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A New Beginning Happens

by frater Peter Adrian Miller, O.Praem.

 

One of the many rubrics concerning the Mass for the role of deacon involves the deacon ascending to the altar in order to kiss the altar alongside the main celebrant. As a deacon recently back from Rome, my brother deacon, frater Frederick and I had the privilege of assisting at the dedication of our new abbey Church on May 4th where we aided His Excellency Kevin Vann in anointing the mensa of the altar with copious amounts of sacred chrism. The potent scent of that chrism oil still remains, and every day I am reminded of that consecration as I ascend to the altar of my God and reverence it with a kiss. 

To smell chrism almost every day at the liturgy is an unusual thing. But then again, as a man fast approaching priestly ordination, I recognize that I am living in unusually graced filled times. The scent everyday reminds me of the next time chrism will be opened and poured, not on a marble altar top but on the weak hands of this poor sinner. The sacred chrism, which is used to anoint the hands of the ordinand, symbolizes the abundant goodness and generosity of God’s grace. The grace of God and His goodness is not something purely individualistic; it puts us in communion with others and gives us a reason to give thanks together. Like the scent of chrism—which everyone can enjoy, so the grace of having newly ordained priests is something that the entire community and Church at large can rejoice in. 

To rejoice and to give thanks go hand in hand, and it is, therefore, not an uncommon practice to look back for a moment at major events to rejoice in the many ways that God has been good to us and to give thanks to Him. We remember and thank not only God for His goodness and generosity, but especially those individuals, His chosen instruments, who are channels of that goodness and generosity. I cannot help but think about my community, my family and friends, and the many devoted benefactors who have contributed in such a way that this day, July 3rd 2021, would not be possible without them. Everything right here, right now, has come together in such a marvelous way that fr. Frederick and I will be the first priests ordained in this new abbey Church. The culmination of 13 years of seminary formation and of a 10-year development project have providentially coincided. To all those who have helped me personally and those who have given their time, money, talents, and especially their prayer, thank you. Thank you sincerely because without you the life and work of the Norbertine Fathers here in Orange would not be possible. When you stand within the new abbey Church, one is forced to realize that this monumental project, this holy work, extends and is supported by far more than just 87 men. 

But now, a new beginning happens. Not only do I look back with a heart full of gratitude, I look forward with a confident hope to the life I have professed with those whom I will soon call my brother priests. A newly ordained priest from our community recently mentioned to me after going to confession to him that, “The friendship you will share with your fellow priests in this community will be so much more than you expected because of the bond that you now share in being a minister of the sacraments.” I look forward then to sharing my priestly life with the priests in my community, but I also look forward to sharing that joy with my brothers in religion as well. I cannot wait to enjoy many more ordinations to the priesthood of those men whom I have fought in the trenches with for some years now. How many good, tireless, and holy young men we are blessed with here at St. Michael’s Abbey. I can only conclude with the Psalmist and say, “How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes.”

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