Today, March 20, 2014, is my fourth anniversary as a priest in the Holy Roman Catholic Church. In some calendars this is the memorial of St. Cuthbert. (Although Our Lady of the Atonement has, since my ordination, started using a different Church calendar and, therefore, I don't get to celebrate my anniversary on St. Cuthbert's day.) He was the Bishop of Lindisfarne and he had one of the most venerated holy sites located in Durham, England before Henry VIII desecrated it. This is the saint that was venerated at my ordination Mass and my patron saint as a Catholic priest. Below is what I wrote for the inside cover of my ordination booklet.
I give my thanks to God for making me a priest in the Catholic Church. I know this is what He has called me to do. Although, I am not sure why He chose me. Sometimes it seems to me to be some kind of cosmic joke to which only our Lord and the Blessed Virgin know the punch line. Nevertheless, this is where God has put me and I will do the best I can, with His help. God bless you all and thank you for your prayers – Heaven knows I need them!
St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne
St. Cuthbert was born around the year 634. While some accounts say that he was the son of an Irish King most likely he was born to English parents of low rank. In the year 651, while he was tending sheep, he saw a vision of St. Aidan’s soul being carried to heaven by angels and this inspired him to become a monk.
The time in which he lived was of great interest for the Catholic Church in England. Not long before his birth, Pope St. Gregory the Great had sent St. Augustine (of Canterbury) to England in order to evangelize the people. When St. Augustine arrived he found that the Church had already been established but that they followed the Celtic form and not the current Roman form. This caused some dissension amongst the people and clergy of the land and led to the Synod of Whitby in the year 664. At this synod it was decided that the Church in England would be obedient to the Pope and follow the Roman form. This was necessary because it promoted the unity of the Catholic Church in the land. (It should be noted that at this time there was only one Church in the world – the Catholic Church.) St. Cuthbert played a part in defending this decision. Because of his agreement with the synod he was sent to Lindisfarne to be the prior in order to teach the monks the Roman form. He eventually became the Bishop of Lindisfarne. At his death on March 20, 687 he exhorted his monks to remain “faithful to Catholic unity and the traditions of the Fathers.”
Personally, it was the desire for this unity of the Church that caused me to leave the Episcopal priesthood and bring my family into the Catholic Church. It was a desire for the unity of the Church that prompted Venerable John Paul II to create the Pastoral Provision, which has allowed me to be ordained this day. And it is the desire for the unity of the Church that led Pope Benedict XVI to continue to reach out to Anglicans with his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. I am therefore honored to be ordained on St. Cuthbert’s feast day, a man who desired this unity himself.
May our Lord Jesus Christ use me to fulfill, even if only in a small way, his prayer to the Father that we, the various members of the Church around the world, “may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”