It was an ordination Mass unlike any the Archdiocese of Denver has ever seen.
Empty pews could be seen throughout the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, with a few family members and clergy sprinkled throughout to maintain social distancing protocols as mandated by the Colorado governor. For the five men who were ordained to the priesthood, it wasn’t how they envisioned this day they’d awaited for so long.
But for Fathers Christian James Mast, Chris Marbury, Chris Considine, Juan Adrian Hernandez Dominguez and Juan Manuel Madrid, it didn’t matter. The immense joy of being ordained priests of God could be seen on the smiles of gratitude their faces held throughout the Mass.
As Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila ordained these five men as the archdiocese’s newest priests, he offered powerful words of encouragement and challenging comments about what it truly means to be a priest.
“You, my dearest sons, are called to share in the same ministry of Jesus Christ. To the laying on of my hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit, this Holy Spirit will be upon you and anoint you for that mission. It is always important to keep in mind that the mission you share, it is the mission of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Aquila told the men. “The mission is never about you. And remember, in those moments of temptation, when you will want to be the center of attention, in those moments of temptation where you are looking for affirmation, in those moments of temptation towards laziness, remember the glorious mantle that is being poured out on you today. You are not to have a listless spirit. You are to go forth in joy, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
As priests, the men are called to be conformed to the icon of Christ, the shepherd and bridegroom of the Church, the archbishop said. In their priesthood, they will have a responsibility to conduct themselves in such a way that bears witness to Christ and his Church.
“Never forget who you become and who you are,” the archbishop told them. “Especially with the fact, my dearest sons, that you are public persons from here on out. And as public persons who belong to Christ and the church, you can give great witness by your love for Christ and the church by the lives that you live in being that icon.”
Citing the book of Jeremiah, Archbishop Aquila continued to implore the men of this call to never forget who they are, both as children of God and as priests.
“Just as we hear in the book of Jeremiah, ‘I knew you before you were born. I knit you together in your mother’s. womb.’ That is true for every human being, and most especially for you,” Archbishop Aquila said. “We see that truth in being faithful to the word. Jesus goes on as he prays. ‘I gave them your word. And the world hated them because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
“And those are strong words by Jesus, and the world today will hate you. The world today will ridicule you because of what you believe,” the archbishop continued. “The World today continues to hate Jesus Christ. And hate put Jesus Christ on the cross. We can never forget that. And it is important to understand who you belong to. You belong to Christ. You do not belong to the world any more than he belonged to the world.”
Especially as society deals with the reality of living in a global pandemic, priests have a special obligation to continue to care for the souls of their flock, even those on the verge of the death. Touching on this, the archbishop once again urged the men to remember who they are when faced with these situations.
“You will be called into situations you never, ever dreamt you would be called,” Archbishop Aquila said. “And whether it’s anointing the sick and the dying, or whether it is an emergency Baptism, in those moments, your heart will be moved with compassion. You may even shed tears. But with that, what is there is the compassion of Christ. “
To conclude, Archbishop Aquila cited the gospel reading of the Mass from the book of John and charged the men with being witnesses to Christ in the world.
“People are hungry today. And you, my beloved sons, are great witnesses to the call of Christ and what can be accomplished today,” the archbishop concluded. “Remember the prayer of Jesus in today’s gospel and carry it with you throughout your priesthood. He is consecrating you today for himself and for the truth. He is consecrating you so that you may give witness to him and to the world. And remember, he is sending you into the world.”