Excerpted from a guide that Deacon Adam Booth, C.S.C., made for his friends and family who might be attending an Ordination Mass for the first time.
Purpose: For Pat and I to be made into priests by the bishop.
Main Players: Bishop Kevin Rhoades will preside and preach. He is the bishop of Fort Wayne – South Bend (the diocese in which Notre Dame and South Bend are located). Seminarians will serve.
One Key Moment: The bishop laying his hands on mine and Pat’s heads. This, together with a prayer he says after the priests repeat his gesture, is the moment we become priests. We read about this rite in the part of the Bible about the first generation of the Church after Jesus’ time on earth (book of Acts).
Formality: Think wedding.
This service fits into the same structure as any Mass, with most of the special actions in the middle.
The gathering is reasonably standard, except for the over one hundred priests who will process in to concelebrate the Mass. Pat and I will process in vested as deacons (diagonal stole), as that’s what we are. We’ll sit with our families for the first part of Mass.
For the liturgy of the Word, we continue the Easter Octave sequence of readings. The readings are fortuitous in talking about the importance of preaching as a call from Christ. Since this is an ordination, we add a second reading about priesthood. This reading is from a letter of St. Paul and stresses the importance of proclaiming the Gospel and God’s power despite, or even through, a priest’s weakness. Ordination puts “a treasure in clay jars,” is the image used.
Before the bishop preaches, Pat and I are asked to stand and Fr. Tom O’Hara, C.S.C., (the superior of the US Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross) will formally present us for Ordination. He relies on the testimony of some of the people we’ve worked with as deacons.
After Bishop Rhoades preaches, he asks us to state our resolve to exercise our ministry as priests faithfully. These questions span the three main aspects (munera) of priesthood: prophet (preacher / teacher / proclaimer of Gospel in word and deed); sanctifier (pray-er / minister of the sacraments; servant-leader (servant of all, especially the poor / leader in and builder of the Christian community). They also remind us that we do not cease being followers of Christ by embracing his priesthood. One by one, we also renew our promise of respect and obedience to the local bishop and our Holy Cross Superior by putting our hands inside his grasp; held in embrace, not locked in chains.
After that comes a rite we experienced before both at Final Vows and Diaconate Ordination: we will lay prostrate, the lowest people in the room, as the congregation sings, asking saint upon saint to pray for us. The bishop concludes with a prayer he says on his own, to which the people reply “Amen.”
Then, in silence, the bishop lays hands on us, the ancient sign of the passing on of ministry found in the book of Acts.
Each of the priests present repeat this gesture, a tender sign that they wish to share their priesthood with us. After the hand-laying, the bishop prays the prayer of consecration. This prayer begins by praising God, continues to discuss the Old Testament preparation for the Christian priesthood, and then outlines the duties of priests (listen for the three munera!) and prays that we will fulfill these fruitfully. The people’s Amen formally concludes the ordination: we are priests.
Hence, we are dressed wrong: we’re dressed as deacons, but we’re priests now! My pastor, will come and help me change into the proper dress for priests during Mass. Rather than being diagonal, our stole will hang round our necks as a yoke of service.
This is covered by a chasuble (a kind of cloak). These vestments will be ours to keep. They were especially made by the basilica’s seamstress, Patty Schlarb, who prayed for us as she made them. They are draped over the wall in front of the family pews in such a way as we won’t be able to see the detail until we put them on. We will discover what we look like as priests by seeing each other.
The bishop will then anoint our hands with sacred oil. Christ means “anointed one” and we physically share in His spiritual anointing. This rite is especially connected with our new role as sanctifiers.
The final part of the special ordination inserts is returning to receive the chalice and paten that we will use to celebrate Mass. The prayer the bishop says is, I think, one of the most beautiful of the rite: “imitate what you celebrate.” Presiding at the sacrifice of the Mass cannot simply be a set of rituals, priests must live sacrificially; proclaiming God’s mercy in the confessional cannot simply be a formula, priests must be merciful; etc. We exchange a sign of peace with the bishop, and then we go into a regular preparation of the altar for Mass, to transition to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The Eucharistic prayer is basically as normal (listen for a few specific references to Ordination). Pat and I join with the bishop for the first time in concelebrating. While the Eucharistic Prayer must be prayed by a priest, it may also be prayed by many priests joining their voices as one. While it’s common to refer to what will happen the next day at our first Masses, this is really the first time we celebrate the Eucharist as a priest. We will assist with the distribution of communion.
Before the final dismissal, the bishop may ask Pat and I to give him some of our first blessings as priests. After the Mass, many people will be asking us for this blessing.
Deacon Adam Booth, C.S.C., professed his Final Vows to the Congregation of Holy Cross on September 7, 2013 and was ordained to the Diaconate the following day. Deacon Adam is spending his diaconate year serving at Holy Cross and St. Stanislaus Parish in South Bend, Ind.