Question: Could you describe the Ordinations to the Priesthood that were held in November?
Answer: There are no ceremonies in the Catholic Church -- probably no ceremonies on earth -- more splendid than the conferral of Holy Orders during Solemn Pontifical Mass. Even at Saint Peter's in Rome, everything pales before the consecration of a bishop or the ordination of a priest. By comparison, even the coronation of a Pope or the canonization of a Saint lacks the level of ceremonial detail found in the passing down of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ to its new members. Major Orders -- the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate -- are always conferred during Mass, and usually with the a Solemn Pontifical Mass.
The climax of years of training and spiritual preparation begins in the sacristy. The soon to be priests have been deacons for some time, so they vest in amice, alb, cincture, and maniple, wearing the stole over the left shoulder in the manner of deacons. Over their left arms they carry folded chasubles; each with the back pinned up, to be released only toward the end of the ceremony, after the newly ordained priests receive the commission to forgive sins in Sacramental Confession. In their right hands they carry the burning candle that they have held through the reception of all of the lower Orders.
A procession is formed of all of the clergy, vested either according to their rank or their role in the ordination Mass. The bishop, however, wears the long cappa magna over his episcopal choir robes, and when he arrives at his throne, ceremonially receives each of the pontifical Mass vestments from the altar. "Ecce, sacerdos magnus -- behold a great priest," is custtomarily the hymn sung by the choir as the clergy enter and take their places; for the bishop is, above all other things, the chief priest of his diocese. He is here as an "other Christ" to make "other Christs" of new men who will take up where he must eventually leave off.
The bishop pauses before the Blessed Sacrament to pray. Then he proceeds to the throne were he removes the cappa and vests for pontifical Mass. Once he is vested, the Mass begins -- except for the number of clergy crowded into the sanctuary, looking much like the pontifical Mass that the bishop might offer on Christmas or some other great feast. If the Minor Orders are conferred, they are given between the scripture readings -- the Ember Saturdays are often ordination days, and have enough readings to separate the conferring of each of the grades of Order. A newly ordained subdeacon may read the epistle together with the bishop, and a newly ordained deacon may do the same for the Gospel. The ordination of the new priests takes place just before the Gospel.
The candidates are introduced by the archdeacon, who reads their names and testifies to their worthiness to receive the priesthood "as far as human frailty allows him to know." The bishop then inquires of the congregation, explaining the serious nature of the priestly commitment, and asking them for their assent. Then he addresses the ordinands, reminding them of the nature of what they are about to receive and the serious obligation it entails.
The candidates prostrate themselves on the sanctuary floor, for the Litany of the Saints. Toward the litany's end the bishop arises from kneeling before the altar, wearing his miter and holding the crosier as he makes the Sign of the Cross three times over the prostrate deacons, praying God three times progressively, to "vouchsafe to † bless and † sanctify and † consecrate these elect."
Soon the Litany is concluded and the priests to be kneel one at a time before the bishop at the center of the altar. Without any accompanying words the bishop places his hands on the head of the candidate, conferring the "matter" of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Each of the priests present do likewise. A brief prayer and blessing follow, and then the "form" of the Sacrament, sung or recited much like the Preface before the Canon of the Mass:
With these last (italicized) words the former deacons become "priests forever according to the order of Melchisedech," an allusion to the priesthood of Jesus Christ in the messianic Psalms, with its prototypical sacrifice in the offering of bread and wine by the Old Testament priest-king Melchisedech of Salem in the book of Genesis.
The new priests kneel before the bishop, who rearranges their stoles, crossing them over the breast in the priestly manner:
And then he vests them with the chasuble, the priestly outer garment, leaving, however, the back part folded on their shoulders:
A prayer follows, asking God for the grace that the new priests might exercise their new ministry and way of life in a fitting and becoming way -- one pleasing to God and edifying to His people. The church is then filled with the sound of the invocation of the Holy Ghost: Veni, Creator Spiritus. As the hymn is being sung, the bishop anoints the hands of each new priest with the Holy Oil of Catechumens, firstly drawing a cross with the holy oil from the right thumb to the index finger of the left hand and then from the left thumb to the right index finger; secondly anointing the entire palm of both of the candidate's hands, while he says:
Following the anointing, the hands of the candidate(s) are placed together and bound with a narrow strip of linen. By custom, this "binder" of linen is sewn by someone of personal relation to the new priest, and is placed by him over the eyes of his mother at the time of her death.
