Welcome to the brotherhood
Michael C. Barber, SJ
This was the homily from Bishop Barber's first conferral of Ordination to the Priesthood, May 23, at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Father Michael, Father Joseph, Father Alberto: I want to be the first to greet you with your new title: "Father." Today is the happiest day ... of your mother's life! And of course yours too. Why so? Because today you are being ordained a priest. Not for your own benefit ... but for the benefit of others. And not just any kind of priest ... but a parish priest ... a priest of the diocese of Oakland.
Your vocation, your office and your apostolate is permanent and never changing: as the essential needs of people for Christ's priesthood are unchanging.
Religious orders come and go: springing up to meet a particular need of the Church in a particular era — then dissolve and disappear when that need no longer exists.
But the diocesan priest must meet the needs of all the faithful and at all times.
You are not the son of St. Ignatius: but you must have the obedience of the Jesuit in order to respond to Christ's call for help — to take immediate care of the flock to which you are sent.
You are not the son of St. Francis: but you must have the freedom and joy that comes from detachment from money and material possessions. With the Psalmist you must say: "I find my joy in the Lord."
You are not the son of St. Benedict or St. Bernard, nor any of the other founders of great monastic communities: but you, as diocesan priests, must love the companionship and fraternity of your brother priests. You must share their burdens — and also their joys.
The diocesan priest is not the son of St. Dominic: but like that great preacher, you must pray over the scriptures ... and share the fruit of your prayers with your people through your homilies.
You young men, as parish priests, will be serving on the front lines of the Church. People will come to your church bringing all life's worries and concerns. And your tool box to help them is the altar, the pulpit, the confessional — and your warm handshake at the door when Mass is over.
What's in it for you? True, your ordination is like Palm Sunday: people sing "Hosannas" to you — especially at your first Mass. But remember, after Palm Sunday comes Good Friday (just ask any of the 100 priests present here tonight!) But don't be discouraged ... Easter follows every Good Friday.
What's in it for you?
You may have never heard of Father Peyramale, Father Ducellier or Father Huvelin.
Father Peyramale was the parish priest in a small French town near the Spanish border. One of his parishioners was a girl named Bernadette Soubirous. St. Bernadette. When no one believed she had seen Mary at the Grotto at Lourdes, Father Peyramale believed in her and supported her. Millions of people now go to Lourdes every year to pray to Our Lady because of St. Bernadette — and Father Peyramale.
Father Ducellier was the unknown and quiet parish priest that prepared a girl named Therese Martin for her first communion, and heard her first confession ... St. Therese of Lisieux. He instructed her and gave her the foundation for her spiritual life ... and she went on to become one of the most popular saints of the Catholic Church.
Father Huvelin was parish priest at St. Augustine Church in Paris, which is directly across the street from the French Army Officers' Club. He was on duty in his confessional in October 1886 when a confused former soldier, who, morally speaking, "had been around the block a few times," came into church seeking mercy, and help. The priest told him he should go to confession and he would feel better. Charles de Foucauld owed his conversion to Father Huvelin ... and that confession. Today that confessional box is enclosed in glass and is a place of pilgrimage. And Charles de Foucauld, founder of the Jesus Caritas movement, and the Little Brothers and Little Sisters of Jesus. … is being considered for beatification.
So what's in it for you?
The pure joy of seeing your people, your flock, grow in holiness. Grow closer to the Lord. As Pope Francis teaches:
At your ordination "The Lord anoints you in Christ with the oil of gladness, and this anointing invites you to accept and appreciate this great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest. Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God: that faithful people from which you are called to be anointed and which you, in turn, are sent to anoint."
Welcome to the brotherhood!
back to top