From Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, who notes:
I can remember the days leading up to my own ordination to the priesthood constantly thinking to myself, “Can I do this? Can I really be a good priest?” My spiritual director at the time, reminded me of the line from Mark’s gospel, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” He was absolutely right. In all Christian vocations – marriage, the single life, parenthood, widowhood, consecrated and religious life – if we do not place ourselves in God’s hands and rely on his mercy and love, we shall fail. Brothers, soon you will stand before this community and answer “I do” to the promises and vows of the priest and the deacon. It is interesting to note, as it for a bishop when he is ordained, that the last “I do” ends with an additional phrase, “with the help of God.” “With human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible with God.” Do not forget this. When a priest or a deacon loses his reliance on God and sees himself as the source of his success, when he stops yearning for that deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, when he listens to the voice that says, “It’s all about you,” he becomes a self-made man who worships his maker. He stands atop a pyramid that is built of his own conceits and it only takes one small shove to push him off the top. But when we rely on God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, when we say “it is not about me” but about Him and His people, then our lives – but most especially the life of deacon or priest – are built on a solid foundation. This foundation is built of the bricks of daily prayer, especially intercessory prayer for the needs of others, the Liturgy of the Hours, the reading of Scripture, and the celebration of the Sacraments, the font and summit of which is the Eucharist, all of this being Christo-centric, relying on Him who alone is our rock and our fortress. Allow God’s grace and mercy to build upon your humanity. Within our Catholic faith we often hear the phrase, “grace builds on nature.” As ordained men relying on God means to freely ask God to take our broken but redeemed humanity so as to use it as means to be a bridge between God and others. In the optional instruction that the bishop may use in this rite, the text reads, “Remember that you are chosen from among God’s people and appointed to act for them in relation to God.” You are at the service of God’s Church precisely as a man called by God and by the Church, not to be separate from the people of God but completely immersed in the people of God, one with them. Stay the good men that you are. Engage people where they are. Go out to the margins, as Pope Francis said, and be with them. I can remember when I was first ordained. I used to play basketball in a number of men’s city leagues in and around Boston. In the beginning, no one really knew that I was a priest but as time went on they did. Over the months of playing in the league, more and more of the men would talk to me about their faith and about their families. They would ask me to do baptisms, to help them with annulments and/or to get married in the Church, even to go to Confession. I’ll never forget that. I was just out being myself, a priest who happened to do a lot of good priestly ministry but also liked to play basketball, at least until a broken ankle on one leg followed by a torn Achilles tendon on the other leg put an end to that. (I remember my pastor saying to me, “Look Wilt Chamberlain, time to decide if you’re a priest or a basketball player.”) My point is that I was not one of the guys, but I was one “with the guys.” Go out and meet the people where they are and be who you are, a priest or a deacon, yes, but also a good guy to whom people will be attracted because of your smile and your love of life and your kindness and charity. Let grace build on that nature, that humanity and grace will flow out of you in a great font of God’s mercy. I’ll conclude with these words from the instruction found in rite of ordination: Share with all mankind the word of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach, what you believe, and put into practice what you teach.