First Mass

On May 27 Father Andrew Wellmann officiated his First Mass after the previous day’s ordination.  I can’t imagine the thoughts that went through his mind as he lifted the paten and chalice for the first time “in persona Christi.”  Were they nervous thoughts like “I hope I do this right”? Were they feelings of awe? Were they humble thoughts of how bread becomes Jesus Christ through the words of consecration? Regardless of thoughts or feelings, the words transformed simple gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  God entrusts Himself to us,  God lets humans hold him—how humble our great God!

The occasion of a First Mass is a celebration of the parish. It’s a parish’s achievement to have a priest from among them, the fruit of their parenting, schooling, befriending, supporting.  And what a celebration it was: flowers in abundance, trumpets and flutes, eight men harmonizing in the choir loft, the newly-ordained priest’s sister as cantor and soloist, the presence of the Knights of Columbus, a sanctuary filled with priests, deacons, and altar servers. May St. John the Evangelist Church in Delphos, Ohio have many more such First Masses.

Ordination Day

The diocese was blessed May 26 by the ordination of three newly-minted priests. The two and one-half hour liturgy was resplendent in its beauty and symbolism. The Rite of Ordination begins with the Director of Diocesan Priestly Vocations attesting to the candidates’ worthiness. Then the candidates promise to fulfill their duties and responsibilities of the priesthood by placing their hands between those of the bishop, promising respect and obedience to him and his successors.  The candidates then prostrate themselves as the assembly sings the Litany of the Saints. The conferring of the sacrament of Holy Orders involves, as in most sacraments, the laying on of hands. The bishop imposed his hands first, then all the other priests. Each candidate was invested with a stole and chasuble. Their hands were anointed with sacred Chrism showing that these priests participate in the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. (A linen cloth is used to wipe the chrism, and these cloths are presented to the mothers of the priests during the First Mass.) Finally there is the fraternal “Peace be with you” as the bishop and all concelebrating priests give a sign of welcome into the Order of the Priesthood.

Diocesan priests do not live in community the way religious order priests do. In large parishes priests may live together in the rectory, and I’m sure bonds of friendship and camaraderie are often formed. (I hear jokes between the priests at weekend Masses sometimes.) However, even when a priest lives alone, he has the memory of the fraternal “Peace be with you,” the sign of welcome. I imagine that the Twelve Apostles had special bonding.  Peter, James, and John seemed to be selected as special friends of Jesus. Perhaps the four had other excursions besides going up to Tabor.  At the Transfiguration the three apostles felt close to Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.  And did they say to one another, “I love being here with you guys”?