Satan tried to bring me down. I know it was him, I felt it.
I was in the hotel room getting ready, and I had a brand new alb my beloved priest had bought for me. It was beautiful: Long, White, Clean, Crisp, …just beautiful. I had never worn it, and it was wrinkled.
We aren’t rich, and this whole process had been expensive, so we were staying in an inexpensive (can I say, crappy?) motel, and they didn’t have an iron in room, so I had to go get one from the office along with this cheap little tabletop ironing board. Seriously, how does one iron this huge alb on a squishy bed with a little tabletop ironing board? I was laughing at the mere idea. But I was a boy scout, and I can make anything work, so I just turned on the iron, and got ready to make it happen.
The second the iron touched the fabric, I wanted to cry. It was hotter than the setting said, and began to melt my beautiful polyester.
I wanted to scream, yell, and hit things. I wanted to cry, weep and moan. I had no backup. I had ruined it. I was to be ordained in hours.
God bless my family. They are so smart, and so wise. They all left the room while I just vented. Then, they came back in and my daughter said, “Don’t let Satan take this from you.”
Out of the mouth of babes.
My whole attitude changed in a second. I wore it as is, and wear it still. It seems silly now, but how easily the Liar can fool us and try to steal what is beautiful from us.
I didn’t know how I would feel as we went through ordination. So often we have a hard time paying attention during these big moments in our lives, and can only see the grace when looking backwards. In the midst of all the travel, the meeting with family and friends who came to share the day with me, in the sheer busyness of it all, I expected this to be much the same.
I was all business as we walked in. We had rehearsed everything, and I wasn’t going to be the idiot who screwed up and looked stupid, so I was totally focused on trying to be in the right place at the right time. We were processing in to begin the Mass, my wife beside me holding the luxurious vestments I would soon be dressed in, my beloved family and so many of my dearest friends to my left, my friends the Marian Sisters to my right; it was truly almost a royal feeling.
I’m still just walking in, I haven’t even sat down yet, and I look up and there is this giant, larger than life crucifix of our Lord hanging above the altar. The first thought that pops in my mind is:
“Here I stand, surrounded by love in all my finery, and there You are with nothing but a loincloth as vestments, and all but a few have left you to suffer. Why would you bless me so?”
The rest was an emotional rollercoaster. I remember crying, and not being able to cry any more. I remember lying on the cold stone tile offering everything I have, I remember the moment the bishop’s hands rested on my head, I remember feeling the weight of the Gospel in my hands, and the deep sense of change as my wife and my mentor dressed me. I felt every moment with clarity, I felt transformed.
I still do. It’s calmer now, but I know I am not the same as I was. I am a different man, no longer my own. My independence is gone, but it has been replaced with this unyielding desire to be there for everyone God puts into my life. I am learning I can’t do it all, that I don’t have the time for everyone, and that actually hurts.
In the end, the Catechism has it right, we are given the grace to live out the Sacrament we have received. I pray I am able to allow that grace to continue to transform me as the years pass on that I may serve Him ever more.
More than all this, I am still shocked that our Lord would be so gracious to me who deserve that grace so little.
Thank you to all my brother deacons who walked this path with me. May God bless you continuously in your ministry.