DISCERNMENT ARTICLES

Ordination is just the beginning

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One of the most beautiful liturgies in the Catholic Church is when a man becomes a priest of Jesus Christ.

At the Mass of ordination, he men to be ordained kneel in front of the bishop one by one, and they place their folded hands between the hands of the bishop.

Bishop: Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?

Candidates: I do

Bishop: May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.

I consider these last words some of the most profound in the rite of ordination, probably because I work in priestly formation. After many years of intense priestly formation, on the day of ordination, the Church is declaring that God has only just begun the good work he is doing in this priest! This man will leave the cathedral a Catholic priest, but God will continue to work in and through him, forming him more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. And the priest will understand that he will remain in formation throughout his life. As we say to our seminarians: “Ordination is not emancipation from formation.”

Finally, the ordinandi are asked to prostrate themselves on the floor, lying face down on the marble. The congregation is asked to kneel and the Litany of Saints is sung. The Church is asking the intercession of all the saints in heaven, for the moment has come—a man is to be ordained a priest. Immediately afterward, with the people of God still kneeling, the ordinandi arise from the floor and kneel before the bishop. In silence, the bishop lays his hands on their heads (the essential matter of priestly ordination). Every priest present then processes forward in turn and lays his hands on the heads of the ordinandi also, a sign of the unity of the presbyterate. The final essential part of the rite of ordination is the prayer of consecration by the bishop (the form of priestly ordination). When the people say “Amen” after this prayer, the man is a priest of Jesus Christ.

~From To Save a Thousand Souls