Today I crashed a priest’s 50th ordination Mass. (He made the mistake of telling me where he’d be, and I couldn’t resist.)
Father Romanus Cessario, O.P., was spending the day with his dear spiritual sisters and daughters, the Dominican nuns at St. Dominic’s in Linden, Va. Everything about it seemed just right. He had been giving conferences to the nuns over the course of Pentecost days and was living and breathing the contemplation that is the reason for the monastery. I don’t think I’d be putting words into Father Cessario’s mouth if I said priests can’t be priests without contemplation. And this is not just for priests. We can’t even be human without it. We certainly can’t know about God without spending time with Him, asking Him to bear fruit in us through supernatural grace.
That’s all to say: It is something to remain faithful to a priestly vocation in the world today. I know many priests who credit Father Romanus with introducing them to the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) or otherwise inspiring, encouraging, and nourishing their vocations as priests.
It was something of the joy of heaven to be able to pray with him and two of his brothers who were part of the surprise. The priesthood has been the stuff of headlines, and Father Romanus does not pretend to be perfect, but my goodness, when you cooperate with grace, that’s the stuff of renewal!
I’m personally grateful for Father Romanus’s five decades as a priest in the Dominican Province of St. Joseph and look forward to seeing the fruits of projects he is working on down at Ave Maria University, just outside of Naples. He has stayed close to Mary and the Trinity, and there is wisdom yet to be downloaded. But most of all: Thanks be to God for his fidelity and perseverance in trials and cooperation with grace to bear fruit for the Church and the world. And if you are so inclined: Please pray for harvests of holy priests.
(To read some of Father Romanus’s books, I’d start with Compassionate Blood, on St. Catherine of Siena, but there are others, including The Seven Last Words of Jesus, The Seven Joys of Mary, The Seven Sorrows of Mary, The Grace to Be a Priest, and more.)
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