We are heading into the depths of ordination season. Fr. Pfeiffer just went to his uncle’s 50th anniversary of his priesthood this weekend. His own is only two days away (2 years!.) I never remember when mine is remembering better that my First Mass of Thanksgiving was on Pentecost Sunday. My sister, however, told me yesterday that it is May 30th, 13 years ago.
Wow. Thirteen years. And I’m still thankful.
When I get the chance I tell those who are about to be ordained to journal EVERYTHING. So much happens in the course of a couple days and they will be so wired that they will end up forgetting much of it if they do not.
The night before ordination I spent at the seminary, woke early, got dressed in my new suit and walked down the seminary chapel to pray the office (though we were technically dispensed that day) and then kissed the sanctuary floor as sort of a goodbye to the old place, then off to the cathedral. My family, there early in order to make sure they could find parking, was sitting in a coffee shop probably for the comfort of my father who only expected to be in a church for his baptism, his marriage, and his funeral. Lugging my alb and other necessities I only popped in for a second to say hello and greet their happy faces and then off to the bishop’s parlor.
Slowly my classmates showed in the order that they always showed up for everything from Mass to class to dinner. The bishops entered already dressed so we took the hint and vested up ourselves. My class consecrated themselves to the Blessed Virgin and so we huddled together to ask her to pray for us in this special day.
Moments before heading out the bishop called us over and prayed with us again and then it was outside with us to join the long line of servers, deacons, priests, and bishops in a procession that stretched down the block. The bells in the tower peeled like thunder drowning out the protestors of various sorts. We wound our way up and into the cathedral where the mighty organ helped swell the singing of the packed church. I remember walking down the aisle, hearing my name called out from time to time, seeing the flash of cameras (cell phone cameras not yet the rage), and feeling the excitement of the crowd.
My chair was to the far left (which meant I was last for everything and meant that I had time to remember what to do and correct any mistakes that my classmates may have made.) Our families sat right behind us and over the pew were the vestments which we would soon put on as newly ordained priests.
After we are ordained, we kneel on the marble step and the priests of the diocese come and lay hands on us. Some grip like they are trying to get a stuck lid off of a jar of peanut butter and some barely touch at all. We wore knee pads from our inline skating days being told by older guys how difficult it is to kneel on the marble for so long.
The bishop put Chrism on our hands and we went into sacristy to straighten up a little bit. Though it was strictly forbidden I had a hanky that had the word embroidered on it that said, “Upon the ordination of my son, May 30th, 199 whatever . . .” I forget the year, and I wiped my hands that had just been consecrated on it. Later when she died it was placed in her coffin.
After the Mass we went back to the bishop’s parlor joined by our parents for pictures and then out to greet the people giving so many blessing that I started to lose my voice. My nephew helped me gather my things then and just he and I drove to my parent’s house together discussing what had just happened. It was a quiet and very special little spell with my nephew. One of my favorite memories.
After collapsing at home we went down to Slovene Center where there was a reception. It was already filling up and everyone clapped as we entered and much of the first hour was in giving first blessings. I remember having about 30 drinks that night. I would a take a sip and someone would want a picture, I would put it down and then lose track of it until someone would hand me another to lose. My Uncle Frank’s band played and the rest of the night was pretty much a joyous blur save for a quick walk with some high school friends out and around the block – them trying out the title “Father” and me trying to get used to it.
It was a late night – but there was a big day the next day! There would be the First Mass, the parish banquet, the holy hour with the Litany of the Blessed Virgin and benediction.
And then – utter collapse into a happy coma of deep sleep.