I very much enjoy shooting scenes of the practice of the Roman Catholic faith, and especially rites that one does not see everyday - and such is when a man receives Holy Orders and is ordained a priest in the Catholic Church. On June 2, 2012, I had the good fortune to witness such an event at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Congratulations to Dustin Collins, seminarian no more, now a "priest forever in the order of Melchizedek." The joy on this young man's face throughout the ceremony was readily apparent, as well as the seriousness of what he was about to do.
Fr. Collins was ordained by Bishop Richard Stika (although he did not ordain him, Fr. Collins was also privileged to have one of the princes of the Church, Justin Cardinal Rigali, present as His Eminence retired to Knoxville at the invitation of the priest he mentored, Bishop Stika). Bishop Stika is a mensch - in the picture above, he is kneeling before the newly ordained Fr. Collins, after asking that he might have the new priest bestow his first blessing on His Excellency. At an ordination, the priest takes a vow of obedience to his Bishop and his Bishop's successors - and good Bishops make good priests. Unfortunately, as I have heard from my conversations with priests in other dioceses, having a bad Bishop makes the job all the harder.
His Excellency, the bishop, preached a good Homily, reminding Fr. Collins of the challenges he will face as a priest. He did not tiptoe around a subject that is viewed as somewhat sensational by many outside the Church, namely a priest's gift of celibacy. I know from my conversations with the Bishop that at one time he was Vicar of Priests in St. Louis, and he has counseled priests who have been unfaithful or who have been tempted. The Bishop said, there will be times when a priest mourns the loss of being able to tell a child or grandchild that they love them, but that is the gift to Christ, the total self. For this reason, His Excellency cautioned Fr. Collins and all his priests, never neglect their prayer life - and to rely on the two people with whom they share their lives: the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. Bishop Stika spoke of how often he hears a priest say he is too "tired" and starts letting things slip - the Bishop joked and said at that point, the priest should switch places with married friends with children for a week and see what being "tired" is really like - but that is when prayer is needed the most.
I was touched by the Bishop's statement: "Do not ask for a perfect priest - ask instead for a holy one." I think we laity can become disappointed and disillusioned when priests act like idiots, whether it is benign as grumpiness or a quick temper - or as sinful as forgetting their vows and engaing in conduct (or the near occasion of sin) that they would counsel us in the confessional to avoid (and no, Father, you do not get the justification of "being a bad example').
So we must honor the relationship - we pray for the priest to be holy, he works to bring us to holiness. Yes, the onus is greater on him, just as it is being a parent in our relationships with our kids. But who did not know going in that it was not going to be easy? It is a responsibility that is accepted - hopefully, after much discernment. Because in both the priest-penitent and parent-child situations, so much is at stake.
Congratulations again to Dustin Collins. And thank you, Father, for saying "Present!" when the Holy Spirit called you to be a priest. I wish him the best of luck at his new assignment, St. Mary's in Oak Ridge.