Ordination Reflections and Another Saint of May

To continue reflections on the saints of May, last Sunday (May 15th) was the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer. Since some of our parishioners are still active farmers, it would be good to know more about the patron saint of this way of life.

Like St. Damien whom I wrote about last week, Isidore was a very humble man. He grew up in poverty in a rural area outside Madrid, Spain, in the 12th century. He married a peasant girl who was as poor as he was. (She has also been canonized a saint). But what they lacked in financial resources, they made up for in deep devotion to the Lord and His Church. When their infant son died, they took a vow to devote their lives to prayer and service of the Lord and His poor. Isidore was a day laborer and a ploughman, and as such had to compete for hours with other men who were eager to show up early to the worksite to be the first to get the job. We see this dynamic at work all the way back to ancient times in the parable of the day laborers (Matthew 20). But Isidore was committed to attending daily Mass, even if it meant losing out, since He loved the Lord’s Eucharistic presence more than money.

What little money he did make, he would often give to the poor. Some of his fellow laborers became jealous of him, so when he would contract with landowners for a day’s wage, they would “snitch” on him to his employer complaining that he was shorting them by attending Mass and spending time in prayer instead of working. When confronted, Isidore challenged his employers to see if he was getting as much work done as his fellows. Turned out that he got even more done, and legend has it that because of his dedication to the Lord, the angels helped him complete his plowing work.

His reputation for holiness became widespread and many miracles were attributed to him. Hard to tell how many are historically true, but it is certain that Isidore combined hard work, humility, love of the poor, and tireless devotion to the Lord into a life of true holiness. That’s a pattern for all of us striving to be faithful disciples, farmers or not.

Seven new men were ordained yesterday to the priesthood for service to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for the rest of their lives. Please see elsewhere in the bulletin for their names and suggested prayers. Today also marks the 18th anniversary of my own priestly ordination.

I have happy memories of that blessed day when the late Archbishop Pilarczyk ordained me and seven classmates to share in Christ’s one true priesthood. I still remember how awe-inspiring and thrilling it was to celebrate my Mass of thanksgiving (first Mass) at St. Albert the Great Parish in Kettering, where I had completed my internship year (similar to what Patrick and Stephen did in our parishes). It was a real joy to have my family and friends there as well as all the parishioners who had been so supportive of my vocation.

I was certainly nervous throughout that Mass and especially at the moment of consecration – not because I had any doubts about being called to the holy priesthood but because, even after six years of intensive seminary formation and preparations, it was hard to fathom the mystery that the Lord would choose me to stand in His person as the mediator between God and man in the sacrifice that is Calvary made present again, and be allowed to command that bread and wine become His own Body and Blood. Even after thousands of Masses offered literally every day of my priestly life, although I am not nervous as I was on that first Mass, I am still in awe of God’s goodness and mystery each time I hold up the Sacred Host and the Precious Chalice at that moment of consecration.

I also remember my very first confession. I was assigned to Holy Angels in Sidney (Deacon Patrick Blenman’s home parish)
where both pastor and vicar heard confessions every Saturday afternoon in adjacent confessionals. Fr. Bensman, a holy old priest
(now retired) simply told me to report to duty. When the first penitent walked in, slightly nervous because so many of us find it
difficult to acknowledge our sins before the Lord, I’m sure he did not know that this first confession was far more nerve-wracking for me
than for him!

The experience of forgiving sins in the name and person of Christ is a privilege beyond compare. Although I am no longer nervous at all hearing confessions, I am still in awe of God’s goodness: from the moment He appeared in the upper room telling His first priests, “Whose sins you forgiven are forgiven them,” He has allowed the faithful of every generation to hear His own voice – echoed through the vocal cords of each and every priest – speaking those most beautiful words, “I absolve you of your sins.” When I have the privilege of hearing confessions, I frequently meditate on the passage from Isaiah the Prophet, “Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall become as white as snow.” (1:18).

After hearing untold thousands of confessions – often witnessing the beautiful tears driven by humble love of Christ in countless penitents – I am more convinced than ever that when the faithful return to devout celebration of Mass and confession then the Church will be renewed in ways we can scarcely imagine.

I’ll try to write more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit if I have an opportunity to do so in a future bulletin column.

Pray for: Rev. Chibueze Asiegbulem, Rev. Robert Hale, Rev. Ethan Hoying, Rev. Stephen Jones, Rev. Jacob Lindle, Rev. Uriel Santos Garcia, and Rev. Michael Willig, our newly ordained priests of the Archdiocese.

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