I. THE RESURRECTION
Early Sunday morning the women went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried only to find that the stone which had been placed there was rolled away and that the body of Christ had disappeared. Upon entering the tomb they were met by an angel of God who told them not to fear, because Christ had risen from the dead, as He foretold, and that He was going into Galilee. That same day the Apostles, some of the women, and many others saw Our Lord and talked with Him. On the road to Emmaus He appeared to two disciples, and, as they walked along together, He spoke of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Himself and, at the close of the day, He broke bread with them. Yes, Christ had really arisen from the dead!
(1) "He is not here, for He has risen as He said." In reviewing the life of Christ, I find that He did everything possible to inspire belief in what He taught and promised. And, as if His miracles still did not prove Him reliable and trustworthy, Christ told His disciples that the final proof would be His resurrection. In announcing to the women that Christ had risen from the dead, the angel reminded them of this prophecy. It was as if the angel said: "Did He not tell you that this was what to expect?" Oftentimes I ask myself: "Am I sure that I will be a good priest? How do I know? Whose word can I take?" Christ has told me everything I need to know. And so, as each little doubt is cleared away and each problem disappears, the scene of the Resurrection returns and the angel asks: "Did He not tell you beforehand?"
(2) "Do not be afraid." These words have often greeted chosen souls who have had contact with God's angels. Mary heard them at the Annunciation, Joseph heard them before going into Egypt, the Apostles heard them as Christ approached them on the water. In the presence of the "unknown," God dispelled their fears. It may be the fear of the "unknown" that causes me to hesitate at the door of seminary training. When my pastor, my parents, my bishop, and my own conscience tell me not to be afraid, I should gratefully accept the advice and welcome the chance to see for myself.
(3) "He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things referring to Himself." Since Christ will be the center of my priestly life, I should begin now to study Him and to draw from His words and actions the principles that will govern me. Directions are necessary in this study, but Our Lord Himself, living in the New Testament, is the best guide. Wise directors of the spiritual life recommend the reading of the Scriptures every day as a means of nourishing the desire to become a priest. In these precious moments Christ will speak to me, as He spoke to the disciples on the day of the Resurrection, and will unfold the riches of His doctrine.
II. THE ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN
In order that the Apostles might carry on the work of Christ and distribute to all men the graces He earned for them on Calvary, Our Lord shared with them some of His divine powers. mettle? Among these was the power to baptize and to forgive sin. He also conferred upon them the power to preach and to teach. In this important work for souls they were not to be left alone, Christ assured them, for until the end of time He would remain with them and their successors to guide them, to assist them, and to give them the grace to persevere. As Christ bade them goodbye, He blessed them, and then ascended to His Father in heaven.
(1) "Peace be to you!" When Christ greeted the Apostles with the word "peace," He was expressing the wish that they enjoy all the blessings of God. The world wants peace; it wants concord among nations and harmony among all people. But there is one kind of peace which the world cannot give. It is the kind that really counts; it comes from God through the priesthood, the Mass, and the Sacraments. Let this thought be on my mind as I think of the priesthood: I can bring the blessings of peace into the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people if I accept the invitation to the priestly life!
(2) "Go into the world and teach all nations." The average business or profession deals with a limited number of people and with a few well-defined problems. Its scope is narrow; its interests, local. One is consequently amazedat the extent of the command that the eleven Apostles received to teach all nations all things that Christ had taught them. This assignment called for initiative, zeal, and a burning love of God. It called for the sacrifices of missionary life and the willingness to offer oneself entirely to the service of God. Good health, prudence, a deep interior life, and a personal love of Our Lord are some of the qualities which the command assumed. Is there a challenge here for me? Is Christ testing my mettle?
(3) "I am with you all days.... And as He blessed them He was taken up into heaven." The last words of Our Lord as well as His parting gesture be speak the tenderness of His love for those who do His work. Christ had called the Apostles His friends, He had prayed for them, and He had told His Father that He wanted them to be always with Him. How touching the scene, and how beautiful, on that Ascension Day when Our Lord pledged His eternal love, and then as He lifted His hands in blessing, returned to His home in heaven! Christ's love for His priest never fails. I can rightfully expect to be called His friend if I worthily do His work. And some day, I know not when, I will be taken up to heaven where the mark of the eternal priesthood will entitle me to His love forever!
III. THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
To console the Apostles at His leaving, Christ told them that He would send the Holy Spirit to assist them in their work. It was a timid and lonely group of men who stood looking up as their Lord and Master ascended into heaven. But what a change took place in their souls when on Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon them in the form of parted tongues of fire and filled theirsouls with the promised gifts! Strangers and townspeople alike were astounded by the gift of tongues, and by the zeal of the Apostles in preaching the doctrine committed to them by Our Lord.
(1) "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit." One of the dangers of youth is the desire for independence beyond what it is capable of handling. Youth wants to do things alone. This explains why many sincere young men are easily discouraged at the extent of the priesthood's work, and are hesitant about accepting its vast responsibilities. They think of the salvation of souls as a work which they will have to perform alone; they do not realize that they are entirely dependent upon God, and that the work they do is really His work. On Ordination day the candidate for the priesthood will receive the Holy Spirit, and from that moment on he will never again be independent. He will appear to save souls, to make converts, to preach, and to teach, but he knows that it is the Holy Spirit working in him who is responsible for the success.
