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DEAR FATHER | Serving the Lord and His people

How are priests ordained?

Through ordination to the priesthood, men become alter Christi, or “other Christ,” and will serve the people of God and bestow the grace of the sacraments upon them.

After the Gospel is proclaimed at the Mass of Ordination, a deacon calls each man by name to “come forward” into the main well of the sanctuary. The ordinand (to be ordained) responds “present” and presents himself to the Lord and to the bishop to ordain him. A designated priest testifies to the worthiness of these elect. The bishop chooses these men for the Order of Priesthood, after which the congregation applauds the decision.

The homily encourages and instructs. Then, the elect resolve to faithfully execute the ministry of the priesthood. Kneeling before the bishop, they promise “respect and obedience to (him) and to (his) successors.” When they assent, the bishop replies “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

Next, the elect lay prostrate, surrounded by the Church singing prayers to God. The bishop asks for the Holy Spirit to be “poured out” upon these men along with “the power of priestly grace.” There, laying down their lives, the ordinands pray to receive God’s “rich and unfailing gifts” for himself and for those he will serve. It is inexpressible.

In the Laying on of Hands, the bishop imparts the Holy Spirit upon the ordinands. He does so as a successor to the apostles, who received the Holy Spirit and laid hands to impart this ministry. All the priests follow, silently laying hands upon them. At the prayer of ordination, we hear of the origin of the priesthood to Jesus, the eternal High Priest. The bishop prays that through these men the “Gospel may bear fruit in human hearts and reach even to the ends of the earth.”

They are now priests!

After receiving the paten and the chalice, the new priests receive the sign of peace from the bishop and their now-brother priests. Mass continues in the usual way, except that the newly ordained concelebrate for the first time, praying the words of consecration as priests. After Communion, tension begins to build: “Where will I be assigned as a new priest? Where am I going?!”

Following the blessing and recessional, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski announces on the outside plaza the names and parishes of the newly ordained. A new chapter begins.

These past 12 years — my priesthood — have proven to be unlike anything I had imagined. I could have never understood how Jesus would enter into my heart and use me, some kid from Holy Infant, to be a part of His mission. Most of the time I don’t fully understand what’s happening. But I show up and try to be faithful.

This year, three men offer their lives to Christ Jesus to serve as His priests for the Archdiocese of St. Louis on May 25. Please pray more young men might have the courage to process into the Cathedral some Memorial Day weekend and lay down their lives as priests for Christ Jesus.

Father Brian Fallon is the chaplain to the Catholic Student Center at Washington University and the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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