By Tracey Primrose
Saturday’s ordination of five Jesuits to the priesthood was one of those perfect Southern California days. The sky was blue, the sun was bright and at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood, members of the Jesuits West Province were downright ebullient. Although Covid restrictions had curtailed the number of friends, family and Jesuits who could be present, there were still 325 allowed in the church. There were hugs, high fives and lots of smiles—although perhaps difficult to discern because masks were in place—but you could still see eyes twinkling. Joy was palpable, for all those who had loved and supported these five fine men on their long journey to priesthood.
No one, however, was as excited as Xavier Benavides, SJ; Jack Krouse, SJ; Martin Ngo, SJ; John Guyol, SJ; and Brad Mills, SJ, as they processed down the aisle of the church behind 30 of their brother Jesuits, serving as concelebrants.
In his homily, the Most Reverend Edward William Clark, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, talked about how the priesthood correlates to the cross of Jesus Christ. “To me it’s most evident. The cross is made of two beams, one vertical, one horizonal. The vertical one reaches from earth to heaven, adoration, liturgy, prayer, contemplation, spiritual reading. … The horizonal bar, from right to left and left to right, from hand to hand, is our service to the people of God. Our priesthood, can never be the priesthood of Jesus Christ if it doesn’t include reaching out and caring for the people of God.”
While Bishop Clark spoke about service from the altar at Blessed Sacrament, directly outside, volunteers including Fr. Frank Buckley, SJ, with the Blessed Sacrament Food Pantry, were handing out food to a long line of homeless and underserved people, just as they do every Saturday. It was a poignant symbol of the arms outstretched analogy that the bishop discussed in his homily.
For those who have never experienced an ordination, it is a strikingly beautiful Mass with moments unlike any other liturgy. Each ordinand promises the bishop that he will carry out his office in accord with the mind of Christ and of the Church, under the direction of his Jesuit superior and diocesan bishop. Later, the ordinands lay prostrate on the floor of the church in a biblical gesture of humility. The cantor sings a Litany of the Saints—with invocations for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, the angels, and many martyrs and saints.
During the Laying on of Hands and Prayer of Ordination, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the priestly office is conferred. After the bishop lays his hands upon each candidate, the concelebrating priests do the same. The newly ordained are then invested with the priestly stole and chasuble, and their hands are anointed with Sacred Chrism.
The bond shared by the ordinands was easy to see for those in the church and likely experienced too by the several thousand viewers who watched the YouTube livestream. Speaking in advance of his ordination, Martin Ngo, SJ, said, “The joy of us five standing next to each other that day, that means everything. And it points to what we really want at the deepest level: We want to stand next to each other and serve. I think there’s going to be this point where we’re going to realize during our ordination, ‘Oh my gosh, everyone’s here. Different worlds are meeting, and this is crazy. It’s just going to go by too fast.’”