Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Peace Be With You
Homily at the Ordination to the Presbyterate of Priests for the Diocese of Spokane on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 27, 2014, St. Aloysius Church, Spokane
by Bishop Blase J. Cupich
(From the July 17, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
(On June 27, 2014, Bishop Blase Cupich ordained five men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Spokane: David Gaines, Paul Heric, Brian Sattler, Curtis Seidel, and Dale Tuckerman.)
There is no better way to begin this evening than to offer a word of greeting and heartfelt thanks to the parents and families of our ordinandi. David Gaines is joined by his parents Mike and Patty, as well as his grandmother Marcia Gerwer, and his brothers and sisters. Paul Heric’s mother Patricia Tullis is here, as are his brothers and sisters. Welcome as well to Brian Sattler’s sisters, Abbi Spilker and Carrie Sattler, and to Curtis Seidel’s mother Pat Gregoire and his sister Trenna, and finally we mention Dale Tuckerman’s parents Mark and Marjie, along with his brothers.
My greetings to all family members. Your sons and brothers today generously place their lives in the hands of Christ and the Church. They are able to do so because they have learned generosity in your families. We are grateful for all you did to make this day possible. You have every reason to be proud.
Among others who have contributed to making this day possible are our seminaries, and I am pleased to acknowledge the presence of Father Donald E. Henke of the North American College; Father David D. Thayer, Theological College; and our own Father Rory Pitstick, representing Mt. Angel. Please convey to your colleagues our gratitude for bringing our brothers to this moment.
We are graced by the Providence of God to gather on this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to ordain five new priests as we launch the second century of our diocese this year. The presence of so many friends and classmates, some of you travelling great distances and with no little sacrifice, enriches our celebration, and for that we are most grateful. There are in our midst young men who have been and are scheduled to be ordained this year – could you please stand so that we can congratulate you.
David, Paul, Brian, Curt, Dale – you are here this cool summer night because you love Jesus Christ. You are here because you love the Church.
What attracts you to Christ and the Church varies for each of you.
There may be a particular scene or moment in the Gospels that speaks to you, that has drawn you to Christ. It may be his compassion for the suffering, his challenging teaching or heroic self-offering. Your love of the Church is likewise personal and singular. It may be a specific work or ministry you find appealing, or a particular way of doing things that fascinates you about the Church.
And while your love for Christ and the Church are important factors in bringing you to this moment, the Word of God and the Ordination Rites make it quite clear that something else is at play. You are here tonight not chiefly because you love Christ and the Church; you are here because Christ loves you; you are here because the Church loves you.
Listen again to the Word of God: “the LORD chose you…because the LORD loves you.” Similarly, you stand before us, as those called by the Church. Both the resounding “Thanks be to God,” along with the community’s thunderous applause, make it clear that you are here tonight, because like the Lord, the Church has set her heart on you. Yes, it’s true, you completed the requirements of the program of priestly formation, and I insisted on having your final evaluations before calling you to orders. That last detail, you just have to tolerate as the incurable fixations of a former rector. But, that aside, my point simply is that you are here not because of what you have done or chosen, but because of what Christ and the Church is doing and choosing, choosing to love you and to set their hearts on you.
All of this suggests a number of things for you to consider. Let me mention three fruits for you to cultivate, three fruits that should mark your lives, to keep fresh the experience that Christ has set his heart on you, keep fresh that the Church, in calling you, loves you. The first is an authentic freedom, the second an authentic sense of the sacred, and finally, an authentic witness.
An Authentic Freedom
By basing your ministry on the love Christ and the Church has for you, rather than on what you have or will accomplish on your own, you will have the freedom to do what God really wants. Trusting that Christ has set his heart on you, that the Church loves you, will free you from the pressure to prove yourselves. This kind of self-imposed pressure too often gives rise to competitive jealousies or ambitions to make one’s own mark, thus separating you from your brothers and bringing division to the presbyterate. Anchor your prayer in the daily reminder that on this day you were chosen by a loving God and a Church which, hearing your name called, roared in voice and thundering applause “Thanks be to God.” Keeping that memory fresh will serve you well to check any temptation of entitlement, privilege or claims to special treatment. None of these trappings are needed for those who are already convinced how much they are loved.
The memory of this day will also grace you to deal with frustrations when things do not go your way, or when people disappoint you. It will be the best antidote for avoiding what the Holy Father calls “the defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses.’” A good gauge of how you are doing in this regard, the pope suggests, is whether you are becoming aggressively confrontational or aggressively tender with those you serve, with those who have already told you how much they love you.
An Authentic Understanding of the Sacred
All throughout the history of salvation, those called out of love by God are called to become part of the family of God’s holy people. That is what it means to be a people sacred to the Lord. Pope Francis is quite effective in exploiting this point in the Joy of the Gospel, as he literally redefines the word “sacred,” which becomes clear if we look at the dozen or so times he uses that word. Instead of the sacred being that which is set apart from the ordinary and mundane, outside of the temple, as the word “pro-fane” suggests, the sacred, according to the pope, has to do with human solidarity, of bringing “others to a communitarian experience of journeying towards God.” He speaks of the need to learn the “‘art of accompaniment’ which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5).”
Seek this kind of holiness; keep your priesthood sacred, not by separating yourself from people, but by accompanying them and building up the family of God’s people. Be the kind of merciful father in Luke’s parable, who invites others, especially those easily rejected and judged, into the banquet of life. Remember that Jesus’ heart is sacred because he remains in God and God in Him, and because he shares that life of God with us.
An Authentic Witness
Finally, cultivate an authentic witness as a point of reference for all you do. Pope Francis notes that each of us has our own unique experience of Christ. We should be able to pinpoint the occasion of his graced call. This is how it has been from the very beginning, as we see in the accounts of how the apostles were called when they walked the shores of Galilee. They “never forgot the moment when Jesus touched their hearts: It was about four o’clock in the afternoon (Jn 1:39).”
The pope himself can pinpoint his experience of Christ’s call. It is, he told us, like the scene of Matthew’s call which the painter Caravaggio depicts. In a darkened corner flooded by a sudden ray of light, the tax collector sits in stunned disbelief that he is being singled out for discipleship. “Here, this is me,” Pope Francis says, “a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.” He is telling us that he has experienced the same rush of speechless wonder and graced love the artist illustrates in his painting. This is Jorge Bergolio’s story. The impact of seeing the face of God anew, a face which radiates first and foremost with graced compassion, has changed his life. But, even more, it has left him with an unquenchable thirst “to know the Lord more and follow Him more closely.” He is compelled to share that joy with others.
Let those you serve know your story. In your ministry, in your preaching and teaching, don’t be afraid to return to your encounter with the Lord, as the point of reference. We pray this night that, seeing your life as an authentic witness to Christ, others will come to know Christ. May you be blessed to have the words spoken this night by the ancient community from across the ages said of you: Because of you, “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.”
Yes, you are here because you love Christ and you love the Church. But even more importantly, you are here, called to Orders this night, because the Sacred Heart sets his heart on you, because the Church loves you. Be humbled by, but ever open to that love and enjoy with gratitude all of its fruits.
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