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The Rites of Priestly Ordination

Fr. Joe and I were glad to see so many families from St. Vincent de Paul at the Cathedral on Saturday. If you weren’t able to make it, or even if you were – because it’s easy to miss all the rich symbolism as it happens – we wanted to offer an explanation of what happened during the rites of ordination. I’m going to focus on the rites of priestly ordination in particular, and if you want the explanation of the rites of diaconate ordination you can pull out your bulletin from May 21, 2023 (or find it on the parish website) for Fr. Joe’s explanation from last year.

Many priests and deacons were present to concelebrate and assist at the ordination Mass. Both men to be ordained joined the entrance procession and then were seated with their families, vested according to the rank of their ministry or order: Gregory in amice, alb, and cincture, as an acolyte; and Dcn. Hoffmann in amice, alb, cincture, and stole, as a deacon.

After the proclamation of the gospel, a deacon called the two men forward, who stood before the bishop and declared themselves “Present,” one after the other. Before ordaining a man, the bishop must be sure that they are properly prepared to exercise these roles in the Church, and the rite of ordination includes a short dialogue to demonstrate this. Fr. Paul Clark, the Director of Seminarians, publicly stated to Bishop McKnight the Church’s desire to ordain these men. Bishop McKnight inquired of each man, “Do you know him to be worthy?” Fr. Clark replied, “After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those concerned with his formation, I testify that he has been found worthy.” Bishop McKnight declared, “Relying on the help of the Lord God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose this our brothers for the Order of the Diaconate (and the Order of the Priesthood).” The whole congregation replied, “Thanks be to God!” and applauded the election of both candidates for Holy Orders.

After the bishop’s homily, both men came before the bishop individually to make the promises required before ordination, including the promises of celibacy, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to celebrate the sacraments faithfully, and of respect and obedience to the bishop and his successors.

Following the promises, one of the deacons sang, “Let us kneel,” and both men lay face down on the floor of the cathedral while everyone else knelt in prayer for the singing of the Litany of the Saints, invoking the intercession of the whole Church Triumphant as the gathered assembly implored the Lord to “Bless, sanctify, and consecrate these chosen men.”

Following the Litany, the bishop ordained Gregory Clever to the diaconate. When those rites were completed, Dcn. Clever took his place next to the bishop, and it was time for the rites of ordination to the priesthood.

Dcn. Hoffmann knelt before Bishop McKnight, who laid hands on his head in silence. Every other priest present for the ordination then also came forward to lay hands on his head, a sign of the unity of the priesthood.

After this, Dcn. Hoffmann again knelt in front of the bishop for the prayer of ordination. With the words, “Grant, we pray, almighty Father, to this your servant the dignity of the Priesthood; renew deep within him the Spirit of holiness; may he hold the office second in order, received from you, O God, and by the example of his manner of life may he inspire right conduct,” Fr. Hoffmann was a priest!

Fr. Hoffmann then rose, and Fr. Clark assisted him in removing his diaconal stole and putting on his priestly stole and chasuble.

Then Fr. Hoffmann knelt before the bishop again, who then anointed his hands with the Sacred Chrism (holy oil also used in the Baptism of infants, at Confirmation, and when churches and altars are dedicated), saying, “May the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, guard and preserve you, that you may sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifice to God.”

Fr. Hoffmann’s parents then brought forward a chalice filled with wine and water and a paten with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist, and presented these to the bishop. With Fr. Hoffmann kneeling before him again, Bishop McKnight placed the chalice and paten into Fr. Hoffmann’s hands, saying, “Receive the oblation of the holy people to be offered to God. Understand what you will do, imitate what you will celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.”

Bishop McKnight then gave the sign of peace to Fr. Hoffmann and to Dcn. Clever. The rites ordination concluded with the other priests present giving the sign of peace to Fr. Hoffmann, and the other deacons present giving the sign of peace to Dcn. Clever, welcoming them into the sacred brotherhood of Holy Orders.

Mass then continued as usual, with the new deacon assisting the bishop at the altar and the new priest concelebrating Mass for the first time.

The video of the ordination Mass is still available on the Facebook page of the Diocese of Jefferson City.