I got used to being 'waylaid', for example, on Friday evenings by a Jewish man or woman standing on the porch of their home and asking me to come in and turn on or off a light because it is not allowed for them to do any 'work' on the Sabbath (which begins on Friday evening).
I also got to know that if a non-Jew wants to convert to Judaism, they must be turned away three times by the Rabbi before they are finally allowed to start the process of conversion.
It seems we have our own version of this in Christianity :-)
As mentioned in the previous post, exciting times have hit the Swiss mountains!
We had a big event.
An ordination, or 'Priesterweihe' in German.
This one was special, because we hadn't had one in this parish for over a decade.
We the choir have been working on putting on a spectacular show for our brand new Father A_______ at his 'prima messa' or 'Primiz', his inaugural Mass, the day after his ordination.
But we weren't going to stop at just belting out high notes (or low notes as the case may be :-) for Father A_______ at his Primiz.
We were all going to take the trip to the Big City to watch him take the (big) step from mere Deacon to esteemed Priest. (Hm, my hypergamy is showing, lol).
Why am I blogging about a priestly ordination on a website dedicated to the SMP?
Well, there are several reasons. The most important reason is that, an ordination is actually awfully similar to a wedding. It really is! In the former case, a man makes a commitment directly to God. In the latter, a man and a woman make a commitment to each other, with God as the chief witness, and they are actually also making a commitment to Him.
Come with me on a journey through an ordination....
I have been to an ordination or two before. When I was a child, it was customary in my parish for catechism to be taught by trainee priests. I went to their ordinations. One of these priests is now a Bishop.
As an adult, I have also been to at least one ordination before. I have also witnessed the profession of vows by nuns.
But all pale in comparison to the event I witnessed on Saturday.
It was a 2 hour bus-ride on a rainy/snowy morning to the Big City. Friends and family of A_________ dressed in our finest attire :-)
The cathedral in the Big City seemed grander than our little church in the mountains, of course. The ceremony itself was a very grand affair.
Other than our Father A__________, there were 2 other young men to be ordained. Here lies the first similarity with a wedding: at the apéro (light aperitif) afterwards, as all the guests mingled, a common question was, 'who are you here for'? invoking memories of wedding guests asking each other, 'are you here for the bride or groom'?
Second, I notice these three young men were aged 31-35. Our Father A_________ is 32.
I wondered, on hearing their life-stories read out by their chief 'trainers', is the age at ordination rising in much the same way as the age at marriage?
These guys had had careers before turning to the priesthood. Our regular priest, for example, had been a banker for many years before becoming a priest...
When I was a child, it was normal to see priests in their early twenties...
The entrance procession alone lasted about twenty minutes. With 70 priests and 3 Bishops in attendance (I counted them), we certainly weren't short of celebrants at that Mass, lol.
And the organist was suitably trigger-happy, to say the least. His (aherm) enthusiastic organ-playing certainly made this old Catholic Church joke spring sharply to mind:
From one bewildered church-goer to another: "Church is a dangerous place to be, you know...there was a canon in the pulpit, the choir murdered the hymns and the organist drowned the choir!"
I had met the Bishop once before. Two years ago he had officiated at the confirmation of my then 12 year old future niece-in-law, but in Italian.
Now, the same Bishop was celebrating the ordination Mass in German.
Switzerland is a funny old country, lol.
His speech to the 3 soon-to-be priests before him was very moving. He spoke to them like a father would speak to his sons. He looked at them with pride, as though to say, 'my boys done good'.
I kind of liken it to a father who has been training his child to ride a bike for weeks, and it is finally time to take off the 'training wheels' and the child can now 'two-wheel' with confidence for the first time, similar to this:
(I am sure we can all imagine just how proud 'Goose's' father feels in this moment).
In this case, this Bishop had good reason to be proud of 'his boys': (I was told later by a guest of one of the other two priests), there were originally ten men who registered at the seminary 7 years ago, and only 3 of them emerged as priests.
So the pre-ceremony failure rate is high.
But the post-ceremony failure rate?
What is this percentage? How many priests (and nuns and monks) 'drop out' after taking their vows?
Is it anywhere near 50%?
I doubt it, but I don't know for sure. Anyone know?
The Bishop laid his fatherly hands on the 3 young men shortly after they were instructed, no, commanded, military style! to 'step before the Bishop!' (I suppose it sounded like a command because it was said in German, lol).
These men knelt down as they were 'taken through their paces'. Kneeling, heads bowed, eyes closed, they were read a sort of litany, and at regular intervals, were asked, 'Are you ready?' several times. I counted six, but it could have been more times.
To each of these questions, they would reply out loud, 'Ich bin bereit!' ('I am ready!')
I thought long and hard about this.
At a (Catholic) wedding, you also say 'I do' six times, if proper protocol is followed. Every Easter, we also 'profess our faith' and say 'I do' six times.
God gives us free will when we are born. It seems that whatever path we choose in life, He really wants to make sure we mean it. Are we as committed as we say we are?
At one point in the Bible, Jesus asks Peter 'do you love me?' three times before he accepts that he does.
