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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Monica Doumit: New priests a gift from the Lord

Two ideas of the priesthood seem to have been on display in recent months: one seemingly understated, the other joyful

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The five ordinations last weekend were a joy not only for the new priests but for the whole Church in Sydney. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
The five ordinations last weekend were a joy not only for the new priests but for the whole Church in Sydney. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

 

If I am being honest, the saddest thing for me about the Plenary Council was the way it appeared in parts to be apologetic for, if not embarrassed by, the Priesthood.

There was a daily Mass, of course, but outside of the Holy Sacrifice, the Priests seemed to be sidelined.

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The daily, livestreamed morning prayer was led exclusively by laity. Grace before meals similarly so.

This is notwithstanding the fact that the majority of the Plenary Council members were clergy.

When we were invited to bless the members of our table with Holy Water, many clergy stood aside and encouraged the lay members to offer the blessing.

“At every point possible, it seemed as though there was a conscious or unconscious decision to hide the Priesthood or at least minimise it.”

Even at the daily Masses, there were only five bishops on the sanctuary of St Mary’s Cathedral, despite it easily being able to hold several dozen.

The remainder of the bishops, along with the priest Plenary Council members, concelebrated from the main body of the Cathedral. Some did not concelebrate at all, choosing instead to attend Mass ‘with the people.’

At every point possible, it seemed as though there was a conscious or unconscious decision to hide the Priesthood or at least minimise it.

Perhaps it was intended to make the laity feel more ‘included,’ but for this lay person at least, it just felt uncomfortable.

A Plenary Council member blesses another with gum leaves dipped in water at the Council in July. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
A Plenary Council member blesses another with gum leaves dipped in water at the Council in July. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Fast forward one month to last Saturday 6 August when, in the very same St Mary’s Cathedral, Archbishop Anthony Fisher ordained five new priests for Sydney. They are wonderful men, with hearts full of love for God and a desire to serve His people.

I didn’t count the number of concelebrating priests, but I overheard the people sitting in the pews behind me say: “There were 125 priests, plus the bishops and the seminarians.”

Their count was probably accurate given the length of the procession.

Far from hiding or apologising for the Priesthood, the three-hour Ordination Mass celebrated it with great joy.

The 1500-plus people at St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday morning witnessed the awesome gift of the Priesthood on full display.

“Every person I spoke to who attended the Ordination commented on how beautiful it was to see so many priests at the Cathedral …”

Priests aged in their 20s and priests aged in their 80s and perhaps even in their 90s.

Those who have been ordained more than 50 years and one who had been ordained just six weeks’ prior, Eastern Rite and Latin Rite, from different dioceses and so many cultural backgrounds that they would give the United Nations a run for its money.

They came from all points along the theological spectrum but were there in great number and even greater voice to welcome another five into their ranks.

Every person I spoke to who attended the Ordination commented on how beautiful it was to see so many priests at the Cathedral on Saturday, and so many seminarians who, God-willing, will one day join them as brothers and labourers in the rich harvest.

The 1500-plus people at St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday morning witnessed the awesome gift of the Priesthood on full display. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
The 1500-plus people at St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday morning witnessed the awesome gift of the Priesthood on full display. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

The following day, priests criss-crossed around Sydney to attend whatever Ordination celebrations and concelebrate whatever thanksgiving masses for the five newly-ordained that they could, while also keeping their commitments to their own parishes.

It makes for an exhausting weekend but is also another visible sign of the fraternity they share. As one priest told me, “this is always the best weekend of the year.”

The homilies I heard at the various masses over the weekend unashamedly spoke of the great gift of the priesthood, not only to the man ordained but also and especially to the Church.

They echoed the words of the holy Curé of Ars, who said: “Were we to fully realise what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love.”

“Cathedrals fill to capacity at ordinations because we want to celebrate the Priesthood and we love when the Church gives us the opportunity to do so.”

The new priests were, of course, reminded that the gift is not because of anything great or special about them as individuals but because of God’s generosity and were exhorted to give of themselves for the good of the faithful, but this was done in a way that did not for a second diminish the awesomeness of the Priesthood.

Far from being seen as clericalist, being reminded of the beauty of the priestly vocation had many in the congregation in tears.

Ordination weekend in Sydney showed that there really is no need to apologise for or minimise the Priesthood because, for the most part, the lay faithful view see a long procession of priests and a packed sanctuary as a sign of God’s love for His Church, a promise that He will always provide for the needs of His people, and a sign of hope that the future is in good hands.

Cathedrals fill to capacity at ordinations because we want to celebrate the Priesthood and we love when the Church gives us the opportunity to do so.

125 priests processed into the Cathedral on Saturday morning and 130 Priests walked out, and the people of God rejoiced.

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