Adelaide Ordinations

What seems a lifetime ago — only two weeks — I travelled to Adelaide to attend the ordination to the diaconate of one of my dearest friends in the seminary.

Someone remarked to me recently — and I agreed wholeheartedly — that in Michael Romeo, Adelaide will get three priests, such is his competence and work ethic. (I’ll get in trouble if he reads that, so here’s hoping he’s so busy with diaconal duties that he doesn’t have time to read this blog.)

Michael was ordained deacon en route to priestly ordination next year. Ordained with him were Arturo Jimenea and Michael Moore, who will be permanent deacons, dedicating the rest of this lives to diaconal ministry.

Video of the ordination has been uploaded to YouTube. An hour-long YouTube clip is a stretch in whatever circumstance, but the beauty of YouTube is that it leaves you free to watch your own customised highlights package. I recommend watching from 29:48, which begins the rite of ordination itself, and from 46:15, which begins a very beautiful post-communion motet. (I forget which. Maybe someone more conversant with sacred music might identify it.)

Colloquially speaking, deacons “hatch, match, and dispatch.” (They preside at baptisms, marriages and funerals.) More formally:

The deacon’s ministry is to bring God’s Word to believer and unbeliever alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptise, to assist at marriages and bless them.  To give viaticum to the dying, and to lead the rites of burial. Once he is consecrated by the laying on of hands, he will perform works of charity in the name of the Bishop. The deacon is to celebrate faithfully the liturgy of hours for the Church and for the whole world.

The “permanent diaconate” was restored to the Latin Church only recently. For many centuries, the only Roman Catholic deacons were “transitional deacons” — that is, men like Rev Romeo, who are ordained deacon in preparation for priestly ordination. The order of “permanent deacons” was restored in 1978.

Notable deacons include St Stephen Protomartyr, St Laurence, and St Francis of Assisi. May they bless and intercede for Michael and his brother deacons, permanent and transitional both.

Canberra’s Catholic festa

Canberra’s Catholic festa

The Canberra Times has a nice article and photo gallery on last weekend’s ordination of Fr Paul Nulley, who succeeds Ballarat’s Fr James Kerr as youngest priest in Australia.

For two days, the precinct around Canberra’s cathedral evoked something much smaller and low key but still similar to World Youth Day. I think several factors contributed to this.

Firstly, the ordination and First Mass were both in Canberra’s cathedral, which is quite central (insofar as Canberra has a centre at all). Before and after both masses, the surrounding restaurants and cafés were filled with people who were attending Fr Paul’s ordination. Many of them were dressed in clerics or habits, which naturally attracted the curious attention of passers by.

Secondly, the Corpus Christi seminarians attended in great numbers. This is the Melbourne seminary’s greatest claim to fame, I think: students cultivate a genuine fraternity, which means that guests of one seminarian enjoy the hospitality and attention of many seminarians, and when a man is ordained, his brothers will make every effort to attend. The spectacle of so many seminarians, who are both young and enthusiastic, left an added impression on passers by, quite apart from the vision of Roman collars and religious habits.

Thirdly, Canberra is a long way from Melbourne, which means that visiting clergy, religious, and seminarians stayed and socialised. Ordinations in Melbourne and Ballarat and Bendigo don’t have quite the same impact because many visitors make a beeline for the event, and then quickly return home. It is entirely understandable, and I did this myself when I attended Fr Ashley Caldow’s ordination in Bendigo. But when an ordination is in a more remote place like Canberra or Bathurst, that option isn’t available, and the alternative lends itself to something of a spontaneous Catholic festival.

I must say, the weekend was a wonderful celebration, and a great opportunity for Catholic witness. I had several conversations with curious locals — in the cathedral precinct itself, at the airport, and on the flight home. I can only imagine other priests and seminarians had similar conversations.

I might add, Pope Francis was often raised in these conversations. His words and gestures, like the “spectacle” of Fr Paul’s ordination, evidently made a positive impact on the people who spoke to me. Such encounters can hopefully contribute, in a small way, to the edification of God’s Kingdom. I always keep faith in the mysteries of grace!

I hope that we will see something similar unfold in Adelaide some time next year. Michael Romeo will be ordained a deacon for the Archdiocese in a few weeks time, which means that he will probably be ordained a priest in 2014. Then we have all the ingredients for another weekend like Fr Paul’s.

Pray for Fr Paul Nulley, and for Michael Romeo, and for the men who will be ordained transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Melbourne this Saturday: Michael Kong, Linh Pham, Minh Tran, and Sang Ho. Ad multos annos!

The current sixth years, four of whom will be ordained on Saturday.

The current sixth years, four of whom will be ordained on Saturday.

Highlights of an ordination

Highlights of an ordination

The photos in this post are of Fr Ashley Caldow’s ordination, in Bendigo’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, on 14 September this year.

The photos are mostly from the Catholic Community of Bl John Henry Newman and Michael Daniel’s Flickr page. There is one exception: Carmel Righetti took the photo of me laying my hands on Ashley’s head.

