For virtually my entire life, I've been skeptical of emotionalism in religious devotion. Growing up in evangelical churches, I think I often felt that emotional displays substituted for real spiritual depth. It's only recently that I've come to appreciate the way our emotions in response to God's grace can break through the everdayness of our lives and give us a glimpse of the realities that await us--as when hearing the Proclamation of Christmas and rejoicing that it now, truly, is Christmas. Such was the case today, when the opening notes sounded on the organ and the brilliantly blue morning light filtered through the stained-glass windows above the alter somehow made it difficult to keep the tears from my eyes.
A priest's first mass is called a Mass of Thanksgiving because he gives thanks for his ordination into the priesthood of Jesus Christ. But for Lauren and for me, this Mass of Thanksgiving was also a thanksgiving for the tremendous blessing God has bestowed on us in our son. Even before we married, we told a priest who had spoken to our parish about the need for vocations that we hoped we'd have four or five sons, to increase the odds that one of them would be called to be a priest. For years we had prayed to God to bless us with children. At times, we both had tried to bargain with God, that if he would only send us a baby, we would do everything to raise him to be faithful and to someday (perhaps) become a priest. We were overjoyed to learn that our baby was boy, largely because we knew that it opened the possibility that he could someday be called to the priesthood. So celebrating a Mass of Thanksgiving today, while we are expecting our own son, left us both with an overwhelming gratitude to God for his blessings to us.
Because this was the first time we had been present for a Mass of Thanksgiving, we did not know the ancient custom of the church involving the manutergium. A manutergium is used to wipe the excess chrism off the hands of each newly-ordained priest. The newly ordained then gives his manutergium to his mother at his first Mass. She is to be buried with it. When she goes to her judgment, Our Lord will ask her, "What have you done for me and for my Church?" Presenting the manutergium to Jesus, she will reply, "My Lord, I have loved you and loved your Church. Throughout my life, I was a loving daughter, wife and mother. I have been faithful to you and your Law, and I gave my son as a priest."
With Father Schultz, we give thanks for his calling to the priesthood. And we give thanks to God for great goodness to us.