I have been asked by the Sisters to be a Roman correspondent for their blog. At first glance, a transitional Deacon making guest appearances on a contemplative nun blog might seem a bit strange, but then, the Sisters have been so good to me with their prayers that I could not say no to them. For those of you who don’t know, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration have as a particular aspect of their charism prayer for priests, so this association may not be as strange as it seems.
I am a Deacon with the Diocese of Gaylord in Northern Michigan, and, God willing (and if the Sisters prayers are powerful enough) next summer I will be ordained as a Priest. In the mean time, I am in Rome studying Canon Law at Santa Croce University and living at the Casa Santa Maria, a house of the US Bishops for American Priests pursuing advanced degrees in Rome. Bl. Pius IX erected it, and it was originally the American Seminary in Rome. After the Second World War, the Bishops built a new House, the Pontifical North American College, and they decided to use the Casa for Priests. Before Pius gave it to the US Bishops, it was a convent of cloistered nuns, so, I seem to have all sorts of ties to cloistered nuns!
Today was an historic moment in the Church: Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed two new Doctors of the Church: St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard von Bingen. Including them, there are only 35, which considering the thousands of canonized saints (you must be a saint before you can be a doctor) makes them a very rare breed.
I have been to many Papal masses before, and I have even read at one, and received communion from the Holy Father at another, but this time it was totally different. I was ordained a Deacon on August 6th, the Transfiguration, and so, for the first time, I was able to help with the distribution of Holy Communion. They gave us clear instructions that we were only to distribute Communion on the tongue, never in the hand. We all gathered in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Peter’s Basilica, where we were given a surplice and a stole. We then were escorted to the Sanctuary, where we were about 20 feet from the Papal throne, and 50 feet from the altar. At the start of the Eucharistic prayer, we were escorted back into the Basilica where we each received a Ciborium filled with hosts. We then went out and down in front of the altar. When it was time for Communion, we were escorted out into St. Peter’s Square to begin the distribution.
It was a remarkable thought for me that, only two months after my ordination, there I was standing in front of the Pope and holding hosts that by his words became the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Up until the consecration, my whole focus was on the Pope. As soon as he said the words of consecration, I immediately was able to transfer my attention from the Vicar of Christ to Christ Himself. Of course regardless of whom the celebrant is, the transformation from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ takes place, but, I thank God that even though this was such a remarkable event, I was able to focus on the most important thing of all: Jesus my Savior, now present in my hands. The sisters may never get the chance to attend a Papal Mass, and many of you may not either, but that is not important. I hope and pray that during this upcoming Year of Faith, strengthened by the example of the Poor Clares in San Antonio, you may increase your Eucharistic faith, and that you come to see the value of the Eucharist in your life!