Yesterday was ordination day in my Province at home. Bishop John Corriveau, former General Minister of the Order and now Bishop of Nelson, Canada, was the ordaining prelate. Three brothers were ordained priests. I've been praying for them, that they may be faithful priests of Jesus Christ, configured to the head of his body, the Church, and conformed to his death and Resurrection for the sake of the Church and the world.
Thinking of the ordination reminded me of one priest who got up during the speeches at the reception of the first Mass of one of my classmates. He expressed his gratitude for the renewal in his own priesthood that he felt from having participated in my confrere's ordination and first Mass. It reminded him of the graces of being a new priest and the brought back some of the joy in it from which he had become, at times, distracted.
I guess I had something of the same experience as I prayed through the ordination of these new priests. And yet nowadays my priesthood is a more hidden, secret grace. I am rarely obliged to offer Mass, though I do so daily as much as I am able and properly disposed. I am not responsible for anyone's pastoral care.
And yet I am still a priest in many ways.
First, I pray the Divine Office as a priest, united with the whole Church and for the Church and the world, whether I am praying with the brothers (Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, and Evening Prayer) or on my own (Office of Readings and Night Prayer).
Second, I still offer Mass for particular intentions. It's only that most of the time I don't know what they are. At the end of each month I hand in a little card that says how many Masses I have offered for the intentions of my superiors. Nevertheless, I don't feel disconnected with these intentions. After each Mass I sit down and pray three things for each one. I pray in thanksgiving for the faith of the person who requested the Mass be offered, for their faith in the Sacrifice. I pray for their health and safety. Finally, I pray for the intention for which they asked that the Mass be offered.
Third, I pray for my 'parishioners.' Let me explain. My life here in Italy has not been without its struggles. My assignment isn't always very stimulating. Living in a foreign language and cultural environment has its challenges. And I've had some issues with my health that I have had to look after as well. In all of these opportunities there has been given to me a certain grace of prayer. When I find myself in struggle or temptation, I pray for all the other people who are struggling or enduring temptation in that way, trying to raise their suffering up to God in sacrifice. If the presiding priest at Mass is sensible enough to know that the object of 'let us pray' is not the Collect but the prayers of the assembly that the Collect 'collects' and thus offers a good pause, those are the people I pray for in that moment. And at that moment those people, in their struggle and suffering, become my 'parishioners' at a certain spiritual level.