Tales from an ordination in America's parish church, St Patrick's Cathedral in New York City
I don’t like crying, especially not in public, and that’s a thing I run into from time to time. I don’t mean out and out bawling, I mean when you feel something creeping up deep inside of you and your throat and neck get tight and eyes start to swell … and then … the tears … oh boy. This is especially true when shooting events that are life-changers, like weddings and funerals, but there’s a different kind of thing that comes flying out when the Presence of God is experienced. I think that the last time, not including today, that I experienced this is when I was approaching the site where Jesus was baptized in Jordan. It’s not sadness, it’s not joy, its, well … indescribable … and it brings tears to my eyes.
When I arrived at St. Patrick’s Cathedral today at about 8:00 a.m. for the ordination Mass of my buddy Br. Bernardino and his bros, the first thing I saw was kind of funny. It appeared that there were a whole bunch of the Ordinands scurrying frantically around the sidewalk with friends and family, trying to work out logistical things like who sits where, and “Where’s Uncle Pete? He’s always late!” While it was comical, as chaos often appears to an outsider, I’m sure it wasn’t funny in the least to those involved. It was like 14 weddings all occurring at the same time — a sight to behold.
But to these men and their families and friends, this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, and important to get right. I’m also sure that the prospect of lying prostrate before the altar, promising their lives to God, receiving Holy Orders for a forever-long vocation may have been slightly on their minds.
Forever. That’s a big word. The faith, the relationship with God that you must have to offer yourself completely, humbly and in servitude to Christ and the world! That’s a thing that every ordination and consecration screams: “God is alive, and I love him!” It’s the underlying power behind every Roman collar or religious habit, the visual proclamation of that undying truth. WOW.
Being able to cover these types of events has allowed me to see, up close and personal, how active and involved God remains in our world today, lest one think he’s not. In this case, these 14 men, all from different walks of life, were called to a unique relationship with Christ and the Church. Diversity? Oh yeah, they’re diverse — a kid from Florida, a former Fire Department of NY captain, a mathematician, etc. — yet the call is identical. How they heard it may differ to a certain degree, but it’s the same call, and the same response.
When Cardinal Dolan laid his hands on these men’s heads, a radical transformation occurred, right in front of the gathered community, for all to see. Something sacred occurred. This is to what will happen when the host is consecrated by the hands of these very men, and Christ is made present in the Eucharist. It’s what happens when someone receives Eucharist and enters into Communion with Christ and the entire Body of Christ. I have been extremely blessed to be able to realize that the pictures that I make of these things are merely superficial, but if you can use your eyes and the eyes of Faith when gazing upon them, you can see that truly this is natural and supernatural in the same instance.
So, I have been honored by these men to have been allowed to share in this mystery, and indeed to ‘Shoot the Sacred’ — and this is why the tears won’t stop. I pray they never do.