Seminarians in choir


“In choir” doesn’t mean these guys will lead the singing. It means they are dressed in soutane and surplice, they process in and out with the clergy and altar servers, and they sit in a designated place. Critics of this custom say it is clerical and sets the seminarians apart; proponents — and I am one! — say that it’s good witness to the vitality of the priestly vocation. It can only have a positive impact on the young man who is sitting at the back of the church, moved by the ordination he is attending, but wrestling with the possibility that God might be calling him to be a priest too.

Apart from that, ordinations are a great highlight in the seminary year. Seven or so years at the seminary is a tough slog. There were times when I was discouraged, and I contemplated leaving. Ordinations are an occasion for seminarians to renew their assent to the priestly vocation, and share in their brothers’ joy.

The two seminarians at the head of this procession will be ordained deacons in the next few weeks. Pray for them!

The priestly ordinand


This photo shows then-Deacon Paul Nulley (he was ordained a priest last night) processing in, like the other seminarians, “in choir.” You might just make out a red stole hanging from his left arm. He will wear the diaconal stole during the rite of communion, in the same style that Deacon Ashley Caldow is wearing his.

Ashley, you can see, is not “in choir.” He is vested in soutane, alb and stole. The alb belongs to the late Fr Les Ring, who was Ashley’s parish priest when he was younger. This gives you a better view of the alb:


Incidentally, at an ordination mass the clergy are usually vested in white or gold. But Fr Ashley was ordained on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, so the vestments were red.

Presentation of the candidate


After the Gospel, the seminary rector, Fr Brendan Lane, presented Ashley to the bishop. Bishop Tomlinson asked, “Do you judge him to be worthy?”

Fr Brendan replied, “After inquiry among the people of Christ and upon recommendation of those concerned with his training, I testify that he has been found worthy.”

The bishop then declared his intention to ordain Ashley, and the people replied, “Thanks be to God.” That’s the cue for everyone to applaud. I’ve heard it said that in ancient times, if people did not applaud or otherwise express their consent, the ordination didn’t go ahead!

The bishop preaches


After this, the bishop preaches. Here you can see that Bishop Tomlinson is preaching from a chair placed in front of the altar. The bishop could also preach from the ambo, where the Gospel was proclaimed and where priests usually preach, or he could preach from his cathedra, which is the ordinary place for a bishop to preach (ex cathedra).

I guess Bishop Tomlinson is preaching from here because this is where he will minister the sacrament of ordination. It is closer to the people, and affords them a better view of the rite. This is also the practice in Melbourne and Ballarat.

The ordinand is examined


After the homily, the ordinand resumes his place standing before the bishop who asks him a series of questions. The ordinand resolves to devote himself to the priestly ministry “as a conscientious fellow worker with the bishop.” He resolves to celebrate the sacraments “faithfully and religiously.” He resolves to teach and preach “worthily and wisely.” He resolves to consecrate his life to God, and unite himself with Christ the High Priest.

Then the ordinand approaches the bishop, kneels before him, and joins his hands in fealty. The bishop clasps his hands and asks him, “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?”


Every time Christians kneel and join their hands in pray, we evoke this posture of obedience. It recalls our Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Lk 22:42)

The litany of saints


During the litany of saints, everyone in the church kneels towards the altar, and prays for the ordinand. The ordinand himself lies prostrate before the altar.

This always moved me when I was a seminarian, and it moves me still.

The laying of hands


The bishop lays his hands on the ordinand in silence.


All the priests present — me too! — do the same. The act of the priests isn’t sacramental. Their imposition of hands merely makes more forceful the outward sign of power being conferred through the bishop’s sacramental action.



The bishop stretches out both hands and speaks or sings the prayer of consecration. At Ashley’s ordination, the priests present formed a semi-circle behind the bishop, raised their right hand and prayed in silence.

I’ve never seen this happen before, but apparently it was the universal practice in the pre-conciliar rite of ordination. I guess it’s one of those things that some dioceses have held on to.



The bishop anoints the new priest’s hands with the oil of sacred chrism. This oil is also used at baptism, confirmation, and in the coronation of Christian monarchs.


Here Fr Ashley wipes the chrism from his hands. Since the oil is perfumed, the cloth becomes perfumed. The day after I was ordained, at the conclusion of my Mass of Thanksgiving, I presented the purificator I had used to my mother.

The mother of a priest is often buried with the cloth wrapped around her hands. Then — this is a superstition, but a pious and edifying one, if not taken literally! — when she stands before the Lord, her hands smell of chrism, and our Lord recognises her as the mother of a priest.

The priest is vested


A priest assists the newly ordained to be vested. Fr Ashley asked Fr Michael McAffrey FSSP, from Adelaide, to assist him. As you can see, Fr Ashley was vested in a Roman chasuble, also known as a “fiddle back” chasuble.

Many people view this design as “pre-conciliar” and associate it with the Traditional Latin Mass. The Gothic chasuble, which is much more commonly used, is viewed as its modern counterpart. In fact, though, the Gothic design is more ancient than the Roman design. Both designs are perfectly legitimate, and may be used at either form of the Roman Rite.

