Augustine’s Ordination Day
Published: May 12, 2011
Cistercian Father Alberic Farbolin and his brother priests lay hands upon Brother Augustine. Ordained a priest in January 2002, Father Alberic was the last monk ordained to the priesthood prior to Brother Augustine. He was also Brother Augustine’s novice master when he resided at the Conyers monastery. Today he lives at the New Melleray Abbey, Peosta, Iowa. (Photo by Michael Alexander)
I wonder how many times in the span of a given day do we wish things could be different, say, more to our liking. From the state of the weather, to not getting the winning lottery tickets, to those sighs when we realize we are heading in the wrong direction. I would bet that such wishful thoughts far outweigh the ones that are satisfied with the status quo.
On Saturday, April 30, a series of events coalesced that made everything seem just right in the world. I, for one, could not think of or wish for a single thing to be changed. On that day, our Brother Augustine became Father Augustine. Everything from the weather to the joy that could be felt throughout the church and seen on his face seemed to add up to a resounding “yes” to the way God works with us, to the way God particularly worked with Augustine to lead him to that day.
The priesthood is a mystery, but not a mystery that is separate from the full and living mystery that is life. It is, I like to think, a window through which we can catch a glimpse of this mystery that surrounds us, envelops us, gives rise to our lives and is bringing us home. For all the truths that are involved in priesthood are involved in any truly human and, therefore, seeking life. Sacrificial love, a hope that enables someone to give an entire life to a belief in a life yet to come, a faith that believes in the revelatory truth of things unseen—these wondrous truths all came together as Augustine said yes to the call to become a priest.
They come to us all in different ways, ways that can be lived out differently according to our place in the grand scheme of things. Some might feel called to live out the mystery as a married man or woman.
Others might find it possible and desirable to give fully as a single person, or as a man or woman who feels most at home as a vowed religious. Augustine pondered a long time before he finally knew that the priesthood is where he can be himself, give from what is most deep in himself, and find the strength to seek God in all times, peoples and places. It takes awhile to find that, to find a place where we are at home with all the ups and downs of life.
Bishop Luis Zarama ordained Augustine. It was his first ordination and we were happy to have him. There is something about him that made us all feel at ease, at home. It was an honor for us to host his first priesthood ordination.
The next day, Augustine celebrated his first Mass. He offered it for Larry, his father, who passed away just over a month ago. Augustine’s mom, Connie, and his brother, Mike, and sister, Mary Jo, sat in the front of the church, with Augustine’s nieces and nephew and other relatives. I am sure that if there was one thing that we all may have wished for in terms of difference, it was that Larry would have lived to see Augustine ordained. But as Augustine went through the Mass with a deep calm and peace, I knew that Larry was close, as alive as ever in the mystery we were drawn into. It is a mystery we celebrate in word, and to which we put melody and chant, and, also, our tears. But on Saturday the monastery was filled with gratitude and joy. A wonderful family gave us the gift of a new priest, a man who I know will do his best to find the words that will help us all with a better sense of God and what He does in this world. It is what the priesthood is about—a place of mediation between God and the human. A place that a man chose as his own, as a good fit, on Saturday. It is a good place to be. A place that promises that all will, someday, be right, just right. Sort of like it was on Saturday.