Our newest Paulist priest celebrated his First Mass yesterday at St. Paul the Apostle Church. It's always a joy to be back in our community's "Mother Church," to return to the altar where I celebrated and concelebrated so many Masses during my 10 years as associate pastor, but especially to be back for such a joyful occasion as we celebrated there yesterday.
One of the reasons a wedding is such a special and festive event is that it expresses and celebrates the hope that the human race will continue and that the story of this or that particular family is far from over but will, it is hoped, continue as well. I suppose that the First Mass of a newly ordained priest is a bit like that. It celebrates our continued confidence in Christ's promise to be with his Church until the end of the age, and our more particular hope that the Church will continue to flourish here in our own time and place and, even more particularly, our hope that our community story - in this case, the story of the Paulist Fathers, their life together, and their mission to North America - will likewise continue.
Reflecting on the Church and the priesthood while in Egypt in 1873, Servant of God Isaac Hecker wrote: "The great work of the Holy Spirit is the the salvation, the sanctification of mankind upon earth and their glorification hereafter by means of the Church. ... It is the Holy spirit who, through the sacrament of ordination, is in the priest who consecrates the Body and Blood of Christ, who pardons sins, who blesses, teaches the word of God, and dispenses grace."
As we watch Fr. Dat begin his sacred ministry, may we all recommit ourselves, according to our proper calling and vocation, to the continuation of this great story!