At the beginning of Postulancy I had the privilege of attending a solemn profession of two of our brothers within the first week. In my post at the time, I mentioned that it was a great experience to have before starting because it offered a clear picture of what would be to come if I continued in the Order. Yesterday, I was afforded a similar privilege.
Joined by roughly forty friars, a packed church of lay people, and a bishop, the simply professed friars in this house took part in the ordination mass of Paul Keenan, ofm, yesterday at Assumption of Our Blessed Lady Church. As is usually the custom, the simply professed friars served at the mass as acolytes, responsible for carrying the cross, miter, and crosier, setting up the altar with the gifts, preparing the incense, and assisting the master of ceremonies in anything else that needed to be done (which is a lot whenever a bishop is involved!)
Like the experience I had at the solemn profession two years ago, I couldn’t have been happier and more confirmed in my vocation after this experience. Seeing Paul standing in the place where I hope to be standing in four or five years was really inspiring; thinking about Paul standing where I was a few years ago was pretty surreal; hearing the bishop speak about the role of the priest in the church, that of servant of the people, was humbling.
Beyond all of that, though, I was touched most profoundly by the presence of the friars who came from all around, on a Saturday evening, to support our brother Paul in his acceptance of this vocation. There surely cannot be a greater image than seeing four rows of friars coming up one-by-one to lay hands on the kneeling candidate, offering their blessing on him before he is officially ordained. The feeling of brotherhood was overwhelming and the emphasis on being a “Franciscan” priest was unmistakable.
As I begin my studies to one day stand where Paul stood and to walk where he now walks, I have in my mind a clear bit of inspiration for the future. The road ahead is going to be long and difficult, and it will certainly be easy to lose focus on what’s important amidst a sea of books. At the heart of it all, I must remind myself of this experience and what this call means to me.
I am called to live in fraternity in the way of St. Francis. I am called to serve my brothers and sisters. If I can remember these two things, everything else will fade away.