|Greeting Cardinal Velasio at my Ordination|
Dear family and friends,
Recently, I lost a dear friend. He was a simple Italian man almost half my height. He gave me and my brothers hope in a very dark moment of our history. He guided us through the greatest crisis we have faced. And, on December 14th, 2013, he ordained me a priest.
His name is Cardinal Velasio de Paolis.
We first met when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Papal Delegate over my congregation. After years of holding our founder up as a model of virtue, we had discovered that he was quite the opposite. The Pope could have just shut things down.
Instead he gave us Monsignor—later Cardinal—de Paolis. At first, he was hard for me to understand. He told us to be patient and calm, that there would be a long process we’d have to go through. I, and many of my friends, were all for big, fast changes.
When he came and told us that he wanted us to spend three years revising our constitutions, we thought he was crazy. “You must all revise your constitutions to take out any and all bad influence from the founder,” he explained.
Why not just appoint a council to revise the constitutions? Why not just have the people in charge figure it out and tell us what to do? “No,” he said adamantly. “The Holy Spirit may speak even through the youngest one, so everyone has to have an equal voice.”
|Just after our ordination with Cardinal DePaolis|
And so we started. We broke up into groups of ten or twelve, and went through our constitutions number by number. It was pure pain at first, probably the one thing I most abhorred each month. Even more painful than philosophy class—imagine that!
But then, little by little the Cardinal’s wisdom showed. Once we got the format down, and all had a chance to vent a good deal, we actually started to have some really good ideas, ideas that the majority agreed upon. We started to do Eucharistic adoration before each session. It must have been a year into the project that I actually started to enjoy these “Review of Constitutions” meetings.
When my small group of twelve finally submitted our proposals, and all of the proposals worldwide were gathered together, it turned out that about 80% of what each individual group came up with coincided with the whole. When the final version final came out, it was almost entirely identical to what my little group had produced.
Not only that, but unlike ever before, we truly believed in the Constitutions, for each and every one of us had contributed to their making. Pope Benedict and Cardinal De Paolis knew what they were doing when they asked this of us.
|The laying on of hands at my priestly ordination|
The Cardinal continued to guide us through our long renewal process, but he became especially close to my heart that December day in 2013 when he ordained me along with 30 other young men in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome.
He told us:
“the priesthood is a much higher ideal than any human ideal; it is a response to a call from afar; it comes from God himself… The first sentiment that arises in the human heart when faced with such a calling is something like fear and insecurity, like weakness and fragility…And we can ask ourselves, who could ever feel prepared to proclaim a message that comes from the mystery of God himself? However, we are aware that this is a call from on high to bear a message that’s not my own but of God, and this very awareness gives us the strength to take courage and respond. He who calls and sends is also he who protects, strengthens, and makes fruitful. “Go to whomever I send you and proclaim whatever I tell you. Do not fear, because I am with you to protect you.’”
I am forever grateful to Cardinal Velasio. When one of my brother priests dies, we have a tradition of offering masses for the repose of his soul. I did the same for Cardinal De Paolis, and offered 3 masses for the repose of his soul. I pray that he is now in heaven, and that one day I will be reunited with this great friend and father in the priesthood!
May God bless you,