|The Basilica of St. Josephat (for more photos visit this link)
Heaven came down to earth this past weekend, of that I am certain. My friend, Fr. Paul Schneider, OFM Conv. was ordained to the priesthood at the Basilica of St. Josephat by Bishop William Callahan and it was one of the most perfect, magnificent, holy and beautiful experiences I have ever known. There is nothing more beautiful than watching a man lay down his life for the Lord, but to witness an ordination in the grandeur of the Basilica, with a choir of what sounded like angels accompanied by trumpets and strings and drums, praying in the company of the sweetest, most wonderful and most joyful of all nuns-The Handmaids of the Precious Blood, whose purpose is to pray for priests, and watching the new priest, in beautiful Marian vestments shed tears of joy while celebrating his first Mass and presenting his mother with a long-awaited maniturgia (Fr. Paul is a late vocation), all amounted to holy perfection, and I was so blessed to be a humble witness and participant of it all. I smiled until I thought my face would break and cried until I thought my heart would melt-it was all so incredibly wondrous.
Handmaids of the Precious Blood. I took his request for prayer as a sign from God that what I was about to do was indeed His will for me. The next month, in a Christmas letter from the Handmaids, I discovered Fr. Paul's picture and learned that he, too, was an Oblate of the Precious Blood! Since then, Fr. Paul has been a wonderful friend, helping with events for Roses for Our Lady, an organization with which I am involved, and being a confidant and advisor in some of my personal faith issues as well. Being invited to his ordination was a joy of the greatest magnitude.
Every single part of Fr. Paul's ordination-from the lovely image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the invitation, the order of worship and his holy card, the quiet prayerfulness of the holy hour on the eve of ordination (see Fr. Alejandro Castro's fabulous priestly reflection with personal stories of Fr. Paul's life based on Luke 9 below), having the opportunity to sit next to and pray with the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, who, although they are cloistered, were given special permission to attend his ordination, and the joyful smile and easy approachability of Bishop Callahan, who had formerly been the rector and pastor of the Basilica and who was the bishop who ordained Fr. Paul, to the choir resounding magnificent hymns of praise (a video follows-or visit this link- not of the actual choir but a perfect likeness in sound of the offertory song, Let All the World), to the sweet sight of Fr. Paul bringing flowers to the altar of Our Lady during the Ave Maria-every moment was a treasure I will never forget.
|Fr. Paul with my husband and I from my Solemn Resolution of Love as an Oblate of the Precious Blood last October
I praise God for Fr. Paul Schneider, OFM Conv. and I pray that the love and joy that filled his heart on his ordination day and during his beautiful first Mass will remain with him forever as he journeys to his first assignment in Peoria, Illinois, and wherever the Lord may call him to serve in the years to come.
Enjoy this touching reflection on the priesthood based on Luke 9, graciously shared by Fr. Alejandro Lopez OFM Conv.:
Perhaps it was the preaching
of a particularly inspiring, Cuban priest.
Or a documentary on Mother Teresa or St. Maximilian Kolbe.
Or a rerun on EWTN
of some mutton-chop, side-burned fellow
on fire for the Lord.
Or a pilgrimage or two, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe…
Whatever…the Lord uses the moment to kick-started your vocation.
Kick you in the rear.
And suddenly…all those reasons why you’re “not enough”
don’t seem to amount to a hill of beans.
And you think maybe he does want me!
Maybe he really does want me!
As incredible as that may seem!
And off you go running…as if in love for the first time!
But then…there’s a stumble.
A trip up that comes…perhaps many years later.
When in the midst of your studies. Or as a deacon.
After years of running well.
When the old, familiar doubts creep back in
like a homeless Gila monster.
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I can’t sing well enough!”
“I’m certainly not holy enough.”
“I tried before and it didn’t work out.”
“I’m too old, now.”
And you admit to Jesus in prayer,
“Dismiss the crowds,
for it’s a deserted place here.”
What you’re saying is what you think you know:
“I don’t have enough for so many!
I barely have enough for myself!”
But Jesus challenges,
“Give them some food, yourself.”
And this will be your vocation.
As a deacon, you already know this.
As a deacon you’ve already been “preparing meals.”
Not from some “five ingredient”
But in and through the Holy Spirit.
At work in and through your life.
Helping you to break open the Word.
And feed crowds at Mass!
To be an instrument of peace in your friary.
To open doors in the dark
and be a brother to a stranger
whose mind swims with his own alcohol-fed fears.
Tomorrow, and for the rest of your life,
Jesus will encourage you to make him present to others:
“Give them some food yourself.”
And his command may haunt you!
If you take your vocation seriously,
I think it must scare you at some time in your priesthood!
For you will fear
that God’s people will go hungry.
Because you failed to find them some food!
“But five loaves and two fish are all I have!”
Thankfully, Jesus understands!
And he has a plan!
A plan that includes poor priests and their poverty!
That takes into account our pitiful and small humanity
and makes it part of the Feast!
He teaches us by example that life isn’t a solo act.
Insisting that his disciples help.
And in today’s Gospel, the Lord takes what they bring
and gives it right back…to them…to us.
Tonight I’m thinking how he gives us, priests,
the Food that will nourish.
How our consecrated lives are part of the meal.
As our Lord takes us and blesses us.
And allows even our doubts and fears to break us open.
And then gives our lives away.
All the while letting us have the places of honor!
Letting us appear to be heroes!
Humbly letting folk imagine
we walk a tightrope gloriously without a net.
(The secret is we don’t!)
For each, alone, is never enough to feed so many!
Yet neither were we, priests, meant to be the meal!
Not by ourselves.
We’re served, by the Grace of God,
with his Body and Blood!
And we must never forget that!
Father Paul, you must never forget that!
Each and every day of your life, as a priest,
the Lord will remind you
that you are not the main course!
At this altar…but also in the nursing home…
Or in a parishioner’s home…
Or in your office…or friary.
Or in the back of church after Mass.
As the People of God, the Body of Christ,
lift you up when you are down,
like a consecrated Host!
Helping make your priestly vocation holy!
And when you are proud,
whenever you imagine you can feed them by yourself,
the People of God, the Body of Christ,
will humble you, too.
Helping make your priestly vocation holy!
Paul, tonight we gather with the Lord,
to pray for you.
Not because we know your musical skills.
Or how old you are.
Or how much you like “Fiddle Faddle,”
or a trip to Leon’s every now and then.
We pray for you because we know you’re human.
And we know you are called
to a special role in his Church!
We know that Christ plans to make of you
something new and wonderful…and holy.
And we pray for you because we know
God answers every prayer.
And will help you…even in your fears.
Way back in the beginning of Genesis
God beat back the first fear.
The Lord told Adam, wounded by sin,
“Who told you that you were naked?”
In other words, “Enough with ‘not enough!’”
And maybe that’s what he says to us.
As we gaze upon him.
And adore him in the Eucharist.
in his Glorified, Risen Body and Blood
as something so lowly as a piece of bread.
Something that to our senses seems
“not enough” to satisfy even one little child!
By his Grace…By the power of his Holy Spirit…
By His Glorified, Risen and Ascended Body and Blood
present in the Eucharist…
You, and every other priest called to follow him,
will be more than enough!
Tonight we gaze upon the Sacrament of the Mystery of God’s Love.
In the silence we pray that it will transform you!
See what you are…become what you receive!
Allow the Lord to consecrate you in your priesthoodas his Body and Blood for the salvation of all the World!