Or is it the Rite of Confusion?
The main problem we had was not the Rite itself, that is pretty straightforward. The Rite of Candidacy is simply the Church calling you forward as a candidate for Holy Orders. It would seem to be so simple, right?
Alas, no! The problem is not what the Rite is, but WHEN to perform it! Different dioceses through the world will perform this Rite at different times. Here’s the rundown on the hows and whys, skip a couple paragraphs if Church rules bore you!
When a priest is ordained, it is process that involves many steps, one of them being ordained to the diaconate. So for bishops and priests, it makes sense to want to follow the same order through which they were ordained. I mean, a deacon is a deacon, whether he is permanent or transitional, right? So it would just make sense that you would follow the same order, the same path to get there. This order is: Aspirant -> Lector -> Acolyte -> Candidate -> Deacon -> Priest.
Here things get a little confusing though, as the Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons from the Congregation for the Clergy implies that Candidacy comes right after the propaedeutic period, also known as aspirancy. This is BEFORE actual classes begin, upsetting the order defined in priestly formation. The new order described is Aspirant -> Candidate -> Lector -> Acolyte -> Deacon.
In our diocese, our bishop decided the priestly order was more in keeping with the spirit of the Rite as he saw it, and as such, this was the last Rite before ordination. For us, this was quite unlike our previous Rites, as it was a very small and private affair between our brother candidates, our wives, our formation team and of course, our bishop. He was kind enough to spend the day with us in retreat to prepare.
I think I would describe this Rite as “comfortable”. If I were to be honest, this was the first time I felt at ease during the whole process. Let me explain.
The whole time, all these years, I felt as if I was on the chopping block. I was desperate to not make any big mistakes, or to make too loud a noise, as all it would take was a word to have me removed from the program. I had felt as if I had to keep my head down and not make waves, to not speak too loud when I felt classes may be getting off course or be leaning in a direction that I felt wasn’t in keeping with the spirit of the Church’s faith. Frankly, I didn’t want to piss anybody off, lest I become the confrontational guy. For example, I was told to stop writing this blog, and I obeyed. It feels like you are walking a knife’s edge, and over years, this becomes a wearing feeling. Ordination is not guaranteed, and the fear that you will be removed was always present.
This Rite was pleasant, and full of the symbolism of the Church choosing us for this Sacrament, which was beautiful, but the fear still lingered. So I shared a little of my fear with my bishop. I will never forget what he said, and it was like a wave of peace flowing over me. I felt suddenly and completely released, and it enabled me to finally let go and begin preparing spiritually for what was about to come.
He said, “The only thing that can stop you now is you, me, and God. Don’t worry about anyone else.”
All that was left was a quiet six months of classes, a retreat, and my own prayerful preparations. I cannot describe the feeling of that weight lifted. Praise be to God.