Diaconate Ordination

I know, it’s long past time that I spent some time reflecting on my diaconate ordination, which happened a week ago today. Final exams have kept me from doing so until now, so here goes.

The picture at left is after the ordination took place. The picture shows Bishop Roger Kaffer (who ordained me), me, Fr. John Regan (my vocation director), and Bishop Stanley Schlarman. This was clearly one of the happiest moments of my life so far. The ordination ceremony itself was really beautiful. The diocese did a great job planning the liturgy, with the music, decorating the pastoral center, and everything else. I was able to pray and enjoy the ceremony, and was so blessed to be able to do that. Bishop Kaffer did a great job, and his homily only had me turn red once or twice!

I was very blessed by so many family and friends who came to the ordination. In fact, one of the moments where I was choked up the most was processing in, seeing everyone gathered, and then watching the pretty long procession fill the sanctuary. Many priests, and brother deacons from my class at Mundelein, were there to support and welcome me to the diocesan clergy.

Fr. Regan, our vocation director, had a very nice dinner at the Fiat house for clergy and my classmates, as well as the seminarians from the diocese and their families. It was nice to be able to relax with everyone for a while before the ordination, although I will say I did not eat anything!

The Deacon of the Word was my good friend Greg Labus, a deacon from the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, who has lived across the hall from me ever since pre-theology. Greg really helped me through those last few nerve-wracking hours before the ordination. When we got to the pastoral center, he spent time praying with me before we both got vested.

The reception was very nice, with lots of food provided by the diocese and my family. Again, I did not eat: this time not so much because I was nervous, but because there were so many people to talk to. My family and I finally got back around 10:30 or so and spent some time talking and I finally had a little snack!

The joy really continued throughout the weekend. On Saturday, I was the deacon for Mass at my parish, and was able to preach. It was an awesome time and I really felt like my call to be a deacon, at least for seven months or so, was really confirmed. There was a great reception after Mass, and I was very blessed by the support and encouragement of my parish, and especially my Pastor, Fr. Jim Dougherty.

On Sunday, I had the awesome privilege of baptizing my niece, Molly Elizabeth. She was a very good sport being her uncle’s first baptism! It was a great privilege to say to her: “Molly Elizabeth, the Church welcomes you with great joy. And in its name, I claim you for Christ.” Words cannot express how profound an experience that was for me. There was a great party after that great event, as well!

So basically, I had to go back to school on Sunday night to get some rest! And even then, it was out of the frying pan and into the fire of final exams. But that’s all behind me now too. Still and all, though, I’m still floating a bit above ground from all the grace that was poured out last weekend. I’ll never forget it, to say the least, and will always be grateful for the many gifts of God.

More pictures and stuff later (just starting to get all those collected now!).

Catholic Explorer Article about the ordination.

Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time

I should begin with at least an acknowledgement that this reflection is late. That had something to do with getting ordained to the diaconate on Friday, preaching on Saturday, and baptizing my niece on Sunday. More on all of that later. But when I preached on Saturday, I preached on this very text. So without further ado…

The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.

First, we have to understand the parable. Wedding customs in first century Palestine were a little different than those we know today. The wedding was a drawn out affair, beginning with the betrothal. After that, the couple was married but would not live together until the complex negotiations regarding the dowry were complete. When that was done, the bridegroom would go to the bride’s house and bring her to his own house. Then there would be a splendid feast that would go on for several days.

So the parable happens just as the negotiations are complete and they are expecting the bridegroom to go to the bride’s house. He is delayed a bit, and they all fall asleep. But that is not the problem. The problem is that half of them were unprepared.

I think we bristle a bit at the wise virgins’ refusal to share their oil with the foolish. Jesus was always for sharing and charity, so what’s the deal here? Well, since we know Jesus regularly encourages such sharing, I think we can safely conclude that is not the point of the parable and move on. The point of the parable then, may well be the oil itself. Of what is this oil symbolic?

The Church Fathers help us a bit there. They talk about the oil as the oil of salvation. This would be an oil that can only be had in relationship with Jesus. It’s an oil that can’t be begged, borrowed, stolen or bought at an all-night Walgreens. We fill the flasks of our lives with that oil through daily prayer, devotion, the sacraments, and a life-long relationship with Jesus Christ, our Savior. So the foolish virgins were looking for oil too late — too late not just because it is midnight, but too late because they should have been filling their flasks with this oil all along. It’s not the wise virgins’ fault they did not share: indeed this is an oil that cannot be shared, any more than one could live another’s life for that person.

What gets me is that five of these virgins showed up unprepared. We may not be familiar with first-century Palestinian wedding customs, but they certainly were. So they would have known the wedding would go on for some days. How is it, then, that they forgot extra oil? Even if the bridegroom had not been delayed, they certainly would have needed it! What was so important to them that they forgot to attend to the most basic part of their job in preparation for the wedding banquet?

Just so, we certainly have nothing more important to do than to show up at the wedding feast of heaven with our flasks filled with the oil of salvation. No other concern should distract us for our most basic job on earth, which is preparing for our life in heaven. We must not be deterred from prayer, devotion, good works of charity, fasting, and zealous reception of the sacraments lest we hear those awful words the bridegroom spoke to the foolish virgins: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”

When we get to the feast, if our flasks are not full, it is already too late. As we approach the immanent end of this Church year (there’s just less than three weeks left), let us look back and see how well we have filled our flasks in the last year. And let us steadfastly resolve to fill those flasks to overflowing in the year ahead. The only way we can do that is by zealously seeking our God, praying the prayer of the Psalmist:

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.