Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good for another year!

Last night I was in beautiful, downtown Metuchen, New Jersey, for my diocese's Chrism Mass.

The priests have a dinner first, which gives us a chance for "the family" to get together. Like any family gathering, there were lots of laughs, a little needling, and that feeling that "we should do this more often" (though in reality we know it won't happen). We even "met" the new member of the family - the man to be ordained a priest for our diocese next May, as the Bishop "called him to Orders" (formally announced his intention to ordain him to the Priesthood).

During the Chrism Mass, the Priests recommit themselves to the promises they made on their ordination days, whether it was recently (like my diocese's Fr. Bede Kim, who was ordained last year) or decades ago (like Msgr. John Torney of my diocese, ordained in 1939).

A while back on this blog, I reflected on my ninth anniversary of ordination. As I approach my tenth year (certainly acknowledging there are plenty of guys who have been ordained longer than I) I was surprised how that moment of Mass hit me last night. Being there in the cathedral in which I was ordained, standing about 10 yards from where I stood on that day, I couldn't help but go back to that day in 1998. I looked at the face of the man who'll be ordained a Priest in a few months; he had a smile on his face throughout Mass and even his voice in proclaiming the Gospel (he was Deacon of the Word last night) had joy and happiness in it. I saw the seminarians of our diocese. For the first time in a while, we actually have more seminarians than jobs for servers at Mass, so the extras sat together on the side of the sanctuary. I used to be one of them, full of zeal and energy, simply enjoying being there at the Chrism Mass. I'd bet none of them moaned about going.

It's a wise thing the Church does, having Priests come together once a year to remember their ordination. It's wise because every Priest is human, and every human being has memories that get triggered by senses. So, bring us back to the place, and we'll remember the joy, hope, and zeal we had on the day we said "yes" to God. Yes, my diocese has lost a bit of that opportunity by making the Chrism Mass as much about the lay people accepting the Holy Oils and promising to bring them back to the parishes on Holy Thursday (I think having the bishop question the parish representatives on their willingness to do that, in the same context as he questions us on our fidelity to our vocation, either exalts the task of bringing bottles home, or waters down the promises we made on ordination day). But, in spite of that, the moment was still there. I know because I experienced it. I also believe that that only way my brethren could not have experienced it was by deliberately choosing not to take in the memories that were being released by our brains into our consciousness.

We kid around with each other about the renewal of the commitment, questioning whether, if we said "no", we would stop being a priest? Afterwards, with the commitment remade like an auto registration, we're all good for another year. Bring on Holy Thursday!


Anonymous said...

I envie you. I was born and raised and well my family helped build that church (sorry Cathedral now). My uncle said a few masses there when he came back for holiday visits with family.
Having lived in Texas now for the past 20 plus years, I appreciate now, how much the immigrant generation of Irish & Italians and other ethnic groups built up the church in New Jersey.

I have heard that the Metuchen diocese has fallen on difficult times. It's great news to hear you have a pending new ordination.

As the birth place of my faith in the Lord, Metuchen will always be in my prayers.



Arthur said...

I hope you had time to fast for one hour after dinner before receiving Holy Communion!

Father Jay Toborowsky said...

Arthur, give us some credit here.

Theresa said...

Peace be with you, Fr.Toborowsky. I've come to your blog via Dormitantius' who has recently added some links, including yours.
A Charlotte priest gave my husband and myself an older unused sacramentary a few years ago; it still has the prayers, of course, that are similar to what is used nowadays. This very morning I ran across, for the first time ever, the rite for the Chrism Mass. It happens to be the one and only Mass I have never been to during the last 20 years... and how excellent are those prayers you mentioned!

Truly. In all these years no one ever said that during the course of the Mass y'all renew and "resolve" your commitment, fidelity etc. I wish I'd known that before.
I would LOVE to see a blog entry, or a website (page), that gave the words to that section of the rite as it is said today.

And if it is somewhat standard around the dioceses in our country for a meal to happen before the Mass, what a blast it would be to do a Martha thing out of each of our parishes. Even here in Rhode Island that is a ton of priests to feed... it would be a blast to bring food to the diocese for heating and eating, imho.

Nice to meet you!

Arthur said...

My comment, Fr. Jay, was meant in jest and not to offend you. Having said that, it is sometimes difficult for someone like me (I was schooled in the Baltimore Catechism)to know which rules are still practiced by the church and which ones are not. For example, the pastor of my home parish, a Monsignor, recently told my non-Catholic relatives that they could receive Holy Communion, while attending Mass in a Catholic church, as long as they were confirmed as Christians in their respective Protestant faiths. I was shocked to hear this. I had been taught that a Catholic could not partake of Holy Communion in a Protestant church and vice versa. Was my Monsignor correct and if not, why would he say that? Perhaps now you can understand why I wondered if fasting for an hour before receiving Holy Communion was still in effect, when you said you shared a meal with fellow priests before attending the Chrism Mass.

Happy Easter!