I realize I need to go about this from where I left off in my journey. I want very badly to talk about other things, but that seems somehow improper until I complete the story of my pilgrimage here.
In my last post so many years ago, I explained that my formation director suggested I not post any more in this blog. This was not a censure of any kind, but an act of prudence. His concern was that I might accidentally say something something I didn’t mean, or might in some way share something that shouldn’t be shared. The fear was that this might in some way have an effect on whether or not I was actually ordained when the time came.
This seemed wise and thoughtful to me, and I resolved to stop writing until such a time as I was free to do so, and went on with my formation process.
Most of formation was endless classes, every other weekend. The Divine Office, Theology, Church History, Psychology, Homiletics, all in all very useful, but also very tiring. I teach theology, so that meant for me, the only real difference on weekends was: I was sitting be talked to instead of standing and doing the talking. My instructors were fantastic and extremely knowledgeable, but for me it was a lot like having to go to professional development classes every weekend!
There are moments that stand out brightly though, those moments when we would come together in prayer to celebrate the changes that were happening, as well accept new responsibilities. The first of these was the Rite of Reader.
In this beautiful Rite, celebrated in the cathedral, is focused on the Word of God, on Sacred Scripture. We are called to love scripture, to become living examples of the words we read. We are called forth to be the very mouth of God, as he proclaims his sacred words to his sons and daughters, and to those who who have not yet come home to him.
The central moment of this Rite, is the handing of scripture from the bishop to the reader. In all solemnity, the reader comes to kneel before the bishop, and the bishop hands him the book of scripture with these words, looking you straight in the eye:
“Take this book of holy Scripture
and be faithful in handing on the word of God,
so that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people.”
I teach from the bible every day. I have one in my hand all the time. This book given to me by my bishop is different. I keep it in a special box, and every time I pull it out, I remember this moment. This bible feels heavier than any other I have ever owned, not because it is, but because every time I hold it, I feel the weight of this responsibility. Now, almost two years later, this book feels heavier than ever, but it is a weight that I hold with great joy, and a great sense of duty.
In this Rite we were officially designated to be those who had a duty to proclaim scripture to the sacred assembly.
Think about that for a moment. We were given the Duty, to Proclaim Scripture, to the Sacred Assembly.
For the first time in this whole process, we were called to actually DO something, and something really important.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been a lector at my parish for years. I try to do a good job, I read the scriptures the night before, I use inflection and make sure I know how to pronounce all the strange names. If fact, I have always loved reading at Mass.
The first time I read as a duly instituted reader, appointed by the bishop for that sacred task, it felt different. This was my place, and I had a responsibility to make sure it was done well and right. I knew it was my job to be the most reverent, best reader possible, that I was called to be the example that lectors should follow.
But it was deeper than that. I knew that I had a ministry, a calling. Even if I were not to become a deacon, I was this, and this was no small matter.
My bishop told us a story before we celebrated this Rite, of a man to whom he had given this Rite to before. He talked about how this man felt changed by the charism of the Rite, and how as he neared death, he asked him, his bishop, if he could be buried with the bible on his chest as a sign of his sacred office.
The Rite had marked this man, had given him sacred purpose. It did the same for me. As I stood up to read scripture again for the first time, I knew that I had been changed, and I could never be the same again.