Well, would you look at that: Five of our men are now priests. Ever since my first year here, it's been a very awkward thing to think about. These men with whom I have lived for at least a year (some so much more closely) are suddenly priests, able to hear my confession (which, though I have been joking with now Fr. John Bauer that I'm going to come to him as my regular confessor, I probably never will go to any of them for that sacrament), able to stand in persona Christi capitis, able to confect the Eucharist.
To a certain extent, since I'm rather young, yet, I'm in the habit of looking at priests and really looking up to them not only as Fathers in the strictly ontological sense that they've been ordained but more so, in the sense that they are wiser than I, more experienced than I, and really able to be a Father to whom I can turn as a son. But the men that I've spent time with in the seminary and seen ordained, I don't view as Fathers to whom I turn as a son, but rather brothers to whom I turn as a friend and brother.
But it is just here that I love our faith, our Church - and I was spurred on to thinking about this more when recently I overheard someone say with some confusion and disgust, "The seminarians [meaning the newly ordained seminarian-priests] are going to preside at Mass??" I think it's reasonable to believe that this question arises from the same experience I have had. Suddenly, we're to believe that these men with whom we've lived and shared our lives as brother-laymen are suddenly presiding at Mass, transubstantiating the bread and wine into our Lord's most precious Body and Blood. How is this possible? It's just not right. And yet, it is.
Thanks be to God that it's not about the person/personality of the minister but rather the fact of sacramental character given through ordination! Yes, as strange as it is, these men who just an hour ago had no ability to stand behind the altar and say Mass, now do! These men make Jesus Christ present in a ways that they couldn't just before, and it's not because they're particularly holy or even likable! (though it's always nicer and better if they are), but because God in His great benignity cares for his children and gives us his own Son in his priests through sheer grace.
When I was experiencing all of this my first year here at SPS, I finally had the realization that this is really a test of faith. Do I really believe that God has sent his Son? Do I really believe that Jesus instituted the sacraments? Do I really believe they are efficacious ex opere operato? Do I really trust in the gift of the Spirit to the Church? Given that I know these men (and their weaknesses) perhaps a little too well, it really requires of me an act of faith in God's providence. Undoubtedly, too, there is the question of God's providence for me, and the act of faith it will require of me to believe that one day too, God-willing, I will stand at the altar and offer our sacrifice of praise to the Lord.
On a different note, a while back, we had our Jubilemus! celebration (written about here). For it, we wanted to obtain pictures of all the men in the fourth year class. So, I went about taking pictures of them telling them it was for the blog. This wasn't untrue: I was planning on eventually doing a blog-post featuring the deacons, I just wasn't sure when. Some of them, however, remained in disbelief. Well, here is it, though I am only going to post pictures of the five men ordained today; the others will have to wait. Here are the newly-ordained priests! (Longer bios and a fuller story can be found at The Catholic Spirit's website.
* Fr. John J. Bauer
* Age 26
* Home parish is Saint Agnes, Saint Paul
* Assigned to Nativity of Our Lord, Saint Paul
* Looks like our fairly-newly acquired statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola
* Fr. Shane A. Campbell
* Age 39
* Home parish is the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Saint Paul
* Assigned to Epiphany Parish, Coon Rapids
* (A more flattering image can be found here.)
* Fr. J. Bennet Tran
* Age 36
* Home parish is Saint Adalbert, Saint Paul
* Assigned to Saint Stephen Parish, Anoka
* Not the first Vietnamese vocation for this Archdiocese, and though he would never admit it, a great diplomat.