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The mother of a priest | Blog of a Country Priest

The mother of a priest

The mother of a priest

Three years ago today, at the conclusion of my ‘First Mass,’ I placed flowers before an image of Our Lady, and consecrated my priestly ministry to her Immaculate Heart.

But immediately before that, I presented my own mother with a special gift. The previous day, the bishop had anointed my hands with the Oil of Chrism. I used a specially bought cloth (an embroidered purificator, I recall) to remove the excess oil from my hands. It was this cloth, perfumed by the Chrism, which I presented to Mum after my First Mass.

This custom is the modern variation of an old and venerable tradition, wherein a newly ordained priest presented to his mother his manitergium.

The manutergium (from the Latin manu+tergium = hand towel) is a long cloth that was used in the preconciliar rite of ordination. It was wrapped around the hands of the newly ordained priest after the Bishop anointed his hands with the sacred Chrism. The purpose was to prevent excess oil from dripping onto vestments or the floor during the remainder of the ordination rites.
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The manutergium (from the Latin manu+tergium = hand towel) is a long cloth that was used in the preconciliar rite of ordination. It was wrapped around the hands of the newly ordained priest after the bishop had anointed his hands with the sacred Chrism. The purpose was to prevent excess oil from dripping onto vestments or the floor during the remainder of the ordination rites.

According to tradition, the mother of a priest is to keep this precious cloth in a safe place. When she is buried, the cloth is placed in her hands. In the case of an open coffin, it serves as a reminder that one of her sons is a priest — a rare honour given to few.

The practice also evokes a pious legend, which imagines that when the mother of a priest finally meets our Lord face to face, and is asked that fateful question — “Did you love me?” — she can reply in the affirmative, presenting as part of her case, her Chrism-fragranced hands. This demonstrates that she loved our Lord so much, that she gave to him one of her sons, to serve him as a priest.

The literal details of that legend are of course superstitious, but I don’t think the gesture can be reduced to superstition. I think the presentation of the manutergium recognises and honours something profound. Not being a mother myself, I can’t very well describe it. (Perhaps I should ask my mum!)

In the meantime, we can consider this very moving footage from the ordination of three priests in Melbourne last June. If pictures tell a thousand words, then a motion picture must tell millions.

This video shows Fr Michael Kong, Fr Matthew Baldwin, and Fr Vinh Nguyen processing out at the conclusion of their ordination, and receiving the congratulations of their brother priests and seminarians. Then it cuts to Fr Michael blessing his mother, who is deeply, deeply, moved. That scene speaks volumes, I imagine, to what every woman of faith experiences, when her son becomes a priest.

H/T Bucky.

  • Julie Pearce

    This precious moment of blessing shared between a mother and her son upon his ordination to the priesthood is just one of so incredibly many experienced throughout life by a mother and child……but is surely one of the most inexplicably emotive experiences a mother (and a father for that matter) shall ever know. Thanks for sharing Fr. John….and thanks be for the love Fr. Michael so obviously shares for and with his earthly mother; and that we have been so blessed to share in.

  • Simon Hogan

    Hello Fr. John this is good information! I sure family memebers of priests should be greatful that they truly bless and to be related to a priest! To get them job or the best school! Well some families have two priests in their family especially in the Ballarat Diocese. Well I am greatful to all the priest who done great things for me and my family. Bless them all!

    Some are lucky because they long emails from Simon the Pieman.
    Well I wrote this on Fr.C orrigan faceboook wall
    The people of the Murray to the Sea are delighted your a priest for us. Hope your serving for us for many years to come Fr. John Corrigan.
    Now the big question why aren’t you and Fr. James Kerr not mention on this website http://www.catholicdirectory.com.au/ordinationsearch
    I love this website it’s like studying the form guide finding priests ordination days!
    Ok I be back later in the week to put some horse racing tips on the blog. Did anyone watch the steeplchase at Casterton on Sunday! Keep Well from Simon the Pieman.

  • Maureen Healey

    Thank you Fr. John for sharing this beautiful and moving moment with Mother and Son Blessing each other with such love. How proud she must be as is your Mother. We appreciate you and all your wonderful Brother Priests. Without you we would not be able to receive the Eucharist. Thank you.

  • Cathy

    A very touching post, still wiping tears away…..

  • Joe

    What a beautiful moment for the mother of Fr Michael Kong! Deo Gratias.
    God is faithful, even if we are not.

  • Simon Hogan

    Here are some tips I know some people love my tips! I must add Mum had tears when she was reading article from The Couier 2010 Christmas time about you Fr. Corrigan!
    I bet when you started this blog I bet you didn’t think it would become a racing blog! I bet Joel is not complaining!
    We are racing at Caulfield tomorow
    Race 2No 8 and 12
    Race3 No 7 and 12
    Race 4 No. 2,6,8, and 18.
    Race5 No7,4, 14 and 17
    Race6 No4 and 5
    Race78 and 10
    Race8 No 10
    Race9 No 1,3 and 10
    Morpettive in Sout Australia are racing tomorrow!
    Race6 No7
    Race7 No1 and 13.
    Race8 No 10 and 13.
    Remember all my bets are each way!

  • A beautiful tradition I witnessed after a friend’s first mass, and a tradition I too intend to carry out. Thank you for sharing. May your hands always smell of holy oil as you pay your vows day after day.

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