Although the priest has fully received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Church specially refers to the primary power of the priesthood, having him touch a chalice and paten containing bread and wine with his (bound) index and middle fingers:
The bishop washes his hands, and sits to receive the offering of a burning candle from each of the new priests. The hands of the new priests are washed as well.
From the Offertory on, the newly ordained priests concelebrate the Mass with the bishop. All of the prayers are read aloud so that the concelebrants can pronounce them together. Each priest is thus truly a celebrant at his own ordination Mass. In other respects, the Mass proceeds normally until Holy Communion. Being celebrants of the Mass, the newly ordained receive Communion without reciting the Confiteor: "May the † Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thee unto everlasting life. Amen." After receiving the Host, each new priest takes a drink of unconsecrated wine from a chalice offered by one of the assisting priests. Holy Communion is then distributed to the congregation in the normal manner.
Following Communion, after taking the ablutions, the bishop washes his hands and stands at the epistle side, miter off, and intones the following (which may be continued by a choir):
After reciting the Apostles Creed, the bishop lays hands on each of the new priests for a second time, symbolizing the communication of the power to forgive sins:
The bishop folds down the back panel of the chasuble that had been folded on the shoulders of the new priest:
Each new priest kneels individually before the bishop to promise obedience to him or to the superior for whom he has been ordained.
The bishop admonishes the newly ordained to begin celebrating Mass only after they have learned to do so from experienced priests, and then gives them a special blessing:
Mass concludes normally, except that a final admonition is added between the blessing and the Last Gospel:
[Ordinands reply:] Gladly.
It is a long-standing custom for the priests' relatives, followed by the clergy, their friends, and the congregation to kiss the hands of the newly ordained and to receive their blessings individually.
Those who devoutly assist at the first solemn Mass of the newly ordained priests can gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.
ORDINATIONS OF JOHN BRANHAM
Your Excellencies, Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops, Reverend Fathers and Clerics, Honored Guests, Relatives, Friends, and Parishioners, Father John Branham and Father Maurice Manton:
"Terribilis est locus iste: This is a terrible place." In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
This is a terrible place. We mean "terrible" in its original sense, its Latin sense, coming closest, I suppose, to our English word "awesome." Now, I hesitate to use "awesome" because it has become so overworked. Everything, it seems, especially among our youth, is "awesome." How many bumper stickers proclaim, "God is awesome"? That must be offensive to our God. So let us keep the Latin "terrible" for our thoughts this morning. This place is especially terrible today because for the first time in nearly sixteen years, two men have been taken from among you and have been created the very Other Selves of Jesus Christ. That is terrible, and that is what is terrible about this place.
Moments ago, Father Branham and Father Manton, I implored almighty God to grant you both the dignity of the priesthood and a renewal of the spirit of holiness to make you pleasing to Him in the conduct of your lives. Shortly [before that] I placed my hands upon your heads, signaling for all the world to see my intention to ordain you to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. My brother bishops joined me in expressing what we Catholics believe is the unbroken lineage of Apostolic Succession; your brother priests joined us in that same expression to accept you among their numbers. And there you have it: the form, the matter, the intention of what is essential for your ordination to the priesthood of our blessed Lord.
I ordained you to the priesthood, Father Branham and Father Manton. I did not make you priests. That you must do for yourselves, with God’s help of course. The days, the months, the years ahead will pretty much determine just what kind of priests you will become. It is my prayer – and the prayer of all of us here, I presume, that you become GOOD priests. You embrace your priesthood today at perhaps one of the very lowest ebbs for the priesthood throughout the history of the Church. At no time previously perhaps has the priest become the object of such suspicion, of ridicule, of doubt, of disbelief and even of hatred. That is no more your fault than it is the fault of the hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands of holy, struggling men throughout the world who continue to serve Jesus Christ and His Church everywhere in the world. But that low ebb does place upon you a burden far heavier than priests have borne throughout most of my life. And therein lies the first of the admonitions of our Lord Jesus Christ to His priests: "Unless you are willing to take up your Cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of Me."
