Saturday, June 1, 2013

From Deacon to Priesthood

Christopher Gama, known as Chris, has been a deacon at Spirit of  Christ Catholic Church during the past year. I have seen him on several occasions and when he gives a homily he commands attention with what he is saying.  My son, who is not a frequent church goer, happened to hear one of Chris' sermons and said, "Now he is someone I could listen to, I like how he preaches!"

On May 30, 2013, I attended Chris' ordination. As I arrived at the church, the parking lot was filling up as if it was an Easter mass!  I noticed that men were in suits and women were in heels.  Some women wore hats. This was certainly a very special event. Inside, the church hummed with the many people. I was handed a beautiful booklet:  Mass of Holy Orders - Ordination of a Priest - Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. It had the prayers, responses and music for the mass.

Over forty priests and deacons in white albs led the procession. Some prests were in brown robes, hoods, beards and sandals. The men reminded me of pictures of St. Francis. The church seemed to vibrate with the many male voices singing the entrance song. Archbishop Charles Chaput entered wearing his mitre and carrying his crozier (staff). He was surrounded by the priests that would concelebrate the mass.

Before the consecration, Archbishop Chaput sat in front of the altar and spoke to the congregation and directly to Deacon Brother Christopher Gama. His mellow voice appeared to be having a conversation with each one of us. "God chooses you, you do not choose God," he told Chris. "You will need to be humble, gentle, patient and loving." He mentioned that a priest must always strive to bring people closer to God and to love one another as Christ has loved us. In order to be friends with God, we must become a friend first. The litany of the saints was sung as Chris lay prone on the floor. The incense burner, with its puffs of smoke, was swung to bless the altar, the people, Chris and before the Gospel was read. The sweet smell of incense permeated the church.

Parts of the ceremony were when the Archbishop anointed Chris' palms with the Chrism oil to indicate the participation in Christ's ministerial priesthood. The Archbishop placing his hands on Chris' head followed by each of the the priests present also taking Chris' head in their hands to symbolize unity of the priesthood.  An emotional part for me was when two deacons placed the chasuble (outer garment of a priest) and the stole on Chris and he took his place with the other priests on the altar.

His family took up the gifts, and as they hugged Fr. Chris and were congratulated by Archbishop Chaput it was very touching and emotional. How proud Chris' family must feel on this special day! I couldn't help thinking that something good had come from two divorced parents.

When mass ended there was a standing ovation before all the clergy walked out in twos. What a wonderful ceremony and I felt honored to be able to be at the Mass of Ordination for Fr. Christopher Gama.

 The following day, May 31, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. Fr. Chris celebrated his first mass. People were not as dressed up as the day of his ordination. He told the story that the towel used to clean his hands from the oil on his ordination would go to his mother. This way, when she approached God on her final day, God would ask her what she had sacrificed for him.  She could then hold up the towel and say, "I gave you my son." Chris's father received the stole from Chris' ordination.

After the mass Chris blessed the nook where a frame had been built to house the statue of Our Blessed Mother. Afterwards, everyone was invited to a burrito breakfast and a slide show of Fr. Chris' life.

This is not the end of the story but the beginning of Fr. Christopher Gama's life as a priest!

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