When I first started the journey towards becoming a priest nine years ago, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that the day of my ordination would be enshrouded by the pervading darkness of a global pandemic. Just like planning for one’s wedding, I had my own thoughts and hopeful expectations for that joyous day, including a long list of guests whom I had hoped would share in that momentous occasion. Yet as July drew closer, Texas began to draw nationwide attention as cases began to spike drastically. The week leading up to my ordination, phone calls and texts began to pour in as family members and life-long friends informed me of their inability to come. People who had assured me that they would be there were saying that they could not make it. Each phone call and text hurt a little more than the next, but I understood and supported the decisions that people felt they had to make for themselves and their own families’ safety. How could I not?
Anyone who knows me well, knows that bringing lots of people from different walks of life together in one place to meet each other and to celebrate together is one of the deepest joys of my life. “The more, the merrier” is a quote I live by, and I had hoped for so many years that my ordination would be the grand event of my life to truly live that out. Even Canon Law had my back, “Clerics and other members of the Christian faithful must be invited to the ordination so that as large an assembly as possible is present at the celebration” (CCL, 1011 §2). And yet, those plans were being dashed right before my eyes.
With so many people throughout the country and the world who had lost loved ones, how could I be upset with things not going as planned? After all, I was not even close to being the only one who was inconvenienced by this pandemic. I prayed and prayed for resignation to God’s holy will, “Jesus, I trust in you.” And I did trust in him; I never lost my peace. Though I did wonder if the ordination would still go on, I never felt that God had abandoned me. I never felt that he was being unjust or unfair. In a moment of consolation, the Lord assured me that he was with me in my pain. That was enough for me.
When the day of my ordination arrived, I had nothing but peace, I had nothing but joy! Though there were many who could not be there, there were still so many loved ones who were, and, in a sense, their presence was felt more deeply because I knew what they had risked in coming. The Lord was so close. I felt his tenderness, his care, his love. And in a special way, his love was communicated to me through the words of Bishop Mulvey, “I think this is a special moment for you. In a sense, you are unique… to be ordained at this time. And I always like to think that God foresaw all of this… even before you were in your mother’s womb, he knew all of this. And in that sense, you were almost doubly chosen, to be a light in the darkness that we are traveling through.” Bishop Mulvey laid his hands on my head, prayed the prayer of consecration, and I belonged to Jesus Christ as his priest. My hands were anointed with chrism to celebrate the sacred mysteries. I was changed.
The Lord had always known that this is how it would be, and it amazes me that I was meant to be configured to Christ in his priesthood during this specific time in order to bring his healing, his love, and his light into the darkness of our world today. When I think of that day of my ordination, it shines in my memory with joy, with light, and with brilliance. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). I am so grateful for the gift to be his priest! It is my deepest joy!