Priesthood Ordination of Spenser St. Louis, Jose Arroyo, and Daniel Niezer – June 1, 2019
God is blessing our diocese today in giving us these three deacons, Spenser, Jose, and Daniel, as shepherds through their priestly ordination. We thank the Lord for this great blessing. Through the laying on of hands and the prayer of ordination, the Spirit of the Lord will descend upon our brothers and they will become priests of Jesus Christ and share in His mission. By virtue of their ordination, they will be configured to Jesus the Good Shepherd. They commit themselves today to living that configuration by striving, with the help of the grace of ordination, to imitate and to live out the pastoral charity, the self-giving love, of the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep.
The sacrifice of the cross was the definitive act of Christ’s priesthood. Yet, we believe that the ordained priesthood was instituted the night before that sacrifice at the Last Supper. How is this? At the Last Supper, Jesus anticipated His own death and transformed it into a gift of love. Jesus made the gift of Himself present in advance when He transformed the bread and wine into His Body and Blood and gave it to His disciples to eat and drink. He transformed the event of His passion and death into an occasion of the greatest love, an instrument of communion with God and humanity, our redemption. The institution of the Eucharist was an extraordinary victory of love over the forces of evil and death. It is deeply significant that the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist and together with it. The ministerial priesthood was instituted by Jesus as an office of love.
Through their ordination today, Spenser, Jose, and Dan will become “united in a singular and exceptional way to the Eucharist.” They will be entrusted with the great mystery of faith. They will receive the sacred power to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. At the altar, they will exercise their priestly office in a supreme degree, according to the Second Vatican Council, and from the Eucharistic sacrifice their whole priestly ministry will draw its strength.
Spenser, Jose, and Dan, as priests, you will be become directly associated with what Jesus accomplished at the Last Supper. You are called not only to offer the Eucharist sacrifice, but also to generously live in your lives this victory of love, the victory of the Good Shepherd, who “lays down His life for the sheep.” You place yourselves today at the service of this love. You are to live the Eucharist you celebrate. I will say to you today when I present you with the bread and wine: “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.”
There’s an illness which I think should be an impediment to priesthood ordination. It’s called staurophobia. I would not ordain a man if I thought he had staurophobia. I know that these three men are not afflicted with this illness. I better explain what that word means (I’m sure Msgr. Heintz with his knowledge of Greek can translate it). Staurophobia means “fear of the cross.” As I said earlier, the definitive act of Christ’s priesthood was His sacrifice on the cross. A man will not be a holy priest if he has staurophobia. My brothers, we must not be afraid of carrying the cross, of giving of ourselves in love. Spenser, Jose, and Dan, in a few minutes, I will ask you not only if you are resolved to celebrate the Eucharist faithfully and reverently, but I will also ask you if you are resolved to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered Himself for us to the Father as a pure Sacrifice. In other words, are you resolved to imitate Christ in the daily carrying of His cross, in giving yourselves in love to God’s people, in imitating the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep? Priesthood is not just about celebrating the Eucharist, which is so central and beautiful, but also about imitating what we celebrate and conforming our life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross. His cross is victorious -- it is the efficacious sign of the victory of love over sin and death. When we meet the Lord on the day of judgment, He will show us His glorious wounds and ask to see our wounds, the wounds of our love as His priests.
This embrace of the cross is not just some theoretical idea. It has very practical implications. For example, it entails obedience. Christ the Priest was always obedient to the Father, even unto death. Today, Dan, Spenser, and Jose you will pledge obedience to Christ and His Church. Conforming your lives to the Lord’s cross means you don’t put your own desires first. You go where you are needed to serve God’s people in their needs. You don’t pick and choose your preferences in ministry. You serve all. You may naturally enjoy one aspect of ministry more than another, but you don’t neglect the ministry that you find least appealing or enjoyable. You may enjoy youth ministry more than ministry to the elderly or vice versa, but a good and holy priest will not neglect either. Priesthood is not about what we like or find pleasurable. It’s about serving Christ and His people. Spenser, Jose, and Dan, you are promising today to be obedient to me and my successors. You are also promising to be obedient to the priesthood of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who washed the feet of all the disciples and who served all, with special care for the poor and the suffering. We priests imitate the mystery we celebrate at the altar when we sacrifice ourselves and our own preferences and desires for the needs of God’s people, the needs of Christ’s Church.
Jose, Dan, and Spenser, conforming your lives to the mystery of the Lord’s cross also entails the renunciation of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was celibate – His love was undivided. You have embraced celibacy for the same reason – to give yourself totally to the Bride of Christ, the Church. You will be espoused to Christ’s Bride, the Church and you will be called “father.” A good husband and father sacrifices himself for his wife and children. Don’t be deadbeat dads, but real spiritual fathers. Never be satisfied with just doing the minimum. When your children are sick or suffering, you are called to be with them, to anoint them, and to bring them the medicine of immortality, the Eucharist, even if it means getting up in the middle of the night. As good fathers, good shepherds, be devoted to those who are hurting.
My sons, the Lord is calling you and giving you the power to forgive sins in his name. Be generous with your time in the confessional. Imitate the zeal of Christ the Good Shepherd who went out in search of the lost sheep. You are being ordained not only to minister to active parishioners, but to go out to those who are inactive in the faith and to those who are unchurched. I encourage you especially to go out to the many millennials, those who are your age, who now identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated. The nature of Christ’s priesthood is missionary. Jesus the Good Shepherd said: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” I pray you will always be captivated by the supernatural task you are receiving today – the salvation of souls, bringing people into living contact with Jesus the Good Shepherd through His Word, His Church, and His sacraments. May the gift of the priesthood compel you to evangelize!
Now I’m not asking you to be workaholics. You are entitled to a day off each week. It’s good to take time to relax with family or friends, to have your batteries recharged. But most importantly, to relax every day with the Lord, making prayer a priority in your schedule: fidelity to daily Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, lectio divina, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and Marian devotion. Our most precious commodity is our time. We must make time for prayer, otherwise our ministry becomes superficial and we can lose our identity. At the same time, you are not being ordained to be cloistered monks, but parish priests. Besides hearing confessions and anointing the sick, you will have baptisms and weddings to celebrate as well as preparing people for these sacraments. You will celebrate funerals and are called to be with people in their grief, bringing them the Lord’s consolation. And there are meetings to attend in order to lead and guide your parish communities. When there is time, it’s such a blessing for people when the priest also shows up at less pivotal times, like picnics, socials, and visits to homes. People love to see their priests!
In the second reading, we heard these important words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians about his ministry: “For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.” The apostle Paul did not promote himself or seek his own advantage. He didn’t direct attention to himself as a savior figure. He preached Jesus Christ as Lord. At the same time, he did preach himself in one way: as a slave to the Corinthians for the sake of Jesus. He served that community with love after the manner of Jesus. That’s our vocation as well: to preach Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as slaves for His sake through our self-giving service of the people entrusted to our care. In sum, we are called to be icons of Christ the Good Shepherd.
May Mary our mother, the Mother of the Good Shepherd, intercede for our brothers about to be ordained priests, that they may be faithful images of her Son, priests after the heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd!
--Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend