The Ministry of Acolyte

“Take this vessel with bread (wine) for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.”

“Amen.”

These words were spoken to me by Bishop Edward Rice, the Bishop of my home diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, during the Rite of the Institution of Acolyte, on the evening of the 20th of April. My classmates and I have officially been instituted acolytes, which means that we are to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry at the altar, and to also as ministers of holy communion. Acolytes, in a special way, are to aid the priest in his celebration, and to take communion out to the sick. It is also important for us because we are also tasked, in a special way, for the care of the Eucharist, and care of the vessels that contain the Sacred Species. This also gives us the duty to take communion forth from the altar to those who cannot come to Mass to receive the Blessed Sacrament there. It is certainly not a mistake that we are instituted Acolytes on our path to the priesthood. This institution has a very profound meaning for a developing seminarian, most especially because, ultimately, he is being formed to celebrate the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This institution also draws to our attention the profound privilege that we are given in beholding the sacred species, especially in a physical way. It is something that is so sacred, that the Church typically reserves this ministry of physically carrying the Blessed Sacrament and the sacred vessels that contain it to those whom the Church selects. Certainly, we are all unworthy to such tasks, just as all of us are unworthy of reception of the Blessed Sacrament and salvation. However, our God, in His mercy and compassion has still entrusted Himself to His people. We cannot brag of such a privilege- but we are still given the duty to proclaim this profound gift, especially to those that have not yet received Him in this sweet Sacrament.

Please continue to pray for all seminarians as we are continuing to take steps towards the priesthood, especially in our installations into our different ministries!

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

“Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.”

-Matthew 18-25-27

Perhaps one of the hardest life lessons that we have to learn is that of forgiveness. Ultimately, this action of charity is a removal of some inequality that is in place because of someone’s defeat of justice due towards you. In short, you have to clear the slate, so to speak, so that a person may be restored to their full reception of your good graces. Often, we find this to be particularly difficult, because we are afraid that we are letting the other a “get out of jail” card. This too can lead to a further fear that it will become a redundant action; after all, if we let them off the hook once, why wouldn’t they do it again.

There are two things here that we should note- first, we should be mindful of the purpose of forgiveness- it is so that we can yet again restore another to our good graces. If a person is truly contrite and seeking this restoration, why would we not give it to them? To ask forgiveness necessitates firm resolve to correct the error! Therefore, when one asks our forgiveness in honesty and truth, it is not only our duty to, but an honor to do this.

The second thing of note is this- our Father has forgiven us for much, much greater debts than others towards ours. So many times, we fall short of what is asked out of justice in our relationship to God, and so often, we fail tremendously. Not only do we fail tremendously against our magnificent Creator (another aspect that merits Him all the more of what is due Him from us, the created), but we do it repeatedly. Sometimes, we repent, but only half-heartedly. Sometimes, we simply gloss over our faults, and forget to even ask for that forgiveness. Yet, we still feel that we have the ground to deny others our forgiveness.

This is one of the biggest challenges that we often gloss over in the prayer the Our Father. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is not a mere formality- it is something that is going to put us to the test. If we cannot share charity with others in our actions, what is to say that we deserve it from God? For, if we do not share in the way the Father gives that which we were freely given, then perhaps it would have been less of a liability to us if we had never received it! Note the stern warning of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant- after having his own debt forgiven, and not forgiving the debt of his neighbor, the wicked servant found himself in a worse plight than before!

We must forgive our neighbors- for if we do not, have we truly conformed our lives to the exemplar of Christ? Are we seeking the face of God, or merely a false sense of justice that blocks the face of God from shining through our own lives?

Candidacy for Holy Orders

sam_0550-2Earlier this evening, my classmates and I celebrated one of many milestones on the way to the priesthood- Candidacy for Holy Orders. This is an important step, but one that most are unaware of in the course of seminary formation. It caught my attention as well when I first learned about it’s occurrence in the first year of theology (at least here, at Kenrick), and also learned about what it means. Candidacy is one of several steps that I have and will be taking as a seminarian, with my eyes set on preparation the priesthood. Essentially, what this particular step entails is my first official and public announcement of intent to pursue the priesthood. As a seminarian, this is done to some degree when a man first enters the seminary, but candidacy is where formal confirmation of a seminarian’s aspiration occurs. To become a candidate, it was required from each of us that we petition our diocesan bishop for his approval of our pursuit for the priesthood. He then answered us affirmatively, based upon our current progress in formation, and the recommendation of seminary faculty, that we are good candidates for Holy Orders.