The priesthood of Jesus Christ is a cross – not the outreaches of one’s arms as players upon a stage. You are not called to be Hamlets or Hestons. You are called to be holy priests. There is no role playing here. Yet you will daily re-enact the greatest drama of all time, as you spiritually crucify yourself with Jesus Christ in offering Him to His heavenly Father in the un-bloody sacrifice of holy Mass. That is the very basic purpose for which you were ordained – nothing on the face of this earth is even remotely comparable to it. Fall in love with Holy Mass, Fathers. If you do nothing else on earth with your priestly life, you will be doing what He commanded of you, "Do this in commemoration of Me." Let your Mass be the most important part of your being from this moment on. You know, through Jesus Christ, I have given you this power to offer Holy Mass, and no matter what means I could be required to discipline you for cause at some later time, I will never be able to remove that power which is now indelible in you. It is God-given, not John-given. Treasure it. Keep yourselves totally unsullied for the precious moments you will share with our blessed Lord in the most august, intimate moments of your day. If you are good priests, Fathers, that Mass will become even dearer to you every single day of your lives; if not, you have never understood what either you or it are all about.
Saint Vincent de Paul has given us a great meditation upon the priesthood: "What is so great in the world," he asks, "as the ecclesiastical state? Principalities and kingdoms are not comparable to it. You know that kings cannot do as priests and change bread into the Body of Christ nor can they remit sins." Thomas à Kempis, in the Imitation of Christ – which all priests should read often, even daily, reminds us, "Lofty is the ministry and great the dignity of priests to whom that is given which has not been granted to the angels." And we may add here – in greatest humility – no, not even to the very mother of God. The priesthood, dear Fathers, in this respect, is above the level of both angels and even God’s holy mother. That must not be a source of pride, but of great humility. That is precisely why, following upon your departure from this world, you will enter into either the most glorious place in heaven or the hottest place in hell, depending upon just what you do with this treasure – your priesthood.
From this day forward, nearly every one you meet will call you "Father." Can you be called by any more intimate and beautiful name? That is why I prefer it to all the other titles by which I may be known. Christ tells us, "Call none your Father upon earth; for One is your Father Who is in heaven." (Matt: 23, 9) In that same passage Jesus tells us not to be called "rabbi," nor "master." (Matt: 23, 7, 10) Obviously, as holy Church teaches us, our Father in heaven is to be more incomparably regarded than any father on earth. We hear from our Master’s lips with just what reverence that name ought to be regarded. We ought also to study even deeper that 23rd Chapter of Saint Mathew, for the sake of so much humility we priests should reflect on even daily, lest we also become as Scribes and Pharisees: We ought not to usurp the chair of Moses – we are not God’s prophets nor precursors. We ought not to tell others what to do and say and not take heed ourselves. We ought not to do our works just to be seen by others, but most especially to be pleasing to God. We ought not to be concerned about the finest vestments and the adornments of the same. All this is vanity! And we should not crave the first seats everywhere and to be called by great titles and dignities. That is what our Lord says to each and every one of us in that same chapter of Saint Matthew. Virtus stat in medio. Real virtue lies somewhere in the middle of things; and we priests ought to be first in conforming to that Latin truism.
The more the heart loves God in his priestly work, my dear Fathers, so much the more does it desire Him, and so much the more does it find Him. We priests must be true copies of Jesus Christ, not mere caricatures.
The Scriptures tell us that our Blessed Lord prayed the whole night long before He chose His apostles. Do you suppose, Father Branham and Father Manton, that Jesus Christ prayed for you that very night. It would be a comfort to think so – that He prayed for all of us priests that very night. Each of those apostles failed Him at some point, you know. We are all aware of what Judas did. Peter denied Him, not just once, but three times within a few hours. And every other of those remaining ten priests – they were all ordained by then, Fathers – all ran away from Him. Every one! Yes, even His beloved John, although he finally had the fortitude to come back and stand beneath that cross; but only he and not the others. No, not even Peter – for all the tears the Scriptures tell us he shed, not Peter. Will you deny Him, as so many of us have done, not so much in words but in the sometimes awful things we do that offend Him by our over-worldly and sinful actions and by our lack of His charity?
