I wept throughout much of the beautiful ordination liturgy. I couldn't hold back the tears of gratitude to the Lord for His fidelity to this wonderful man who sacrificed so much to live his life at the heart of the Catholic Church for the sake of the world. They were tears of joy for the Church which will be richly enhanced by his priestly ministry. Finally, they were tears of brotherly affection. I had the privilege of being his friend during his journey home to the full communion of the Catholic Church. I acted as a road-sign as he made the way, being pulled by the Splendor of Truth. Father Randolph Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online.
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
6/27/2012 (3 years ago)
Published in U.S.
Keywords: Chair of St Peter, Personal ordinariates, Our Lady of Hope, Bishop Paul Loverde, Fr William Saunders, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, Father Scott Hurd, Father Randolph Sly, Anglican ordinariates, priesthood, ordination, Deacon Keith Fournier
STERLING, VA. (Catholic Online) - On Saturday June 23, 2012, I attended the ordination of Deacon Randolph Whitcomb Sly to the Holy Priesthood of the Catholic Church. Father Randolph Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. The ordination was conferred by his Excellency, Bishop Paul S Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. The Ordination took place in the majestic Church of Our Lady of Hope in Sterling (Potomac Falls), Virginia.
That dynamically orthodox Parish is overseen by its Pastor, Fr. William Saunders. He is a priest's priest, beloved by his parishioners and known for his solid preaching and teaching. He is also deeply admired by Father Sly for whom he has served as a model and mentor. Among the priests, deacons and lay faithful in attendance was the Very Reverend R. Scott Hurd, the Vicar General of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. He represented the Ordinary of the Personal ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson.
I wept throughout much of the beautiful ordination liturgy. I couldn't hold back the tears of gratitude to the Lord for His fidelity to this wonderful man who sacrificed so much to live his life at the heart of the Catholic Church for the sake of the world. They were also tears of joy for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which will be richly enhanced by his priestly ministry. Finally, they were tears of brotherly affection.
Father Sly is a dear friend of many years. I first met him when we served together in an ecumenical effort which brought the Ten Commandments to elected members of the U.S. Congress. We quickly became friends. We shared a deep love for the early Church fathers, theology, Church history and so much more. As a revert to the Catholic Church, one who returned as a result of my own hunger to find the fullness of truth, I recognized in then Archbishop Sly the signs of what would later come in his life.
I had the privilege of being his friend during his journey home to the full communion of the Catholic Church. I acted as a road-sign as he made the way, being pulled by the Splendor of Truth that is the ancient yet ever new Catholic faith. Years later, my friend Fr James Kauffmann of St. Benedict Parish in Richmond, Virginia (whom I served as a deacon for several years) received now Father Sly and his wonderful wife Sandy into full communion. The two of us catechized them both in a personal process crafted to meet their own unique circumstances.
This former Protestant Archbishop knew that coming home to the fullness of the Catholic Church meant selling all to buy the treasure in the field.(Matt. 13:44) He laid aside a thriving ministry of many years with no assurance of any possibility of ordination to either the diaconate in Christ or the Holy Priesthood. Over the years that followed his entry into the Church he humbly offered his multiple gifts in many ways, including serving as the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He has been a model in his love for the Lord and fidelity to the Church. The fruit was evident in the lives of the many faithful who attended his priestly ordination on Saturday.
It was also evident back on June 2, 2012 when Father Sly was ordained to the diaconate in Christ by his Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. On that day I had the privilege of vesting him in diaconal stole and dalmatic. I knew then that he was only going to be a deacon for a few weeks. However, I was happy to share the ministry with him even for a short time.
His excitement over serving as a deacon was evident as he wrote me of his joy at serving the altar and proclaiming the Gospel. He signed each E-mail with "YBD", meaning "your brother deacon". I have to admit, it refreshed my own diaconal vocation, now into its seventeenth year, at a time when I needed the encouragement. However, I longed for the day when "Deacon Randy" would be ordained to the holy priesthood. He has a priestly soul and the Church needs as many priests as the Lord can provide in this new missionary age.
I am persuaded that Saturday's priestly ordination of Father Sly was a prophetic seed. It is a part of the entire prophetic action of the establishment of the Ordinariate for groups of former Anglicans by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. He is the Vicar of Christ and is acting in that capacity for the whole Church in this historic moment in Catholic Church history. Clearly, these ordinariates are very dear and important to him. On April 20, 2005 then newly elected Pope Benedict XVI gave his first message at the end of a Mass he had concelebrated with the members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. He signaled his mission:
"Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope in the Upper Room. The Successor of Peter knows that he must make himself especially responsible for his Divine Master's supreme aspiration. Indeed, he is entrusted with the task of strengthening his brethren (cf. Luke 22: 32). With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty."
