The first principle of the Ordinariate is then about Christian unity. St. Basil the Great, the Church’s greatest ecumenist, literally expended his life on the work of building bridges between orthodox brethren who shared a common faith, but who had become separated from one another in a Church badly fragmented by heresy and controversy. He taught that the work of Christian unity requires deliberate and ceaseless effort...St. Basil often talked with yearning about the archaia agape, the ancient love of the apostolic community, so rarely seen in the Church of his day. This love, he taught, is a visible sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed present and active, and it is absolutely essential for the health of the Church.

- Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Homily on the Occasion of his Formal Institution as Ordinary

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ordination Homily...

 for Fathers Charles Hough III, Charles Hough IV,
Christopher Stainbrook, Joshua Whitfield, Mark Cannaday,
and Timothy Perkins

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church
Keller, Texas
June 30, 2012

Dear Charles, Charles, Christopher, Mark, Joshua, and Timothy,

          We gather today from near and far to celebrate your ordination as Roman Catholic Priests, and we all do this with great joy from wherever we have come. As the Jewish people, when they would approach the sacred space of Jerusalem and the Temple would joyfully pray the “Psalms of Ascent”, we also joyfully join our voices in a grand chorus of praise to God “Praising God to the Holiest in the Heights” as we approach this sacred space and sacred time. And, as you will shortly say “I do...I do...and I do, with the help of God” there is a chorus of voices that surround you this day that have led you here. They are: The Word of God that you have chosen for this day - this Feast day [The First Martyrs of the Church of Rome], the voices of your Anglo-Catholic formation, family and friends who have helped you to hear this call, and I might add, from the “Communion of Saints,” the voices of those from the past but still from Eternity, sing to us this great day! And St. Augustine would say “Let us now sing, but keep going!”

          Let us turn first to the Book of Lamentations, the first reading for this day. At first glance one may wonder why this would be used on a day of priestly ordination, given its history and origin, dating from the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. Yet, it is the reading for the Mass of the day, and you have chosen it. It also echoes, it seems, a pilgrimage of Faith that each of you all made, from times of an uncertain destination (the “where, when, and how” of it all) to a destination and journey far beyond in which all at once the light of God illuminated the path and opened the door; the light of Christ which St. Paul speaks about in the second reading for this day!

          Toward the end of the Book of Lamentations for today, we find the words “pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to Him.” As we all lift up our hands to the Lord this day, in thanksgiving and praise, let us imagine this praise being joined by two voices from Eternity, from the Communion of the Saints, in a manner of the antiphonal chanting of the Psalms with one voice answering the other: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Blessed John Henry Newman! These witnesses of the Faith share the Anglo-Catholic heritage which your Ordination as priests, along with your communities, bring now into much sharper focus for the whole Body of Christ! This will be clearly evident in a few minutes when we pray the prayer of Basil Cardinal Hume, in gratitude for your history and formation as Anglo-Catholics!

          I have had the chance over the years to visit St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street in New York, where St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was received into the Church. One day, upon approaching St. Peter’s, she said: “A day of days for me, Amabilia. I have been—where? To the Church of St. Peter with the cross on the top instead of a weather-cock (that is mischievous)—but I mean I have been to what is called here among so many churches the Catholic Church. When I turned to the corner of the street it is in, ‘Here, my God, I go,’ said I ‘my heart all to you.’ Entering it, how the heart died away, as it were, in silence before the little tabernacle and the great Crucifixion over it. ‘Ah, my God, let me rest,’ said I—and down the head on the bosom and the knees on the bench.” [From Mrs. Seton, by Fr. Joseph I Dirvin, CM, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc. 1975]

          From this personal experience, a personal echo of Lamentations, another voice now answers in return from eternity, that of Blessed John Henry Newman. His own experience of Lamentations, when he was still at St. Mary’s in Oxford in May of 1843 speaks to us: “At present I fear, as far as I can analyze my own convictions, I consider the Roman Catholic Communion to be the Church of the Apostles, and that what grace is among us (which, through God’s mercy, is not little) is extraordinary, and from the overflowing of His dispensation…My office or charge at St. Mary’s is not a mere state, but a continual energy. People assume and assert certain things of me in consequence. With what sort of sincerity can I obey the Bishop? How am I to act in the frequent cases, in which one way or another the Church of Rome comes into consideration?” AND FINALLY, “By retaining St. Mary’s, I am an offense and a stumbling block.”

          Dear brothers, your lives, your prayer, and your discernment over these past years, not only find a resonance in the sacred history in the Book of Lamentations, but also in the words and lives of these two great figures enrolled among the Saints and Blesseds, whose history reflects in many ways your own. You, like they, having “Poured out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord,” and have been led by the providential care of the Lord to this great day of rejoicing!

          There is also, however, turning to the Gospel for this day, another echo for your lives. Like the centurion, who asked for his daughter to be healed, you will hear the Lord’s words not only for the centurion, but for yourselves, now and into your future ministry: “It shall be done to you because you have trusted.” And because you have trusted, the next words you speak will be your “I DOs” to the Lord in your Ordination as Roman Catholic Priests.

          You are being called to priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in which your role as a witness is very much needed. The first Martyrs of the Church of Rome, whose feast day we celebrate today, stand with you to call you forward in this mission: a task of being a credible witness to the essential nature of ecclesial communion in Christ, and a witness to the words of the same Christ who says in another place “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” Indeed, you are being called to the priesthood in an era in which the freedom to proclaim and live the truth is being threatened. Your voices and ministry are essential to the freedom of the Church in the proclamation of this mission.

          There is one more voice, one more place that sings to us this day: Canterbury! St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) said “That I may seek you desiring you, that I may desire you seeking you, that I may find you loving you, and that loving you I may find you again (cf. Proslogion, 1).”

          That would be another voice, then, that joins our chorus of praise today for you and for the whole Church, who together with the great St. Augustine says one more time “Sing then, but keep going.”


From Bishop Vann's blog Shepherd of Forth Worth.

Hat tip to Mary Ann Mueller.

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