(2) "We have heard them speaking in our own languages." An undeniable glory of the Church is that, no matter where its priests have worked (in cities or in rural areas, in this country or in mission lands, with the rich or poor, with young or old), they have been the leaders and friends of the people. "He is like one of us," is the observation made as they see their priest moving among them. There is a language among men. common It is the language of love. And who should know this language better than the priest who talks so intimately with Christ in the Mass and Breviary, and who on Ordination day has had enkindled in his soul the fire of divine love?
(3) "Peter lifted up his voice." The choice of the men upon whom He laid the responsibilities of the priesthood has baffled those who look for human wisdom in the selections which Christ made. Peter, the impetuous and lovable fisherman, has been studied from this viewpoint more than the others. Peter made mistakes; sometimes he talked out of turn, and three times he denied Our Lord. But how he redeemed himself when he professed his faith in "the Christ the Son of the living God," and after Pentecost when he became the first to lift up his voice! We see in St. Peter the hard-working, sincere priest who through human frailty occasionally falls short of the ideal, but who through a tremendous child-like faith keeps on working for Christ. Anyone who is a man of faith, can become a priest of God!
IV. THE ASSUMPTION
The Church teaches that Mary died a natural and painless death, and that her body was later taken up to heaven. It is not on Biblical or secular history that the Church depends for these facts, but rather on other doctrines regarding the Blessed Mother. It would not have been fitting for the virgin body which carried and gave birth to the Saviour of the world to suffer corruption, but it would rather be expected that God preserve it from physical decay. Nor is it thinkable that God would postpone reunion with His Mother until the general resurrection. Furthermore, the triumph of Mary over Satan and sin which was prophesied in the Old Testament would have been no triumph at all had she been subject to an effect of original sin such as bodily decay.
(1) "Thou wilt not give Thy holy one to see corruption." These words refer primarily to Our Lord, but some spiritual writers apply them in a sense to that spotless Virgin to whom priests have consistently turned for a model in the holy virtue. Great men have traced their greatness and holy men their sanctity to the Immaculate Mother, whose example they tried to imitate and whose help they successfully sought. I must not be afraid of the vow that priests make to preserve themselves from the sins of the body and even from the natural use of it, but in every thought and action prepare by placing myself now in the care of Christ's Mother, the incorruptible Queen of virgins!
(2) "Mary has been taken up into heaven; therefore do the angels in their choirs rejoice." These words taken from the Mass of the Feast of the Assumption give me a picture of the devotion which all heaven has for its Mother. How the angels must have watched their Queen and followed her every step as she worked and cared for her Divine Son! Everything she did, everything she said, was a matter of interest to them. It is easy to understand the joy they felt when she was assumed into heaven. Without Mary I cannot be a good priest. I will look to her, as the angels did, and through the Rosary, the Litany, and through her feast days keep up contact with her Immaculate Heart. She will be the hope and joy of my priesthood.
(3) "She shall crush thy head (the serpent's), and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." To cite the names of those who have written or spoken of Mary's power over Satan and his works would be to give the entire list of Saints. I know from their words - and I will know some day from experience - that Mary shows herself a Mother of priests especially in times when the devil's work of inspiring lukewarmness, indifference, and opposition is strongest. The hesitant convert, the lax parent, the indifferent youth, the calloused sinner-all will drop to their knees when the power of the Blessed Virgin is invoked through the prayer of the priest.
V. THE CORONATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
The source of Mary's honors and privileges is the fact that she is the Mother of God. Her Immaculate Conception, her fullness of grace, her sinlessness, her perpetual virginity, and her Assumption into heaven are the distinct privileges that flow from her Divine Motherhood. It is because of this, too, that her place in heaven is without rival and that she reigns there as its devoted Queen. Since Mary is the Queen of heaven, she is Queen of all who dwell there - of the angels, the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, the confessors, the virgins, and the saints. And, finally, Mary is the Queen of peace and of the Most Holy Rosary.
(1) "Queen of the Apostles." The sight of the Apostles watching Our Lord ascend into heaven and the picture of their first missionary journey loses the note of sadness somewhat, when we see hovering behind them the woman whom Christ had given them as their Mother. How many times during His lifetime the Apostles had called upon her for help we do not know, but no one questions that her motherly love knew no bounds when applied to these men who were destined to carry on the mission of her Divine Son. If God grants me the privilege of becoming an apostle, the responsibilities will rest more lightly upon my shoulders because of Mary's interest in the apostolic commission. She was the Apostles' Queen; therefore she will be mine!
(2) "Queen of the Most Holy Rosary." Mary revealed to the world that through the recitation of the Rosary and meditation on its Mysteries souls will be led to God and men will begin to live in peace with one another. In view of the purpose of the priesthood, is not this revelation one that should appeal to me? How effective the Rosary is in the work and life of a priest can be judged by the prominent place it occupies in the seminary, in the priest's daily devotions, and sometimes in the garb he wears. St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, is always pictured with a rosary in his hands. My day will be considered incomplete and my work only half done if I neglect to meditate on Christ's life by means of the Rosary. Mary, its Queen, will watch over me if the devout recitation of it is made an important, and indeed a daily, part of my priestly life.
(3) "Queen of heaven." The goal of every priest is to save his soul by saving others through the work of the priesthood. He seeks no immediate reward as he follows his round of meditation, visits to the sick, and instruction of converts, but he makes no secret of the fact that his mind is on heaven, his final reward. Because of the mark of the priesthood, he will enjoy a higher place in heaven if he has co-operated with God's graces. This the priest knows; it is his rightful hope. May the meditation on these Mysteries of the Rosary help me decide my vocation and, if it be God's holy will, may I someday be present as "another Christ" at the throne of Almighty God and of His heavenly Queen!