On Ordination

As I write these lines I have been a priest for two weeks already - although it seems a year has passed since the Ordination weekend! I guess we all have had similar experiences in our lives, when an event or even a moment of great significance affects us so deeply that time is in some way suspended and it takes time - perhaps years - for us to process what we have experienced. As you already know, my years of seminary formation were extended somewhat with having had some ill-health which, as I have shared previously, was in many ways ultimately an enriching experience. Despite the length of time spent in preparation, however, I cannot claim that I didn't have the odd 'wobble' in the run-up to the big day itself! The vocations God calls us to are not confirmed in an instant, but rather grow over time, allowing room for our convictions to deepen and our surrender to His love to increase. It was therefore with a mixture of apprehension ("What on earth am I doing?! Are you sure, Lord, that you want me to do this?!") and deep peace and trust that I awoke on the morning of 16th July.

As for the Mass of Ordination, I was not sure how I was going to feel in the event itself. Having been a seminarian for nine years, I had been to many ordinations since that of Don Coleman ten years ago! Yet nothing can really prepare us for the reality of such a commitment, in a similar way, I imagine, as being married or becoming a parent. When the candidate for priesthood is first called by name from the congregation, he replies, "Present." I am happy to say that, despite a few understandable nerves, I did feel 'present' and, in a gentle yet firm way, sure that this was what God wanted for me...and what I wanted, too.

Right now I cannot remember too many details of the Mass itself. I know that the music was beautiful, the flowers hearteningly yellow (my request!) and the atmosphere very special indeed. But there are particular moments which stand out as I ponder the day at this time. Firstly, the very simple yet profound gesture of the Archbishop placing his hands around my joined hands and asking me if I promise obedience "to him and (his) successors". This momentary ritual speaks a great deal about the lived reality of the Catholic priesthood. Being ordained is most certainly not a career choice. It is the gift of one's life and gifts and potential fruitfulness for the service of God's people in the way that his shepherds on earth consider appropriate. In this way, the obedience promised is in fact a source of interior freedom. It will not be easy to feel the wrench of moving away from a parish and community of which I have grown deeply fond, yet there will be the consolation of knowing that it is God's will that I serve Him and His holy people in another place.

Next, the 'Imposition of hands', when the Archbishop, followed by all the priests gathered around him, invoked the Holy Spirit over us candidates in order to bestow the gift of Ordination. Although I felt deeply at peace at this point, and consciously surrendering myself to God.

Lastly, the moment of being clothed in the priestly vestments of stole and chasuble by Fr Dominic Allain, who has been my spiritual director for the past four years. I was very happy to be clothed in this chasuble, as it is the diocesan priesthood - or presbyterate - into which we were being ordained. In the days following the Ordination several people remarked how they had found it moving seeing the newly-ordained priests move up onto the Sanctuary and merge into the ranks of assembled priests for the rest of the Mass.

The newly-ordained priest, having joined the gathered clergy, then concelebrates for the rest of the Mass. This then, really, is the 'first' Mass of the priest! However, it is the first time that he presides at Holy Mass that is usually celebrated as the 'First Mass' and which imparts a special grace to those who attend

I had not grown up wanting to be a priest! It was only several years into my life as a violinist that I felt the 'call' to priesthood develop. Years of discernment, not without some struggles, followed. But it is with great joy that I awake each day and remember that I am a priest of Jesus Christ!  

Fr Daniel Weatherley,  July 2016