Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Hands of a Priest

When a Catholic priest holds the wafer of unleavened bread or the chalice containing wine in his hands at Mass and proclaims the words of consecration as directed by Our Lord in Sacred Scripture, this bread and and wine become the body and blood, soul and divinity of this same Lord, Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, and so the priest is holding God in his hands.

It would seem that this very special privilege afforded to a priest would require that the priest's hands be special hands, that they be blessed in some outward formal way.  Indeed, the consecration of a priest's hands is something that is done at the ordination ceremony the day a new priest receives the sacrament of Holy Orders from a bishop in the Catholic Church and actually becomes a priest.  The bishop does this in his role as the successor to the apostles.  I recently witnessed this formal consecration eight times at the Ordination ceremony here in the Lincoln Diocese.

The priest candidate ascends the steps leading to where the Bishop is seated and the Bishop then anoints the new priest's hands with the chrism oil that was blessed at the special Chrism Mass during Holy Week.  I understand that this oil is a special blend of olive oil and other ingredients.  Immediately after anointing and consecrating the new priest's hands, the Bishop then hands the new priest a cloth for wiping the oil from the hands.

One might assume that this cloth is then laundered so that it may be re-used.  This is not the case.  The cloth, with the Chrism oil still on it, is given to the new priest, who, in turn, presents it to his mother at the time of his First Mass.  The idea is that, upon the death and burial of the new priest's mother, the cloth is placed in the woman's coffin and buried with her as a recognition of the fact that she gave her son to the people of God just as our Blessed Mother gave her son to the people of God so many centuries ago.

To me, this whole process mind-blowing.  What the priest's mother must be feeling!  You know, I've heard that sometimes when a young man first expresses to his parents that he wants to become a priest that they may object, that somehow this "surprising" calling is not what they had envisioned for their son.  My prayer for today is this:  Dear Lord, please instill in your families here on Earth a deep devotion to you such that they may humbly realize the amazing privilege that it is to have a son or daughter be given a religious vocation from God.  Amen.

The picture below is of Father Justin Fulton, a new priest, elevating the body of Jesus Christ at his First Mass.  From the look on his face, you can see that he believes it to be an awesome privilege.

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