to mind the hymn in the Book of Revelation: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5.12). To be worthy as a candidate for the priesthood is to be ready and willing to be like Christ, who laid down his life for his friends. To be worthy as a candidate for the priesthood is to be ready and willing to be slain, to sacrifice your own wants and needs and desires, to be the presence of Christ in a wounded and seeking world, to be a vessel of selfless love.
Part of the ritual of ordination in the Catholic Church is that the candidates lie prostrate on the floor while the congregation sings the Litany of the Saints, imploring the prayers of the Holy Men and Women of every age for those being ordained. This prostration is a powerful visible symbol of completely handing one’s life over to Christ, of submitting totally to God’s will, of laying aside one’s own plans and ideas for the sake of the gospel mission.
None of us are completely worthy of the call God has given us – whether the call to priesthood, marriage, consecrated life, or a generous single life – but with the grace of God, we offer ourselves into His hands to be used for His purposes and His glory.
At my own ordination, the most powerful moment for me came in placing my hands inside the hands of Archbishop Daniel Buechlein and promising obedience to him and his successors. From that moment on, my life has not been my own – I belong to Christ and to the Church, to be used by God as He sees fit. It can be a bit scary to entrust your life completely to someone else, to give up control over where you live and what you do. At the same time, there is great freedom in handing yourself over to God and trusting that He will guide and direct you all your days. But to be like Christ – which is what we are all called to be as Christians – there can be no other way than to lay down our own life and to follow Jesus Christ, wherever He may lead.