Presentation of gifts

The bishop presents the new priest with the gifts which will be offered for sacrifice. An ordinand will often receive an ordination gift of a new chalice and paten, so these are used in this rite. The paten is loaded with bread and the chalice is filled with wine and water.

Having received the gifts for the sacrifice, the gifts are moved to the altar where they are offered at the same Mass.

The sign of peace


The rite of ordination concludes with the sign of peace. The bishop is the first to express his fraternity with the new priest.


And then Fr Ashley’s sacerdotal brothers are able to do the same.

Consecration to our Lady


At the conclusion of his ordination Mass, Fr Ashley consecrated himself to our Lady and entrusted his priesthood to her. This is an entirely optional addition, and quite distinct from the ordination. After all, the sacrament itself already consecrates a priest to the Holy Trinity.

Speaking personally, though, I think this is a beautiful custom. I did the same, not at the conclusion of my ordination Mass, but at the conclusion of my Mass of Thanksgiving the next day. I keep the text of my consecration and entrustment on my desk, and I make it a daily habit to to read it and interiorly renew it.

Priestly blessings


It’s an old and venerable custom to ask a newly ordained priest for his blessing. (“Newly-ordained,” in this context, applies for 18 months after the ordination!) You can say, quite simply, “Father, your blessing,” and if you’re able, you kneel before him. (He won’t mind whether you stand or kneel.) The priest then gives his blessing.

From the look of this photo, my guess is that Fr Ashley is giving the traditional blessing of the newly ordained, which is very lengthy and easier to read than to memorise!

At the conclusion of the blessing, many people kiss the palms of the priest’s hands. These hands, after all, were recently anointed with the sacred chrism, and the same hands handle the Body and Blood of Christ and minister the sacraments. In my experience, half the people kissed my hands, and half didn’t, so don’t feel pressured either way. Again speaking personally, I think this is a beautiful custom.

So, if you run into Fr James Kerr, or Fr Ashley Caldow, or Fr Paul Nulley, or Fr Siju Mukakejakayil in the next 18 months, ask them for a blessing!

Ordination of Paul Nulley

Ordination of Paul Nulley

Paul Nulley will tonight be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn. Keep him in your prayers!

Priestly ordinations are great occasions, not only for the ordinand, but also for the wider Church. Hopefully, too, they are an occasion for the next generation of priests to discern a priestly calling and respond with generosity.

Here Ballarat’s newly ordained Fr James Kerr reflects on his ordination, and you can also read Bishop Paul Bird’s homily:

Meanwhile, there is a great online collection of photos from the ordination of Sandhurst’s Fr Ashley Caldow. See the Catholic Community of Bl John Henry Newman, and also Michael Daniel’s Flickr gallery. I’ve used photos from both to illustrate tomorrow’s post, which reviews some of the highlights of the ordination rite.

Anniversary of priestly ordination

Anniversary of priestly ordination

Today is the second anniversary of my priestly ordination. I love being a priest, very much.

However, in God’s providence, today was one of those days that cause me to think that the priest is the loneliest man in the world. I guess all priests have these days. I suspect it’s integral to priestly identity.

The priest isn’t really the loneliest man in the world. The loneliest man in the world, I think, was Our Lord – afflicted in the Garden of Gethsemane, abandoned during his trial, scorned on his way to Calvary. During that time, Our Lord had no one. Priests, in contrast, have him.

The Mass for the priest on the anniversary of his ordination includes a very beautiful prayer:

that I may be in truth
what I have handled mystically in this sacrifice.

I think I might adopt this as a daily aspiration.

UPDATE Please don’t take this post as melancholic or self-pitying. Or even as a subtle plug for International Buy a Priest a Beer Day!

Popes and popes emeritus are priests too.

I had breakfast yesterday morning with two of my dearest friends. Later in the day I caught up with my spiritual director. And I had dinner last night with a group of priests with whom I was in the seminary. So the loneliness I experienced was not for want of human company.

Fr Mick MacAndrew has the right idea. In the comment thread below he describes it as “an aloneness.” It is, I believe, one of the singular privileges of priesthood, since it relates directly to what the priest does, and who he is.

So . . . by all means, buy a priest (any priest) a beer! But pray, too, that he is conformed to Jesus Christ not only ontologically (by the sacrament of orders), but also personally and affectively (by his interior life).

Ordination of Ashley Caldow

Ordination of Ashley Caldow

Tomorrow I’m in Bendigo, which shares a rivalry with Ballarat akin to the rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney.

Now I love my hometown of Ballarat, and I maintain it is to Melbourne as Bendigo is to Sydney. (Take that as you will!) But this much I admit: Bendigo’s Sacred Heart Cathedral is stunning, and it outclasses not only Ballarat’s St Patrick’s Cathedral, but also most other cathedrals in Australia, capital cities included.

It is here, at 11am tomorrow — the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross — that Ashley Caldow will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Sandhurst. Keep him in your prayers.

Meanwhile, here are a few pictures — a scant few, I’m afraid — of last Friday’s great occasion, the ordination of James Kerr.