The First and Last Mass
May 22, 2017
Our seven newly ordained Dominican priests gathered with friars of the Dominican House of Studies in the house chapel to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on May 22, 2017. The eldest of the class, Fr. Bonaventure Chapman OP was the principal celebrant. This is also the last Mass of the academic year, with the entire community together as the student friars depart today for their summer ministries in the houses and priories of the province of St. Joseph and beyond. During the Mass the subprior, Fr. Jacob Restrick OP preached the following extraordinary homily:
Praise be Jesus Christ. Well, here you are! Fr. Bonaventure, Fr. Thomas, Fr. Joachim, Fr. Jacob Bertrand, Fr. Luke, Fr. Alan, Fr. Edmund. What a joy for all of us to be gathered here at this altar—in this house—on this day. A warm welcome to your families and friends who have joined us; You Eminence; Your Excellency.
“The Lord takes delight in his people” and we certainly have shared in that delight the last two days. And what more could possibly be said after Archbishop Dinoia’s powerful homily and all the homilies at your first Masses yesterday?
Have you had much time to talk to the Lord… think about the Lord? I can’t help but think how much the Lord has been looking forward to your ordination since before you were born! Lots of joy this weekend from your parents and siblings and the friends both old and new you have made over the years. The lines of people wanting your blessing and all the well wishes, cards, and gifts you have received—it’s wonderful. We all know from experience that there is a special joy in giving gifts, sometimes the joy is experienced more in the giver than the receiver. If that’s true on a human level, think of the joy the Lord has now that you have said “yes” and received His gift, an ontological-changing participation in His priesthood.
He knows more than anyone else the moment in your heart when you realized or thought, I think I want to be a priest. As Archbishop DiNoia so poignantly reminded us of the Lord’s words: “It is not you who have chosen me; it is I who have chosen you.” And you had no idea all that would go into that gift, that “call” being received. All you could do was say: “okay, Lord.” “Yes, Lord.” “Be it done unto me.” And that expanded over the years to, “help me, Lord…forgive me, Lord, have mercy on me, thank you, Lord;” and all the shades of surrender that brought you to your knees last Saturday morning. You had no idea, but the Lord knew… the novitiate, profession, “the Academy”, (Hogwarts),bellman jobs, summer ministries, diaconate, St. Dominic’s, even in the most painful or difficult moments, He knew, and gave you the grace to persevere. And here you are.
At first hearing, you might have thought we should’ve changed the gospel for today, to something more joyful…you will also testify to the truth and they will expel you from the synagogues; they will kill you in more ways than one…I have told you this so that when the hour comes you may remember that I told you. And when the Lord called you by name last Saturday morning, you each stood up and said Present.
My brothers, you may not literally be martyred—but who knows? As the Holy Father and Justice Alito have both told us, there are more martyrs for the faith today than in the early church. Such a blessing that would be! But, you know, you’ve already joined the white robed army of martyrs by your Dominican profession. Red or white, you will be sacrificed, for your life is not your own. But you know that, and over the years ahead, talk to Lord about it.
You don’t know how it will all go, but the Lord knows. And He will be with you every step, every breath, every second of every day. He knows the people He will send into your priestly lives; He loves them each with an infinite love, and will entrust them to you. And I hope you’ll feel the weight of it all, and the impossibility of it all, so you never stop praying: “Yes, Lord, help me, Lord, have mercy on me, Lord. Heart of Jesus, heart Divine, make my heart like unto thine.”
What more can be said? We take delight in the Lord with you because you belong to a brotherhood which you already know is your greatest joy and perhaps at times, your greatest cross, but we will always be there for you and with you. Hold on to each other, then, in good times and bad. Pray for each other as you go your separate ways. Love your elder brothers in all the various communities you will be. All our communities are to one degree or another intergenerational communities, a new politically correct term I recently learned. The “old guys” (not a very politically correct expression, but I can use it because I’m one of them) the old guys have gone the way before you, and we take unique delight in each of you. We may not always show it, or say it, but I want you to know it. Our Nunc Dimittis may not be imminent, but we have great joy to know the Lord’s work, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the preaching and teaching of the Truth goes on. You may call yourselves the millennials, but we call you the 21st century lights of the church, teachers of truth, roses of patience and ivories of chastity. Preachers of grace. Lovers of Christ and His Church, and children of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, for whom this Priory has been named. It has played a major part in your formation. Pray for us and for your younger brothers who follow in your footsteps. Be holy priests, my brothers, close to the heart of Mary, who’s Magnificat reminds us each evening to rejoice in God Our Savior. Ad multos annos.
photo credit: Fr. Lawrence Lew OP