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Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Are You Ready?"

The most frequent question put to me in the days leading up to my ordination was: "Are you ready?" I didn't quite know how to answer. "I hope so" or "I should be after almost 11 years as a Jesuit" were two that came to mind. People didn't really want me to say "no," but that probably would have been nearly as appropriate as the other two. I suppose it might have helped to ask for a clarification: "Ready for what?" The ordination ceremony? Priesthood? The rest of my life?

As far as the ordination liturgy goes, you can bet I was ready! I'd spent enough time in the preceding months taking care of the many details associated with it--music, ministers, reception, etc. that I was ready for it to happen and be over. In fact, I didn't experience much anxiety or nervousness about the ordination itself until really just before. There were no last minute doubts or jitters. I'd made up my mind about this long before! God just had to make sure it would happen.

Jose and I vested in a TV room in the rectory. So, to relax ourselves just before we spent a little time watching Laurel & Hardy. They were trying to sell mousetraps in Switzerland. They figured there would be a pretty big market, because of all the cheese.

The ordination mass, as always, was moving and, thankfully, we had good MCs, so I didn't have to worry too much about the choreography. I could focus on the moment. The Litany of Saints was powerful. I didn't even notice, as reported to me later, that an overzealous guest almost stepped on me trying to take a photograph. Equally moving was the laying on of hands by the Bishop and all the concelebrating priests. Though I had to wonder: Were those who seemed to be pushing down excessively hard worried it might not take? My vesting was an emotional moment, yet complicated. Though at the beginning it was only meant to be one, age and infirmity resulted in having three of my dearest Jesuit brothers vesting me. I was happy to have them all there, but there's only so much that needs to be done! So, I had to do what I could to make sure they all had a part in it. I think we succeeded. They got me dressed, anyway, and I got to share the moment with each of them. Then there was the anointing of the hands, concelebration of the mass, the blessing of the bishop, the blessing of the congregation and numerous more blessings at the reception! Graces abounded and I got to share them with so many good friends and family and several of my former students!

I was ready for all that.

The real source of anxiety was Sunday morning: the first mass. More to come on that.

Am I ready for my life as a priest? There's no saying. If being a priest is anything like being a Jesuit has been, I hardly know what to be ready for. But the surprises of Jesuit life have taught me an important lesson: I don't have to be "ready." I just have to follow where Jesus leads me and know that if I should falter I need only cry, like Peter, "Lord, save me."