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A heart burning for the priesthood

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This is the first year that newly ordained priests are men I entered the seminary with six years ago. Some are my close friends—the kind you cannot help but thank God for — and all are my dear brothers in Christ. As I see them ordained, I am filled with joy for them and for the diocese — and a delightful longing for my own ordination, God-willing.


I am not the only one to experience this joy for my brethren. After the Mass of ordination to the diaconate June 1, newly ordained Deacon Joe Moschetto commented to me that a particularly moving part of the Mass was witnessing his good friend, Deacon Peter McShurley, being ordained. I reflected on how they had spent so much time together in seminary, where their friendship had grown. These two men and the rest of the men just ordained for our diocese, having journeyed together through such formational years, have now been ordained together for God and the church. They thus became brothers in arms even more profoundly. I long to join their ranks.


Two events from this year have acted as logs, thrown on the fire that burns within my heart for the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The first was when St. John Vianney’s incorrupt heart visited the seminary. Besides being one of the largest relics I have seen, it is the most anatomically significant. This patron saint of priests, especially parish priests, had a heart spilling over with the love of Christ, such that the devil said to him, “If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined.” St. John Vianney himself said that “the priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.”


During the visitation of the relic, I read this saint’s two-page “Catechism on the Priesthood.” With what wonder it filled my soul. My heart began to beat more intensely as I read his bold, marveling statements about the wonder of the priesthood, such as: “The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it. … Oh, how great is a priest!”


The second event was a trip to a pre-K classroom in St. Louis, Mo. Carmelite Sister Grace Augustine Heisler (sister of my friend, seminarian John Paul Heisler) introduced us visiting seminarians to the children. One of the children was called on and informed the class that a seminarian is someone who is going to be a priest. When Sister Grace Augustine asked what priests do, some of them responded that priests tell people about Jesus and bless things. Sister Grace Augustine then told them that the most important thing a priest does is celebrate Mass. She explained that during the ceremony when a man is ordained a priest, the bishop lays his hands on the man’s head and says a prayer, giving him special powers from the Holy Spirit. Using these powers during the Mass, the priest holds the bread and says a special prayer, turning the bread into the body of Jesus.


In 3-year-old vocabulary, Sister had just pierced to the core. “Whoa,” I thought, “I want that superpower.”


Rice, who is from St. Timothy Church in Chantilly, just completed his second year of theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. This summer he is assigned to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019