Fr Runaine Radine: My First Easter as a Priest
About a year ago I was preparing earnestly for my priestly ordination.
For me, as I would imagine is the case with all newly-ordained priests, the “firsts” are always something to look forward to, and I have been marking them down, unpretentiously, ever since.
This does not at all imply a lighthearted approach to the celebration of the sacraments.
Already as a deacon I was deeply struck by an old adage I once read on a sacristy wall: “Priest of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.”
And so, despite the pressure of doing it correctly, there is always a sense of zeal for the sacred in carrying out any liturgical action, even with the seemingly private ones, like anointing or confession.
Be it the “first” Mass or the first celebration of the sacraments of baptism or marriage, there is something exciting and, of course, spiritually fulfilling about it.
I remember wondering who was more nervous, me or them, as I looked at the first couple whose wedding I officiated.
By coincidence—and perhaps fortunately for me—the first baptisms I conducted as a priest were those of the children of two of my close friends.
It was another special first I will not easily forget.
Some other firsts, perhaps frivolous, took some time to reach, like donning the purple chasuble six months after ordination only!
Ironically, I missed the Advent rose because I was attending an ordination of some of my classmates at that time—another first of a kind.
I finally had the experience of Lenten rose on the Sunday before the nationwide lockdown. I cannot say whether I have always been joyful since then but it certainly did come at an appropriate time.
Never could I have imagined that my first Easter as a priest would be celebrated without the physical presence of the faithful.
These are indeed historic times—history in the making—and an Easter not to be forgotten. How is that for a first?
Now, the journey of a newly-ordained priest is one of “becoming” a priest, based not so much on function—that is, on what we do—but rather on identity, who we are.
If anything, the past few weeks have been a sobering reminder that I have to be a priest, with or without people. I am sure that when I look back to Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum of 2020, I will always remember the unique manner in which the mysteries were celebrated in a more quiet and reflective way.
The parish where I serve as assistant priest already had an online presence and so livestreaming of these celebrations were made available through its Facebook page.
Social media platforms logged an unprecedented number of church services over the past couple of weeks.
It is possible that more people follow daily Mass now than they would under normal circumstances. In all of this, there is a sense of being united in prayer.
Spaces for prayer are created in the homes of believers, true expressions of the domestic Church.
More than ever before, Catholics followed the ceremonies from the Vatican, beginning with Pope Francis’ extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing in the fourth week of Lent, and the morning Masses with special intentions for all those most affected by the coronavirus, such as the elderly, the poor, and healthcare workers.
Judging from the testimonies of all the Christian faithful, the liturgy during this time has spoken to the reality of living through a plague.
The Passion of Our Lord, which highlights the experience of condemnation and betrayal, agony, suffering and death, the tomb, a fear which kept the disciples behind shut doors, all resonated with us at a deep level in our confinement.
It is into this reality that Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, breaks through, bringing joy and peace and giving us the courage to persevere amidst Covid-19.
The lesson that my first Easter as priest seems to have taught me is that we can only entrust ourselves to the mercy of God and live through this time by the help of God’s grace, trusting that Divine Mercy will have the first and final word in all things.