The full and visible unity of the Church is at the heart of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI because it reflects the Heart of the Lord. "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." (John 17: 20, 21) In Catholic theology we teach what the early fathers, Saints and Councils throughout the ages have all affirmed; to belong to Jesus is to belong to His Body. Our membership in the Church is a participation in the life of God; what the Apostle Peter referred to as a "participation in the Divine nature". (2 Peter 1:4)
Catholics speak of our Christian friends in other Christian communities who have been validly baptized in accordance with a Trinitarian formula as already being in "imperfect communion" with the One Church. This is why Catholics do not "re-baptize" a Christian from another community who comes into the Catholic Church. We speak of them as coming into "full communion" because they are already joined to the one Church in an "imperfect" or incomplete communion. The Church is God's Plan for the whole human race. Jesus came to found that Church and begin the New Creation. It is a communion from above into which we enter. It is His Body. He is the Head and we are the members.
Through our Baptism the Church became our home, our mother, the place in which we now live our lives in Christ. To perceive, receive and to live this reality requires a continuing and dynamic conversion brought about by grace, which is mediated to us through the Sacraments and, most especially through our Eucharistic communion. We are sons and daughters of the Church now. In living our lives within her we are enlisted in the mission of carrying forward in time the continuing work of Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, citing several ancient patristic sources, states:
"To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood." (#895)
This Church is both human and divine; thus her members still sin. Sometimes evil enters and rots her from within but she always finds the needed reform and renewal because the gates of hell will not prevail against her. (Matt. 16:18) Sadly, she has been divided, but that is not the Lord's Plan. She is the means through which all men and women are invited to participate in the life of God and find true unity. As the fathers were fond of saying, she is "the world reconciled" and a seed of the Kingdom to come. To this Church has been entrusted the Sacraments (Mysteries), the Word of God, and the gift of a Teaching Office - Magisterium - through which Jesus Christ continues to speak through the Holy Spirit.
The Church is not an optional "extra" that we add on to our lives, she is our life because we live our lives in Christ. From Christ's wounded side, the Church was birthed at the tree of Calvary, the altar of the new world. Through faith we are invited into this mystery. By grace we come to more fully comprehend it. We are invited to respond to the ongoing call to conversion and newness of life by living in the Church for the sake of the world. I believe that the erection of the Ordinariates for former Anglicans is only the beginning of the historic work of this Pope of Christian Unity.
I have covered the movement of Anglican Clergy and lay faithful toward the safe harbor that is found in the Bark of Peter as their own Christian community has been torn asunder with a rejection of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It is my long held conviction, as a "revert" to the Church myself, that the influx of other Christians into the Catholic Church is a great gift to the Catholic Church, right when she needs it the most! I have found in my own diaconal service that many Catholics do not even know of the existence of these Anglican Ordinariates.
Among those who do, some think they are a refuge of sorts for fellow Christians who needed a safe place. Few see them as a prophetic seed for the New Evangelization of the whole Catholic Church. I believe that is what they truly are. The priests, deacons and faithful of the Ordinariates are strong Catholic Christians who know the great treasure they have found in the heart of the Catholic Church, after so many years of toiling. They are extremely well catechized Catholics because they have taken the time to open the treasure chest found in the Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. They not only know of the existence of the Catechism and read it, many can quote it.
After the moving ordination liturgy, Father Sly was welcomed by the faithful at a reception thrown by Our Lady of Hope Parish. They presented him with an exquisite chalice with which he will offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day, bringing heaven to earth and earth to heaven. The faithful then lined up for over an hour to receive his priestly blessing. They were led by Father Saunders, who knelt before his friend and student to receive his priestly blessing. I wept once again. Father Sly, along with his mission work of serving the Ordinariate as it extends its presence in the United States, will assist at Our Lady of Hope. I was happy he had such a nice first home in which to begin the years of priestly service which lie ahead. He will also continue to serve as the Associate Editor of Catholic Online.
We welcome the Personal Ordinariates. They are a gift for the whole Church as she engages in the needed New Evangelization of all of her members. We welcome our Catholic brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ as a resource for the whole Catholic Church as she embarks upon a new missionary age. We especially welcome the gift of so many new priests for the whole Catholic Church. We ask our readers around the globe to pray for Father Randolph Whitcomb Sly and thank the Lord Jesus Christ for the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, the Pope of Christian Unity.
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