Sunday, December 26, 2010

Of Priests, Chalices and the Holy Family



Merry Christmas to all.  This morning I went to Mass near my parents' house since I stayed overnight with them after Christmas.  It was the morning after a day full of being with family, sharing memories, catching up on news, singing carols and eating my mother's delicious home made meal.  All in all, a perfect morning to reflect on and honor the Holy Family.

When I arrived early at the parish, there were a number of people already in attendance.  It was nice to see so many on a day when it was definitely tempting to stay in bed and ask God for credit for attendance the day before!

The priest was a Maryknoll missionary who had returned to the States after many years in  countries where the Church was under attack.  Toward the end of Mass as he was purifying his chalice and paten, the priest reflected on the connection between his chalice and his family.  He remarked that the sacristan inquired as to whether this was a new chalice.  No, the priest told him, this was the chalice his mother had given him for his ordination.  The chalice was inscribed with a dedication to his father who had died before he was ordained.

The priest told us that he had recently had the chalice cleaned and restored, which is why it looked new.  However, the chalice had seen some rough times.  It had been with him in his missionary travels.  It was thrown to the ground by a gunman who barged into a church in Russia while the priest was saying Mass.  It had been flung to the ground by a robber who broke into a parish.  It had dents and dings that reflected the priest's history of ministering in persecuted lands.  All through his priesthood, however, the chalice continued to remind him of the protection, prayers and comfort of his family and their connection to him and to his vocation. 

Just a few days ago CNS reported that an older priest in Colorado had his chalice returned to him after it had been stolen from a church where he served.  The priest was ordained in 1949 and, the chalice, as customary, was given to him by his parents.  After the robbery, the thief discarded the chalice in the dirt in the backwoods and there it lay until a hiker discovered it some years later.  Through a series of circumstances the chalice wound up in a second hand shop whose owner knew a Catholic man who had an interest in Catholic articles.  The man paid $12 for the chalice and after reading its inscription decided to try and find its rightful owner.  The inscription read,  "O Lord bless my father and mother and all who have donated this chalice for sacrifice. Rev. Gerald Bruggeman, ordained May 26, 1949."  The man, a former Protestant minister and a Catholic convert, looked up Father Bruggeman on the internet and tracked him down to his current parish in order to return the chalice.

 After hearing the news of the return of the chalice, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael J. Sheridan reflected on his own family connection to his vocation and his chalice, "For most priests, their ordination chalice is a very precious thing. I still have my chalice, given to me by my parents," he said. "It is a daily reminder of their love for me and their encouragement of my priestly vocation."

On this feast of the Holy Family may God bless all families, especially those which have fostered vocations.

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Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
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