Priesthood: Year One — By Fr. Reginald, O.P.
October 1 marked the completion of my first year of priesthood. This occasion brings to mind many blessings that I have experienced in that time. The greatest of these, of course, is the mystery of consecrating the Eucharist and absolving sins for the People of God. I really have no words to describe these. However, I would like to share a couple of other thoughts with you:
The first thing that comes to mind is the prayers and spiritual friendship that I have felt from St. Therese of Lisieux. She was a Carmelite nun and was (and is) particularly devoted to praying for priests. Although she died at 24, she became a great saint in her short and cloistered life. I have always admired her autobiography, The Story of a Soul. While on retreat before ordination, I was rereading it, realizing that I would be ordained on her feast day. A small regret was that we would not be celebrating her Mass because it would be superseded by the ordination Mass. Ordination was on Saturday, and I was planning to celebrate my first Mass at Little Flower Church near St. Louis on Sunday. I had been practicing for weeks to celebrate the Sunday of Ordinary time that would fall on that day. Well, as it happened, when I arrived at the Church, I found out that I would be celebrating St. Therese’s feast after all! You see, since she is the patroness of Little Flower Church, they had permission to celebrate her feast on that Sunday. As I hurriedly prepared for this change of plans, I could almost feel her mischievous smile, assuring me of her prayers for my priesthood.
Another blessing, just weeks after ordination, was celebrating the feast of St. John Paul II. I remembered that it was in the weeks and months after his death (or rather, his birth into Heaven) that I finally got serious about pursuing my vocation. I can’t help feeling that it was his prayers that gave me the push I needed.
A few months ago, on retreat, I had the blessing of learning the traditional Dominican way of celebrating Mass. It is much like the Roman Extraordinary Form, but with a few variations particular to our Order. It has many ancient prayers and gestures that I find meaningful and spiritually enriching when celebrating the Eucharist. One that seems to stick in my mind is the use of the maniple. The maniple is a traditional part of the Mass vestments (it has fallen out of use in the modern Mass) that is meant to look like an ancient Roman handkerchief. The prayer said while putting on the maniple speaks of the tears and sorrows of this life, but also of the joyful reward of our labors. So it is meant to remind the priest, and thereby all the faithful, to be brave in bearing the toil and sweat of this life because “Those who sow in tears will reap with joy” (Psalms 126:5). May we learn to share in the labor of Christ for salvation!
Thank you again for your welcome here at Newman, and please continue to pray for me and for all your priests. And be assured of my prayers for you all.
In the peace of Christ,
Fr. Reginald Wolford, O.P.