On the Eve of Holy Week: A Personal Thanksgiving

ORDINA_1001This Sunday, 25 March 2018, is Palm Sunday.  But 28 years ago, it was the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday) — and on that date I was ordained a deacon of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC by our Cardinal-Archbishop, James A. Hickey.

 

 

XO HanzaAt that time I was a Commander in the United States Navy, under orders to report to the US Naval Security Group Activity, Hanza, Okinawa, Japan as Executive Officer.  For the previous three years, while assigned to the National Security Agency, I had participated in the deacon formation program of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.  When my orders to Okinawa arrived, I contacted Deacon Tom Knestout, our deacon director, and then-Father Bill Lori, priest-secretary to Cardinal James Hickey (and now the Archbishop of Baltimore).  Father Lori, God bless him, jumped to the meat of the issue, “Shall we ask the Cardinal to ordain you early, before you leave?”  Within 10 minutes, the Cardinal had approved the request and the date was set.

It seems unbelievable that this time in ordained ministry has passed so quickly, and with countless blessings.  To have been so privileged to serve in so many ways, in so many places, and to walk with people in their joys and sorrows — and the baptisms!  (I have to mention the baptisms.  Gaudete Sunday Baptism 2 editTo see families, large and small, approaching the font, is an inexpressible joy.)  Twenty-eight years ago, I could not have imagined the journey to come; I suppose we can all say that about our lives!

As we enter into this holiest of seasons I simply want to thank God for the great grace of serving as a deacon of the church.  And of course, no family man can serve in this way without the deepest love and gratitude for his family and for the many challenges (along with the blessings) they have faced on this journey.

If past is prologue, the next 28 years should be very interesting! Deo gratias!

Incensation at Ordination

The Pope in DC: On the Ground and “Concrete Consequences”

IMG_1740I watched the Pope’s Alitalia touch down at Joint Base Andrews (what old-timers like me still refer to as Andrews Air Force Base) from the media center established in a Crystal City hotel.  What a great moment to see him arrive!  Several of us were there in support of Bishop Richard Garcia, the Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey in California.  As the Bishop of the Diocese in which Father Junipero Serra is buried, he has been a popular interviewee by the media.  It has been a real treat to watch him navigate those waters with skill, wit and humor.

Back at our hotel, more and more bishops were pouring into the registration area, and the USCCB staff set up a nerve center in support of the bishops.  It was wonderful to see some old friends from the staff and the bishops.  They have a full day tomorrow, beginning with security screening here at the hotel prior to boarding their assigned buses.  They will head to Morning Prayer with the Holy Father at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on Rhode Island Avenue.  Then they will have lunch with him, eventually getting to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of The Catholic University of America on Michigan Avenue.  There are then a variety of options for the bishops following the Mass!  They’re in for a very full, rich, and tiring day.

As early as they’re starting, though, our little team is heading out toward Catholic University even earlier, since we have to find our own way there, and the street closures are, well, profound!  DC is a small town and with the Pope heading to several different venues throughout the day, navigating the District — on a workday no less! — will be a challenge.  We’re hoping to have a taxi drop us off at Trinity University down the street from CUA, and then walk to the campus.  Somewhere during that trip, I’ll be giving an interview to CBS on the cell phone!

IMG_1732The campus opens mid-morning and the deacons and priests who are assisting and concelebrating will check in and be given our specific assignments.  I’m hoping to be in the vicinity of our pilgrimage group from the Diocese of Monterey, but there’s no way to predict that.  The challenge, of course, will be AFTER the Mass. Once the Pope departs people tend to want to rush away, but that will not be possible.

For those who are here, the challenge will be to remember that this is an historic moment with and for our Holy Father Francis, despite whatever happens.  Patience, patience, patience!  What’s even more important is to focus less on the “event” vibe that naturally surrounds such a moment, and really listen to Pope Francis and his challenges to us.  It will be joyful, but it will not be an end unto itself.  May this Mass renew us in our own vocations of service to those who are most in need around us.  The great German theologian Herbert Vorgrimler once wrote that the role of the deacon is to offer our communities “concrete consequences” to the Eucharist in which we share.  That challenge will be offered to us by Pope Francis tomorrow.  He, too, will ask that all of us Catholics, regardless of ministerial role, identify and provide the “concrete consequences” of tomorrow’s Eucharist to the world around us.  As the motto for this Apostolic Journey puts it, “Love is our Mission”!

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