In some ways, this is like “engagement” in a relationship. My classmates and I have been actively discerning our vocation with the Church through our college and philosophical education, and doing our best to see whether or not we are called to commitment to the Church. At this point, we are each fairly certain of our intention to be ordained to the priesthood. In some ways, discernment moves into more proximate preparation for the priesthood, just as a couple would begin preparing for marriage well in advance. This, just as in engagement, does not mean that a man will inevitably be ordained, but it is an important commitment for a seminarian in view of the priesthood. This ultimately is the mutual announcement from the Church and ourselves of our intent to be ordained, and that is something that is very exciting for us.

What this means for us is that we have to work with even more diligence, recognizing the fact that ordination to the priesthood is little more than three years out. We have the responsibility to prepare ourselves well, to study hard, and to pray even harder, since we are drawing ever closer.

Pray for our strength, diligence, and perseverance as we continue onward as candidates for Holy Orders, and always rest assured that our prayers of gratitude are constantly with you!

Wired for the Truth

lightWhen I am home on breaks, I like to do home improvement projects, whether it involves appliances, outdoor yard work, or anything in between. One project some time ago involved me replacing an old three-way light switch. When I began installing the replacement switch, I noticed that the electrical connections were somewhat different, but didn’t mind it too much, since I knew it was a three-way switch, and is what I needed. Lo and behold, when I hooked up the switch, it only worked two ways- on from that switch, and off. Since I knew the other switch was working before, I just knew it had to be a bad new switch. So, I took it back to the store and bought a new one. When I put it in, the same thing happened again. I began to get flustered. A quick break, and subsequent perusal of the instructions, and I discovered the problem- I had two of the terminals reversed. After these were corrected, the lights worked in three ways as they should again.

I tell this story because it is problem that I faced, and that we face as a culture today. In my mind, I had clearly identified the source of that problem when I had the first switch- and I was 100% sure that it was a bad switch. However, it turned out that my mind had created an opinion which did not conform to reality, but I certainly treated it as if it was. Later, I discovered that I was incorrect, and was then set back in reality, where I could correct the problem.This problem is not limited to my home improvement projects- it is embedded into our daily life. Our mind is geared towards discovering reality, and when I did, as in this project, I was able to actively identify and fix the real problem. So often, though, we can create “projects” where there are none, and gloss over where the true “projects” rely, all by our own misconceptions.

Any visit to Facebook, especially these days, can confirm that we have opinions. In social media, we are allowed to express our opinions on a seemingly infinite number of subjects. Some of these are purely subjective. For example, I tend to like Ford vehicles. This doesn’t mean that I have proven that Ford is somehow able to be quantified as the best vehicle, but it simply indicates my preference for Ford vehicles. However, if I were to say that I don’t like the speed limit on I-44, and then live as if it doesn’t exist, this makes me wrong. My dislike for it doesn’t abolish the truth that the speed limit is still law. It is important to make this distinction, because it is often forgotten that our opinions don’t create facts, other than the fact that it is our opinion.

What about a real, objective example? What about the issue of abortion? Recently, I, along with hundreds of thousands of other people marched in D.C. to attest to the sanctity of human life, and this was welcomed by many, but bashed by many others. However, abortion is not the place for a subjective opinion. When it comes to abortion, the Church teaches that is always and everywhere objectively evil- meaning that there is no circumstance where abortion can be considered a good. This is a part of our innate natural law, and has been since since man was first formed. However, there are arguments out there today that life actually doesn’t begin when the two cells collide and multiply; or if it does begin then, it should not be given the same dignity of a grown man. For many, unfortunately, the grave nature of abortion is thought to be a right, and this is due to the opinion of many that it is either morally excusable, or even laudable (sadly) to procure one. However, no matter the opinion, nor the argument, we are still left with our natural and Divine Law, just as an opinion on the speed limit doesn’t change it’s legality (nor our legal duty to follow it!).

When I discovered that I was in the wrong in blaming a light switch for the problem in my project, it was because I was actively seeking the truth of the matter. I realized I had to look for the truth, no matter what I thought it was. It turned out that I was indeed incorrect in my diagnosis, and had to come back into conformity with the reality of that situation. When it comes to our daily encounters, whether with switches or any of our actions, we always must have an openness and desire to discover the objective truth in every situation. We cannot get to the heart of the abortion issue, for example, without openly seeking the objective truth of the dignity of a person and the weight of our actions, rather than flying an opinion as our standard, and then going into battle by justifying why abortion should be a right. We cannot justify breaking the speed limit without seeking the objective truth of our laws, and their purpose. Our opinions cannot and should not become the basis of reality, but reality must become the basis of our opinions. For it is in the truth that we are set free (and we can finally fix light switches to boot!).

“Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” -Ephesians 4:25