In This Concrete Companionship
Deacon Michael discovers that his ordination will be delayed due to COVID-19. How will he face this new reality?
For the past eight years, I have been in the seminary, studying to be a priest. Before the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S., I was scheduled to be ordained a priest on May 30 of this year. However, with the many closures and restrictions, a few days ago I was told that my ordination would be delayed until August.
At this news, my heart sank. I recognized that this decision made sense in the circumstances and would allow for more people to attend the Mass; still, I felt upset, discouraged, and, above all, afraid at what these unexpected two months would hold for me. I recognized that this delay constituted a trial for me, even beyond the initial flurry of emotions. God, what is your plan for me in this time? I asked. Why is this delay such a painful trial for me? I did not understand. Over the following days, I noticed that I was trying to avoid facing this interior reality by occupying myself with activity: schoolwork, cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes—anything to distract myself!
When I noticed how I was running from this reality, I decided to call a friend who is a priest and ask for his advice. After a few minutes spent catching up, I shared with him my situation, my fears, and my experience of not understanding why the delay constituted such a trial for me. We paused in silence for a while. Then he said to me, “I think the Lord is inviting you to live this time like an extended Advent, longing for the coming of Christ to you in the great sacrament of ordination.” I was amazed that he mentioned "longing," for that word had been on my heart and in my prayer for the previous days. I was still more amazed that he mentioned "Advent," for, strange as it sounds, I had found myself humming “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” while doing chores earlier that week. It was an experience of correspondence for me: his words resonated with my heart, and his answer brought me peace.
This encounter was for me an experience of Father Giussani’s words:
“The concrete companionship where the encounter with Christ takes place becomes the place of belonging of our self, from which it draws the ultimate way of perceiving and feeling things, the way of grasping them intellectually and of judging them, the way of imagining, planning, deciding, and doing.” (Generating Traces, 50).
My conversation with my friend was ultimately an encounter with Christ, who clarified for me both the meaning of my trial and its purpose. The meaning which I could not understand on my own became clear in the context of this companionship. Suddenly, I no longer felt sad and afraid of the two unexpected months ahead of me but felt hopeful and even a little excited. With this new perspective, I began to re-engage in the pain of the reality before me: “Only this companionship, therefore, enables us to face reality” (Generating Traces, 50).
Although the delay of my ordination is still challenging and painful for me, I no longer fear the time ahead of me; rather, I experience these days with the hopeful expectation of the coming of Christ. “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Deacon Michael, Indianapolis, Indiana