This week in Madonna House was dominated, of course, by yesterday’s event of the ordination of Michael Weitl to the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ, by Bishop Michael Mulhall, ordinary of the Pembroke diocese.
It really is hard to know what to say about this event. The chapel was packed with the MH community, Michael’s large extended family from Iowa, his and our friends from all over and next door. The schola cantorum outdid themselves with the music, the handicraft department with the decorations, the kitchen with the food. One of our women made a tapestry reproducing a painting (the artist’s name escapes me) of Christ washing the feet of Peter which hung over the head table. It was also a gloriously beautiful day—Combermere at its very best with bright sun, sparkling river, and a horde of dragonflies eating up all the mosquitoes on our behalf.
All of which is wonderful, but of course extraneous to the heart of the matter, which is this strange and mysterious gift of the priesthood of Jesus Christ conferred on a weak and lowly man. The ceremony is so simple—one man kneels before another man, hands are placed on his head, a prayer is said. And yet in that ceremony so much happens: a radical reconfiguration of the inner being of that man, sacred powers to celebrate the banquet of the Eucharist and wash away sins from the soul. Commissioning to preach and pray and serve God’s people. And in all that, a depth of intimate encounter with Christ that is wholly divine, wholly mystical, utterly mysterious. What is there to say about such things?
A beautiful moment came at the end when the new Fr. Michael, in an old custom, presented his mother with the cloth he had used to wipe the sacred oils from his hands, and received from his father a violet stole that he would use (later that day!) to hear his first confessions, and then return to him. Both of them will keep those items and ultimately be buried with them. Fr. Mike’s dad was heard to joke later that it’s a good thing his son had given them advance notice that this was going to happen, or that might have happened right then and there.
So around all this awe and wonder and holy mystery, we just had a grand good time yesterday, in the good old Catholic way. Fun and frolic and laughter and kids running around everywhere and lots of good food and drink. Today, of course, Fr. Michael will celebrate his first Mass of thanksgiving, suitably on the feast of Corpus Christi. We will have Adoration of the Eucharist all day, as is our custom on this feast, and the traditional Corpus Christi procession and Benediction at the end of the afternoon led, of course, by our brand new priest.
Beyond that (and of course much of the work of the week revolved around that one way or another) it was a fairly ordinary week in MH. The farm continues to be the place of intense activity, with planting of cabbages being one of the big jobs this week. We have our usual international crowd of guests, which means that the FIFA World Cup is a major point of discussion and intense interest here. No fistfights have broken out yet, but it’s still in the first round.