No matter where you go on this earth as an emissary of Jesus Christ – yea, even as His Other Self, on each and every occasion you can say, "He Who sent me is with me." And He will always remain with you to carry out the mission upon which He sent you. Saint Paul puts it so aptly, "Vivo ego, jam no ego, vivit vero me in Christus: I live, not I now, but Christ lives in me." The whole theology of the priesthood is based upon those words, my dear Fathers." Toward the end of this Mass, I will say to you, Fathers, even as did Jesus Christ to those whom he personally ordained, "No longer will I call you servants, but my friends, because you have known all things I have wrought in the midst of you." That means that you have at your disposal the whole breastplate of truth and fidelity to God through His divinely appointed bride, holy Church. Whatever you need to carry out your sacred ministry, the Church has for you. All that Christ has given us through his Church is readily at your disposal. You must keep it pristine and unsullied by not placing upon it newly wrought interpretations that violate the very truth given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. The world wants new interpretations and easier commandments and fewer burdens. The world clamors for a cross devoid of the corpus of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can hear our Lord’s plaintive words: "They are willing to accompany me to Thabor, where I am transfigured before them, but as soon as they begin to suspect they are taking the road to Gethsemane, all disperse, disappear and hide."
The bishop who placed his hands upon your heads and anointed your hands with the oils that were purchased from the pennies of the church’s children, began his priesthood in a different era of the Church’s history. You, my dear Fathers, belong to a rather peculiar moment – and I pray it is not much more than a moment in time – between an expression of the Catholic Faith that is dying and one that has yet to come to life. The dividing line is none other than you and the priests of your era. The death knell being clamored for is not only for sacred tradition, it is for the very Faith itself that underlies that tradition. Indeed, there may be hundreds and thousands – arrayed in the same priestly garb you are wearing, who are clamoring for that death. The death knell is being tolled by the insidious modernism which clutches at our confused world, has infiltrated the very sanctuaries of holy Church, and left Catholics and other Christians with a gnawing sense of doubt. Doubt about our theology and the place of it in our lives and in our relationship with our God, doubt about morality and decency and the proper role of Christians in medicine and law and government and even in religion itself. There must be another death knell for blatant hypocrisy and diabolical materialism and the wanton disregard for the sacred mysteries of our Faith and for the social humanism that preaches a brotherhood of man devoid of the Fatherhood of Almighty God.
This ever so strong movement away from a loving, personal God, not only to man but especially to Satan, bears the seeds of its own destruction. You Fathers, must help to bring that destruction about. Man is a composite – body and soul. Neglect either aspect of this wonderful work of God and the other dies. Deprive man intellectually and emotionally of what Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us is our ultimate goal, the seeking of the Supreme Good, Whom we call God, and you have deprived man of an entire half of himself. So it is with each human being. Deprive a man of his spiritual dimension and only an animal remains.
As this ordination Mass comes to its conclusion, Fathers, each of you will place your hands into mine. You will be asked if you promise me and my successors obedience. I want you to look directly into my eyes; I want you to mean what you are saying to me; I want you to mean it not just today as you feel a natural kindred -- even a love for me – for what has happened to you today; I want you to mean it because you are obliged to obey your bishop in everything that is not sinful – the same obligation God gave to us in the Decalogue concerning our parents. If you fail in this, you are unworthy of your priesthood. It is my firm belief that this failure on the part of priests to obey their bishops is precisely what is wrong with the priesthood in our time. Every priest, it seems, wants to be in charge. The oils on their hands are no sooner dry, when each wants to strike out on his own. Authority is such a bore, such a drawback. That bumper sticker is so pronounced -- even among our priests: "QUESTION AUTHORITY!" Be faithful to your promise of obedience. In being obedient to your bishop, you will be obedient to our Lord. And if you abandon that promise, you will be abandoning the very call that has made you another Christ. It may well be that, in obeying your bishop, you are being called upon to take up your cross. Christ calls us to that. Clearly He tells us that, unless we are willing to take up our cross and follow Him, we are not worthy of Him.
My dear Fathers, I beg you to work at developing a good prayer life. A priest’s prayer life is not something for display only before his congregation. It is a way of life that he never ceases to cultivate – every morning, every night, every waking hour of his day. If you neglect to spend time alone frequently with your God before the tabernacle, you are a hollow man, a prodigal son, a worthless priest, in fact. Mold yourselves, Fathers. Live with Jesus Christ in an unending quest to find his humility and His meekness and His love. May you both develop a true love affair with Jesus Christ. May you assume His strength, may you transcend to the ideal He envisions for you in your priesthood, and may you triumph with Him both in His mission here on earth and in that eternal kingdom which He prepared for those who share the cross by which He redeemed our race.
Ad multos annos, my dear Fathers.
May God bless us all.
Our Lady of Good Hope Old Roman Catholic Church
Pinellas Park, Florida