Do you feel any different? Has been the recurring and most popular question posed to me since Saturday morning when I and my Franciscan confrere, Steve DeWitt, were ordained priests by Cardinal McCarrick in Silver Spring, MD. It was a wonderful and absolutely amazing liturgy, made even more spectacular by the many family, friends, friars and parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, VA, that attended! The blogosphere “radio silence” from me has not arisen from a lack of things to share or upon which to reflect, but is simply the result of having too many obligations along with travel. I am now able to catch a breather and offer a few initial reflections on the tremendous events of the last few days, they are but a small portion of what could be said and for which space is too limited to share.
As for that question everybody keeps asking me — “do you feel any different?” — the answer is no and yes! No, in the metaphysical, magical, substantial sense that one might assume comes with ordination to the order of presbyters (also known as ‘the priesthood’). I still “feel” very much myself. However, the answer is yes in the sense that I do, in some way, feel different. This difference is most noticeable in terms of my relationship to other members of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. In other words, it is wholly relational. Whereas before my place within the assembly was first as active participant and then deacon, now it is as priest, which often means presider and celebrant.
The types of ministries for which I am able to serve the Body of Christ has now changed, which makes me feel, in a sense, different from the way I felt before as a friar and deacon. As a friar who is an ordained priest, the variety of ways that I can serve the people of God has increased. The two most notable are the celebration of the Eucharist and the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation (or, sacrament of penance, as it is more technically called). Within three days of my ordination I have celebrated both of these Sacraments of the Church. And that change in my role within the community of faith certainly elicits much upon which to reflect.
My general response to all sorts of people — family, friends, strangers — who have inquired along these lines, has been to say that, perhaps to my and others’ surprise, everything feels perfectly natural and right. By this I mean to say that I feel comfortable and blessed to serve the Church in this way. Another way to describe this feeling is to say that, on some level, I feel as though I was meant for this way of life and ministry, which might very well just be another way of describing ‘vocation.’ I enjoy presiding at the Eucharist and I have been blessed by the privilege and responsibility of administering the other Sacraments.
My other general response has been one of absolute gratitude for this vocation and the ability to respond to it within the fraternal community of my Franciscan Order. To be a Friar Minor, a Franciscan, is my primary and central vocation. That God has also called me to a life in which I can serve the Church through the ministerial priesthood is indeed another blessing for which I am grateful. I am also grateful to my family, friends and brother friars, all of whom have been nothing but supportive of me over the years. I could not reach this point and will certainly not be able to continue in this line of ministry without their support, encouragement and prayers.
I look forward to (what I hope will be a long and healthy) lifetime of service as a Friar Minor and presbyter in the Church. Please continue to pray for me as I certainly remember all of you who support me along the way in prayer.
Peace and good!