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“In today’s readings the Word of God describes for us two historical figures — one who obeys God, the other who obeys himself. Their decisions to answer a call or not to had very serious implications for many people,” said Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley in his homily at the Rite of Ordination to the order of Presbyter.
Fathers Robert Cullen, Jason Makos, David Marcham, Joseph D’Onofrio, Benjamin LeTran, Thomas Rafferty, Robert Poitras and David Shoemaker answered God’s call by becoming priests on May 21, he said.
Archbishop O’Malley described the setting of the first reading in which God seems far away to the people of Israel, he said.
“It’s as if He no longer existed, and in a period of tranquility and comfort no one bothers to ask about Him,” said Archbishop O’Malley. “The voice of the Lord calls out the man whose heart is open. God once again makes Himself heard in the midst of humanity’s indifference.”
The man He called on, Samuel, answered the Lord’s call, accepted his vocation and took on both the burden and fulfillment that comes with difficult service, he said.
“How comforting this story is for us in our dark days in which our world finds itself. We too must pray that God’s lamp won’t go out,” the archbishop added. “We must learn that it is the responsibility of every Catholic in the entire Church community to foster vocations.”
In the Gospel reading a rich young man is called by Christ but is not ready to respond to his vocation.
“The rich young man who called on Jesus, who was looking for meaning in life, who asked the right question, who obeyed the 10 commandments from his youth, dropped the ball and went away sad. We share that same sadness for every vocation that does not come to be,” he said.
Those called to the priesthood face struggles and persecution as Jesus did, and these difficulties unite them with Christ, he said.
“The call to ministry is a call to the cross,” he added. “There are countless joys and consolations in the priesthood. Jesus enumerates just some, but He solemnly adds to the list of benefits and perks with persecution.”
Priests enjoy an intimate friendship with Jesus that is fostered by a life of prayer, daily Mass and frequent confession, the archbishop said.
“When we were kids, my dad always used to say to us, ‘When it’s time to get a haircut, it’s time for confession,’ and that’s true even when you’re bald,” he said.
Archbishop O’Malley thanked the eight men for heeding God’s call.
“You are the Samuels of today. You are the rich young men who didn’t run away when Jesus said, ‘Follow me,’” he said.
After the homily, each candidate made a promise of obedience to the archbishop and his successors and lay prostrate during the litany of the saints as a sign of their humility. Then the archbishop and other attending priests participated in the laying on of hands. This was followed by the prayer of consecration, investiture with stole and chasuble and anointing of the hands.
The new priests were then handed a paten and chalice from the archbishop while he said to them, “Receive the oblation of the holy people to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
The eight priests, along with the archbishop, then distributed communion. At the end of the Mass, all the new priests blessed the archbishop, and he kissed their hands.
“I have a great sense of joy to be ordained a priest of Jesus Christ to serve God and His people,” said Father Marcham. “I am even more emotionally uplifted and humbled than I could have ever imagined.”
Father Marcham said he began to pray earnestly about a vocation to the priesthood after hearing the Gospel reading about the rich young man at a Sunday Mass. God was speaking to him that day, he said.
He added that he was thankful that so many friends and family were able to attend his ordination and that he was able to give Communion to the people who raised him in the faith.
Father Marcham requested that Catholics across the archdiocese pray for him and his classmates, who seek to preach the Gospel and bring people to the Lord.
Father LeTran echoed several of Father Marcham’s sentiments, asking that Catholics pray for him and saying that he was thankful his family, many of them from Vietnam, were able to attend the ordination.
Throughout the ordination Father LeTran thought about the day he left Vietnam in 1989 on a little boat, seeking freedom and a better life, he said.
He said he realized, “God gave me a greater gift than I can bear.”
(See profiles of the newly ordained here)