The first reading recounts how overcome with joy Ezekiel was to be in the temple with God and his brethren. I hope we feel a slice of his joy here in this chapel. I was struck this morning about how different we are. Some have the strangest last names I’ve ever heard (but who am I to speak?), some have written books, some have been thrown down wells, and some have the nastiest toenails known to man–and the ability to describe them very vividly. And yet here we are together. I recently read a book by Kathleen Norris called The Cloister Walk. She says in there, “Only Christ could have brought us all together, in this place, doing such absurd but necessary things.” That seems to me a good description of seminary and formation. It is good to be here.
So I’ve been asking God in prayer lately, “How might this year of seminary, this year of priestly formation be different?”
And yet in prayer I kept thinking about Mary this past week. I guess it makes sense: first there was the feast of the Assumption, then the feast of St Bernard who wrote some incredible things about Mary, then there was Pius X, whose encyclical on the Immaculate Conception is quite famous. Then there was the Queenship of Mary yesterday. And then there is today, a Saturday, the day of the week the Church uses each week during Ordinary Time to celebrate Mary in a special way.
I wonder if the Lord didn’t do this intentionally–that is, I wonder if he didn’t put all these Marian days in a row just as we settle into our first–or sixth–year of priestly formation…I wonder if God did this for a reason, in order to remind us of the importance of staying close to him by staying close to his Mother during our time here at seminary, and of course beyond.
Maybe God is reminding us that Marian devotion and spirituality is not just a nice thing, but rather it is the expectation and hope of the Church for all her people–especially for her priests.
Because, in bearing Jesus, Mary brought and still brings to earth the very GLORY that the first reading and the psalm reference. Ezekiel talks about how his temple was filled with glory, but the psalmist does him one better. He says: the whole land, the whole world is filled with God’s Glory. It is everywhere.
And what is glory? The word at its root means the manifestation of God’s presence, and that is what Mary brought and brings to earth, it is what Mary brings to each of us, and it is what we are called to bring to the world in turn, especially as priests.
And we can’t do it without a relationship with Mary, the one who brings God’s glory, his presence, to earth most perfectly–and I mean a real relationship, not an empty set of pietistic prayers uttered by those with widened phylacteries and lengthened tassels who shake their rosary beads in order to be seen and heard. No, I’m talking about a real relationship with the Blessed Virgin, who teaches us how to bring glory to this earth.
I will never forget the last day of my Christology and Marilogy course with Fr. Guy. Some of his last words to us in the course were these: “If you become a priest and do not have a solid relationship with Mary, one of two things will happen: either you will not remain a priest, or, if you manage to remain a priest, you will be a crappy priest.”