Is this aspect of God a sign of His beta neediness or is this a sign of His supreme Alphaness where he wants to establish that we mean what we say and say what we mean?
What do you all think?
All 70 priests and the other 2 Bishops in attendance laid their hands on the deacons one by one, each praying silently over them, as they knelt, eyes remaining closed. It was very moving to watch.
Once the deed was done, and these men had become priests, their clothes were instantly changed. They were brought 'priest clothes', by their trainers, and were dressed in their new clothes right there and then, whilst we all clapped proudly.
And then all 70 priests and the other 2 Bishops, again, one by one all came to the new priests to greet them in a manner I have now come to recognise as a 'priestly greeting'. I alluded to it in this post where I was greeted in this fashion by a priest, and I just thought it was because I was a woman which is why he avoided hugging me (because even though I see him as my 'brother', I am still a woman, and not his sister - and I understand his need to literally keep his distance from me and all other women, except his actual mother and sisters).
But it seems this is how priests greet each other too! I was wrong to perceive it as a kind of 'b*tch shield' for priests. Turns out I was projecting :-)
Fascinating to see this greeting done 72 times by each new priest.
They touch the sides of each other's heads with each other's heads or cheeks, starting on each other's right side. Sometimes they simply touch the other's shoulder with their forehead.
It kind of reminded me of this other way men greet each other, lol.
Not quite the same solemnity as one would expect in an ordination associated with this way of greeting, but still.... it's the 'brotherliness' of it all that counts...
In this case below, it went awry, but you get the picture...
Some of the priests ignored 'protocol' and went for a full-on hug and pat on the back when it was their turn to congratulate the new priests. I guess this is true 'brotherly' and 'fatherly' love being expressed right here. Quite emotional when one of the priests hugged one of the new priests so long, the next priest in line started looking at his watch and the audience burst out laughing.
As a sign that these men were now accepted into the 'club', they were transferred from the front row of the pews onto the altar to be with the other priests as the rest of the Mass was celebrated by the Bishop
At one point, ALL the Bishops and priests left the altar, leaving the 3 to say the final blessing. I thought that was lovely. It was as if they were saying: 'Now you are priests. We entrust the salvation of the flock to you. Go on and bless them. You will be doing this everyday for the rest of your lives so you might as well start now.' :-)
At the apéro, I bumped into the mother of our current regular priest. She is British :-) so let's just say she and I have a certain bond.
I asked her: 'So how did you feel watching the ordination?'
I could tell it would have been an emotional experience for her. Fifteen years ago, she had watched her own son take this step.
She told me that as she had 15 years ago, she had felt (with a pang of guilt) that it was 'such a waste' to see these handsome, wonderful young men take this step.
As she had felt about her own son, she was somewhat saddened by the realisation that their mothers and fathers would never get grandchildren from these sons (in her case, she had other children, so she does have grandchildren :-), that they would never know what it is like to have a wife, have a (secular) home, live a 'normal' life.
Interestingly, I had had those thoughts pass through my own mind, and I am not even related to any of these guys. I asked the father if he had had similar thoughts.
'Nope' was his reply :-)
Is this a woman thing?
Interestingly, I feel the same way when I see a nun take her vows. She will never be the wife of some man, bear his children, keep his home. I am at least fair to both sexes on this issue.
But am I wrong to think this way? Afterall, if a handsome young man or a beautiful young woman has been 'taken' by God, should I lament that an earthly woman or man is missing out? Is it not good that God takes the best of humanity for himself, so to speak?
I asked the mother if it was wrong of us to think this way. She said 'no, we are only human', but maybe that's just her hamster talking :-)
Each of the new priests had his 'Primiz' lined up for the next day (Sunday).
I discovered that 14 of those 70 priests had accompanied Father A_________ to the mountains in order to be at his Primiz. Again, very touching. Throughout this whole process, I got this strong impression of 'brotherhood' among these priests.
It is a truly mesmerising process for a woman to experience.
Are you men aware of this 'feature' or 'bug' of womanhood, I wonder?
Needless to say, Father A__________'s Primiz was the celestial highlight it was billed to be. Let's just say we the choir exceeded our own expectations and gave him the concert of his life. Hey, these are not my words, that's what he himself said in his 'thank you' speech at the end. No we didn't pay him to say that, lol.
We are so very proud of him and wish him immense success and all the Graces of our Heavenly Father in his life and mission as priest.
I would like to leave you with some of the music we sang for him at this very special of occasions.
Just to mention, we may be a Swiss mountain parish choir, but our choirmaster has a bit of a penchant for British composers, I have to say :-) Nothing to do with me :P
We had previously performed Karl Jenkins' 'Mass for Peace'.
This time, he picked Karl Jenkins' 'Te Deum' as our introduction for the very first Mass of Father A_____________.
Here is a taster:
I only vaguely knew of John Rutter prior to this choral preparation. But I had certainly never heard of his so very beautiful 'Für die Schönheit dieser Welt' before we started practising it.
It is simply stunning.
Here I have it in English and German: (We, of course, sang it in German).
At the very end, we sang the 'Hallelujah Chorus' from Handel:
We brought the roof down, if I may say so myself :-) !!!