Priesthood Ordinations in D.C.

May 26, 2014

On Friday, May 23, 2014, seven of our brothers were ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ at St. Dominic’s Church in downtown D.C. A complete slideshow of the event and Archbishop Augustine Di Noia’s homily can be found below. The seven brothers ordained are, in order of religion, Joseph-Mary Hertzog, O.P., Mario Aquinas Calabrese, O.P., Leo Checkai, O.P., Peter Martyr Joseph Yungwirth, O.P., Sebastian White, O.P., Cassian Derbes, O.P., and Cajetan Cuddy, O.P. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, O.P. The full text of Archbishop Di Noia’s homily follows, below the slideshow.


Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph St. Dominic Church / Washington, DC / 23 May 2014 J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P. Isaiah 61:1-3 / 1 Timothy 4:12-16 / Luke 22:14-20, 24-30 Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Joy fills our hearts, while the church crackles with expectation and excitement this morning. And rightly so: because these our sons, who are your brothers, relatives and friends—after long preparation and mature deliberation—are now to be advanced to the Order of priests. With Isaiah the Prophet, each of them will be able to declare: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” For in this holy sacrament, they are to be configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice. The Church has not hesitated to describe the priest as an Alter Christus, another Christ, for “by sacramental consecration the priest is configured to Jesus Christ as Head and Shepherd of the Church, and he is endowed with a ‘spiritual power’ which is a share in the authority with which Jesus Christ guides the Church through his Spirit” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 21). The Second Vatican Council declared: “By the sacrament of order priests are made in the image of Christ the priest as servants of the Head….They are consecrated to God in a new way by their ordination and are made living instruments of Christ the eternal priest, and so are enabled to accomplish throughout all time that wonderful work of his which with supernatural efficacy restored the whole human race” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 12). Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “The priest shares in Christ’s consecration and mission in a specific and authoritative way, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, by virtue of which he is configured in his being to Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd, and shares in the mission of the preaching the good news to the poor in the name and person of Christ himself” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 18). “As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ’s office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like these other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1582). Thus “the priest is configured to Christ ontologically,” as Pope Benedict said, “such that in his very essence and forever, he receives a fundamentally relational character in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ, at the service of men” (Catechesis, 24 June 2009). Dear sons and brothers in St. Dominic, the teaching of the Church is very clear: you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood—each of you in essence to be transformed into an Alter Christus, and thus to be transformed into one who can say, with Christ, “I am among you as one who serves.” As teachers of the faith, ministers of the holy sacraments, and shepherds of the flock, “you belong to Christ, radically at the service of men, ministers of their salvation, their happiness, their authentic liberation,” and at the same time “maturing in a progressive assumption of the will of Christ, in pray, remaining ‘heart to heart’ with him” (ibid.). There must be a fit between the sacramentally constituted Alter Christus at the core your priestly being, and the personal embrace of this ineradicable identity in your interior lives and in your external comportment. You must, in effect, become what you already are. I implore you as did St. Paul Timothy: “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands by the presbyterate.” In every moment of your lives, Christ will be there to help you live up to—to true to—your priestly identity as an Alter Christus, especially in your daily ministry as priests. The vocation of every Christian is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, to be shaped, over the course of one’s lifetime, according to the image of the only begotten Son, to be conformed to him and thus recognized and beloved, like him, by the Father. All are called to holiness, but as Pope St. John Paul II insisted, there is a specific vocation to holiness based on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which arises precisely from “the priest’s consecration, which configures him to Christ…which equips and obliges him to be a ‘living instrument of Christ the Eternal High Priest’ and to act ‘in the name of and in the person of Christ himself’ and with his entire life,’ called to manifest in a fundamental way the ‘radicalism of the Gospel’” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 20). The spiritual life of every priest draws its life and inspiration from his sacramental configuration to Christ. Hence, I say, become what you already are! Always be conscious—at the altar, in the confessional, at the baptismal font, as a spiritual guide—that you are speaking and acting as an Alter Christus. The grace you impart, the word you proclaim and the comfort you give are not in the first place yours, but Christ’s. Always be ready to impart his mercy. As Pope Francis passionately declared in his ordination homily in St. Peter’s two weeks ago: “Don’t ever get tired of being merciful! Please! Have that capacity to pardon that Our Lord had, he who came not to condemn but to pardon.” Dear brothers, in a few moments—as you lie prostrate before this altar where countless friars have lain before you while we invoke the powerful intercession of St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena and all the saints—let your hearts be open to the grace you are about to receive. For as, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders this morning, there will be indelibly imprinted upon your souls the sacred character of the priesthood of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. As you are configured to him today, resolve to be daily ever more conjoined and conformed to him, not only for the sake of your salvation but also for the sake of the people he has redeemed by his own blood, to the glory of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Image: Photo credit John Whitman Photography

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