The past year has been filled with many priestly firsts for me. From my First Mass I journeyed through my first liturgical and calendar year as a priest. Whether it was presiding at my first Christmas and Easter Masses or my first round of reconciliation services in Advent and Lent or the many other parish and school events, this past year has been a wonderful time of grace as I grew acclimated to priestly life. This year of firsts in many ways drew to a close as I for the first time laid my hands on the heads of Fr. Adam Booth and Fr. Pat Reidy as they were ordained priests.
I had watched this moment countless times as I witnessed the ordination of others and it was certainly profound for me last year and I felt the grace of the Spirit working through the many brother priests who laid their hands on me at my own ordination. However this year, as I laid my hands on Pat and Adam, this moment took on a different meaning. In many ways my understanding of this moment shifted away from the personal achievement of the ordinand to the grace of the Office of Priesthood. What the bishops, my brother priests, and I offered to Pat and Adam in laying our hands on them had little to do with our ministerial achievements, but rather simply passing on that which we had once received, the grace of the Holy Spirit to act in the name of Christ, the True and Eternal High Priest.
Our priesthood is never an individual action because it never fully belongs to us. Christ is the one High Priest. He is the one who offered Himself on the Cross for us. He is the fullness of all priesthood. We priests are ordained to share in His priesthood, to share in His ministry and His sacrifice. The laying on of hands is a reminder for me that being a priest is never done alone, it is always done in union with the entire college of priests and ultimately with Christ, our great High Priest. That notion is comforting in that we know that we never act alone, that Christ is always with us in our ministry, but it is also sobering, reminding us just who it is we are supposed to conform ourselves to in offering ourselves in service to the Church.
Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., is associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, Ind. He is originally from Flushing, N.Y., and is a graduate of Holy Cross High School. He entered seminary while a student at the University of Notre Dame. He professed Final Vows in 2012 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2013. Learn more about Holy Cross parish ministry here.