‘The Lord is asking you to carry his cross’: Observations of an ordination

Photo: Stephen Brashear Photo: Stephen Brashear

“This is a very important event,” I tell my son Leo, two weeks shy of his 4th birthday, by way of explaining why he needs to be on his best behavior for the June 25 ordination Mass at St. James Cathedral. “The archbishop is going to ordain five men priests, so they’ll be able to turn the bread and wine at Mass into the body and blood of Jesus. It’s very exciting, so there’s going to be a lot of people there.”

The people start arriving before 7:30 a.m., and by the time Mass begins, at 10, the cathedral is packed to overflowing with more than 1,500 people eager to witness Archbishop J. Peter Sartain ordain Deacons Michael Dion, Kyle Mangloña, Cody Ross and Patrick Sherrard for the Archdiocese of Seattle, and Deacon Thanh Dinh Vo for the Domus Dei Clerical Society of Apostolic Life.

A trumpet fanfare hushes the hum of the crowd, and a great procession enters through the cathedral’s massive bronze Doors of Mercy, led by a billowing white cloud of incense. The Cathedral Choir and congregation sing “All Creatures of Our God and King” — “O praise him! Alleluia!” — as more than a hundred priests kiss the altar, two by two.

Finally, Archbishop Sartain climbs the steps and circles the altar, swinging the smoking golden censer. As he pauses to incense the Great Cross, he looks up at the crucified body of the Lord with such obvious love and devotion that the final verse of the hymn gets caught in my throat.

This moment foreshadows the archbishop’s homily, when he addresses the five men to be ordained, seated in front of the ambo: “My brothers, make no mistake: The Lord is asking you to carry his cross. Be alert to the presence of the cross in the lives of others and in your own lives, do not be surprised by the cross, be prepared for the cross, and be ready to embrace the cross out of love of God and for the sake of those he loves.”

After the homily, the ordinands make their promises of obedience to the archbishop, and then prostrate themselves around the altar as the congregation invokes the prayers of the saints.

Next comes the heart of the ordination rite, the laying on of hands. A beaming mother, Mary Anne Dion, clasps her hands beneath her chin and wipes away tears as her son kneels to be consecrated by the archbishop. The five men are solemn-faced as they return to their places around the altar to be prayed over by all the priests in attendance.

The smiles come out as the new priests are vested with their stoles and chasubles by handpicked priests who have played important roles in their lives. Archbishop Sartain anoints their hands with chrism and presents them with bread and wine for the Eucharist. Then they receive the kiss of peace (a hug, really) from each of the priests as the choir sings “Ubi caritas” (“Where true love and charity are found, God is always there”).

And then, this actually happens: As the Rite of Ordination comes to a close and the newly ordained take their seats among their brother priests, a sunbeam breaks through the “eye of God” window in the cathedral ceiling and shines directly on the new priests, bathing them in white light that glitters in the gold of their vestments.

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Fathers Dion, Mangloña, Ross, Sherrard and Vo join Archbishop Sartain at the altar and pronounce for the first time the words of institution, effecting the miracle for which they have been ordained.

After Communion, the archbishop encourages all the young people present to consider vocations to priesthood or religious life. Following such a powerful liturgy, it seems an attractive invitation. Leo, however, does not hear it. By the end of the three-hour Mass, he’s fallen asleep.

Read "Called to Serve" from Northwest Catholic's June 2016 print edition.
Kevin Birnbaum

Kevin Birnbaum is the editor/associate publisher of Northwest Catholic and a member of Seattle’s Blessed Sacrament Parish. Contact him at Kevin.Birnbaum@seattlearch.org.
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Kevin Birnbaum es el editor de la revista Noroeste Católico/Northwest Catholic y miembro de la Parroquia del Sagrado Sacramento en Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: Kevin.Birnbaum@seattlearch.org.