Many priests observe the anniversary of their ordination at this time of year. It is a common time for ordinations, probably because Ember Days were common times for ordinations and Ember Days fall during the Pentecost Octave. It is my anniversary of ordination today, 21 years ago, by Bl. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was not only the Feast of St. Philip Neri, but it was also Trinity Sunday. A beautiful sunny day.
I got up that morning, ate breakfast, said my prayers, and walked alone across town to the basilica, where I entered through the main doors with the rest of the crowd. After that, however, I went to the right, to the nave, where we vested and waited for the Holy Father. My family members came separately from a different part of town. They had special tickets which brought them very close to the altar.
Since we were 60 in number, and from many countries, the basilica was absolutely jammed with people from all over the world who had come for the ordinations. The number of people, probably some 50k since it was packed to the gills with families and friends and whole colleges and the inevitable tourists, made the responses during the Litany of Saints flow over us palpably as we lay on the floor. Bl. Mother Theresa of Calcutta was there because a couple men were being ordained for the male component of the Missionaries. That group never really got traction. In any event, my parents and grandmother sat right behind her. I had arranged for my grandmother, a convert to Catholicism in her 80′s, to receive Communion from the Holy Father.
I often wonder what happened to the other men with whom I was ordained. I only knew a couple of them personally, since I had been at the Lateran University with them. I know that one fellow is now a bishop in poor Haiti. Also, it was the first year that the Iron Curtain was raised enough in Romania so that a few men were permitted out of the country to come to Rome to be ordained by the Pope. There were quite a few Opus Dei guys ordained with us. Another was the sad, so very sad, John Corapi of the SOLT group. Another of them was ordained that day too. One priest is in England, in Southwark, and it would be great to meet with him during some trip. I reached out to a few some years ago and got only a few responses. I may try again some day, perhaps by writing to their dioceses or institutes and asking that my letter be forwarded.
God doesn’t choose men who are worthy. He chooses those whom it pleases Him to choose. In regard to myself, it’s all a great mystery to me and I will probably won’t get it until I die.
Anecdote: After Mass we lined up, new priests on one side of the side nave, all the cardinals and various prelates on the other, and the Holy Father came and greeted us all. To my shock, my boss the late and great Augustine Card. Mayer who had joined the recessional, came across the nave and, in the sight of the Roman Pontiff, knelt down and asked for my blessing. It was one of several startling lessons he gave me.