"THE FIRST MASS OF A NEWLY-ORDAINED PRIEST IS TRULY A CAUSE FOR GREAT REJOICING!"
Those are the first words said by Fr. John Burke, O.P., preacher at Fr. Richard Mary Jastrzebski, O.P.'s Mass of Thanksgiving here at our monastery this morning. (Fr. Rick is the beaming one in the lovely and heavy gold vestment in the photo above, with Fr. John Paul Walker at his right). We couldn't agree more with Fr. Burke. The liturgy, was superbly coordinated by our chaplain, Fr. Kieran Fergus, O.P, who acted as priest-deacon and master of ceremonies. Three of our Dominican brethren, Fr. Burke, Fr. Carlos Quijano, and Fr. John Paul, and a diocesan priest, Fr. Joe Salerno, joined Fr. Rick at the altar. We were blessed with four servers, two of our Dominican student brothers, Bro. Bruno Mary Shah, and Bro. Martin Siena (both stationed at St. Vincent Ferrer's, NYC, this summer), and two young men, Maciej and Tony, from our archdiocesan seminary at Seton Hall University. The Mass was "super-spectacular" (to borrow a favorite expression of Fr. Kieran). There were smells (incense) and bells and also...FLASHING LIGHTS... (More on that phenomenon later!)
In his homily, Fr. Burke acknowledged in a very powerful way our mission as nuns in the Order."We preachers need the insistent prayers of our Dominican sisters, you who have devoted yourselves entirely to praying for Dominican preachers...You pray for many people, Sisters, but the most important prayers you offer are for our Dominican preachers." Father then recalled how we prayed for Fr. Rick in his long years of formation. Then, Father paused and said, "But Rick has another thing on his agenda for you..."
At that moment, we heard the hooting sounds and saw the flashing lights of the fire alarm! Fr. Burke exclaimed, "What have I said?!" Sr. Mary Martin rushed out of the choir to find out where the alarms were coming from, and then, finding the source, rushed to the sacristy, which was filled with billowing clouds of incense! One of the Dominican brethren (who requests anonymity) recommended to Sr. Judith Miryam, the rookie sacristan, that it would be better to have the thurible inside the sacristy rather than in the sanctuary, because of the potential for smoke. Sister agreed, not knowing that our smoke alarms are incense-calibrated in the sanctuary and not in the sacristy! (No doubt the superior new charcoal and Russian Orthodox incense may have contributed to setting off the alarms). Sr. Mary Martin had to bring the thurible outside the door of the chaplain's quarters porch.
We nuns couldn't help laughing, since scenarios like this are fairly common in our monastery, reminding all of us, as one of our dearly departed sisters liked to say, "We have one foot in eternity and the other on a banana peel!"
Fr. Burke continued his homily, without missing a beat, and spoke of the beauty of the priest's vocation. "By his ordination, God gives the priest the power to shepherd his people, to ease the pain of illness and suffering, to assist the dying in their final journey to eternal life, to forgive sins, and, above all, Jesus gives the priest the power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In giving the priest the power to be a priest, God also gives the desire, indeed the hunger, to do all things that a priest is called to do, and to minister with joy and in a spirit of true peace..."
After the Mass and reception, we went downstairs to greet Fr. Rick and meet his family and friends and renew acquaintance with the brethen who were there. His mother, Doris, was beaming and crying at the same time. Indeed, it is such a great honor to be the mother of a priest.
Please pray for Fr. Rick as he begins his new parochial ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Zanesville, OH, that the Lord may bless and prosper his preaching and minstry to Christ's flock.