For Christmas I went back to the parish where I was before coming here to Boston. It was a good time; I had a chance to check in with both the pastor and my successor in the parochial vicariate, and had some good time for prayer, quiet, and journaling. I concelebrated the vigil Mass and the night Mass at the parish. I greeted a lot of old friends among the parishioners, telling them that I was 'home from college.'
For the Mass of Christmas Day, I wanted to visit the adjacent residence for our senior brothers. When I asked if I could attend the Mass there, the guardian invited me to be the principal celebrant! I was anxious about how it would go, but everything was smooth, and I even got away with preaching (two sentences). I was also grateful that I didn't have to remind anyone to genuflect during the creed, since they all sit for the Mass anyway.
The gift of the moment really struck me during the Eucharistic Prayer. The voices accompanying mine in the great prayer represented almost five hundred years of religious life and four hundred of priesthood, of which my contribution was only about two and three percent, respectively. The next youngest friar in the chapel was nearly thirty years older than me, and the oldest was fifty years my senior.
In all of these things--years on earth, age in religion, and years of priesthood, I felt like an untested child with these men around me. But there I was, the principal celebrant at the beautiful Mass in aurora on Christmas morning. I felt in those voices the presence of my fathers in the spiritual order, begetting my priesthood through the communion of our sacrificial prayer.
Later on I thought, as I sometimes do, of the words of my formation director in a hallway on the morning of my ordination: "Remember the Communion of Saints. It's the only way this makes sense."