“Are you nervous yet?” This is a question I first started hearing in the parish about two months ago, and it is a question I continue to get almost daily. Parishioners are inquisitive, wanting to know how I am preparing for my priestly Ordination and how I am feeling as the big day approaches. And to be honest, it’s a question I now enjoy receiving. I can respond by talking both about the priesthood and about my own personal preparations for Ordination, and it’s a great way for them to get to know me better.
But the first time I heard this question almost two months ago, it really made me think. It wasn’t that I was nervous at the time. In fact, the opposite was the case – I wasn’t nervous at all. But for some reason, the question struck a nerve, and it got me thinking about all the different ways that my life and my ministry in the Church would change upon Ordination to the priesthood. After all, the Church asks her priests to do so many different and unique things. Just to list a few, they celebrate and preach at Mass daily, they hear Confessions and Anoint the Sick, they minister to people in both times of joy and sorrow, they make Christ present in the world through their witness, and they run parishes, dorms, and universities. These are wonderful things, but as I started to reflect on them more deeply, I began to wonder if maybe I should be nervous about this upcoming change.
It was with this question in mind that I headed off on a pre-ordination retreat with two of my classmates at the Holy Cross Novitiate in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This year, Fr. Don Dilg, C.S.C., led our retreat, and he focused the retreat around reading and discussing Presbyterorum Ordinis, the Church’s document on priesthood promulgated at the Second Vatican Council. While I had read this document previously, what I appreciated in rereading this document is that it goes back to the basics of who a priest is and how a priest is called to serve the Church and the world. And in particular, it makes sure to emphasize that the priesthood is rooted in a call from Jesus Christ to share in his ministry (No. 22).
As someone approaching Ordination, this was exactly what I needed to hear. It reminded me of a truth that I knew but had let slip to the back of my mind. That truth is this: my priestly vocation is a gift from God, a gift to which I am simply responding. Looking back on my life, I can trace exactly how Jesus Christ has led me to where I am today. I can see how he blessed me with a loving family who brought me up in the faith and taught me to pray. I can see how he brought me through my college years, putting mentors in my life who helped me grow in relationship with God and who encouraged me to think seriously about the priesthood. And I can see how he guided me through my seminary years, providing me with formators and resources that helped me conform my life to his and confirm that my calling was an authentic one.
And so, when parishioners now ask me whether I am nervous about my upcoming Ordination, I truthfully tell them that I am not. I trust that Jesus Christ has called me to this life and that he will provide the grace to serve him faithfully. Of course, this isn’t to say that I’m not nervous about certain aspects of being a priest. I’m definitely nervous about presiding at my first Mass and hearing my first confession. But at the end of the day, I firmly believe that Jesus Christ has called me to serve Him as a Holy Cross priest. And so, I am not approaching ordination with great nervousness but rather great excitement. I am excited to be ordained a priest and to share in Christ’s ministry here on Earth!
Deacon Christopher Rehagen, C.S.C. took his Final Vows with the Congregation of Holy Cross last fall. He and five classmates are scheduled to be Ordained to the Priesthood on April 11, 2015. Deacon Rehagen is originally from Jefferson City, Missouri.