A Bishop, the shepherd of a local Church, is also a spiritual father to his people and, of course, to his priests. Admittedly, this bishop is a bit younger than many of his priests. Nevertheless, that spiritual paternity exists and there is no better expression of it than when he ordains new priests for the service of Christ and his people. Last week, I ordained two good men to the Ministerial Priesthood. By the “laying on of hands” in the sacred rite of Holy Orders, Jorge Torres and Scot Circe became my spiritual “sons” – and, your “fathers”.
We thank God for their “yes” given to God so generously and uncompromisingly on the day of their ordination; and our prayers will accompany them in the daily living out of that “yes” in their service of Word and Sacrament to God’s people here in the Diocese of Orlando.
This year is marked by Pope John Paul II’s entry into eternal life. As the Pope who brought the Church to the dawn of a new millennium, he was a witness to hope. Each priest, by virtue of his ordination, is also called to be a witness to hope. Our pastoral ministry and our daily celebration of the Eucharist, the pledge and foretaste of future glory, make that hope present. That hope celebrated in the sacraments heals hearts broken by sin and despair.
In this Year of the Eucharist, we priests have had the occasion to remind our people that Christ, “the living bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6:51), is the only one who can appease the hunger of human beings of every time and in every corner of the world. And yet he does not do this on his own. As symbolized in the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Lk. 9), Jesus involves his disciples in meeting the hunger of the multitudes. “You give them something to eat”, he tells them. Through his ordained ministers, Christ gives his Body and Blood for the life of mankind.
Our American society is confronted by a disturbing loss of the sense of the transcendent and the affirmation of a culture of the material and the ephemeral. It desperately needs the priest’s witness of hope: a witness made more compelling by detachment from material comforts and signs of status, by readiness to obediently be available wherever the bishop may send him, and by chaste celibacy which is the source of our spiritual fecundity. Since the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice every day, sacrifice must also be the condition of his life. In giving His Body and Blood, we must also give our body and blood for the life of our people.
The demands of the ministry with its inevitable trials and disappointments and the fact that we carry the “treasure” of the gospel in “earthen vessels” can sometimes tempt us to give into discouragement – and perhaps also try the patience of our people. Most of us, however, are keenly aware of our unworthiness and in that awareness we constantly remind ourselves of the primacy of grace: God uses imperfect instruments to work his will so that we will know that He saves not we.
The ordination of these two young men should inspire great joy among all the people of this diocese – even as we pray God to send us more laborers for this vineyard. And in welcoming these new brothers into our fraternity, we – your bishop and your priests – grow in an even greater appreciation for all that God has done through us – despite our admitted shortcomings. Inspired by the generosity of youth – the youth of Fathers Torres and Circe – we also renew our commitment to our vocation to follow Christ, the source of our hope, the hope that does not disappoint ( Rom. 5: 5)