by Br. Lorenzo Conocido, O.S.B.
Editor's Note: This is a more extensive story on the Candidacy Mass that was celebrated earlier this semester.
The Very Reverend Archbishop Sample of the Archdiocese of Portland presided over the Candidacy Mass at Mount Angel Abbey on Oct. 24, along with six other bishops and a total of thirty-nine priests from different dioceses, the Seminary, and the Abbey. It may have been cold, foggy, and wet on the hilltop but not inside the Abbey Church when the Archbishop's homily ignited the spirit of the 17 seminarians who were admitted to candidacy for ordination as deacons and priests.
The Gospel from St. Luke set the entire theme of the Mass with the passage: "Jesus said to his disciples: 'I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it was already blazing!'"
"The readings were chosen by the Mother Church for you today," explained Archbishop Sample, who chose to preach while sitting, an image of a pastor instructing his own people. He said that these readings were not chosen for this occasion but were generously given for the people of God, both for the candidates and the assembly.
He noted that a vocation is not all about the person but "about Jesus and service to the people of God," thus reminding the candidates of the real meaning of their vocation.
"The Church needs men on fire for the Gospel of Christ and the New Evangelization" were the blazing words said by the Archbishop in his homily. There was no better day for the Archbishop to make this appeal than on this occasion as these Theology III and IV seminarians responded with a resounding "Present!" as their names were called one by one during the presentation of the candidates. This showed their full intention to continue on to the transitional diaconate and eventually to priesthood.
The day was yet another time in the life of these candidates as the Archbishop emphasized that the response they made was a "solemn and public yes" to the Lord.
"This is not a graduation but an intense period of preparation," the Archbishop said. He bid the candidates to submit all the more to formation, to die to themselves more and more each day, and he added, "Submit yourself humbly to formation."
The entire celebration flowed smoothly and was led by Fr. Liem Nguyen, O.S.B., the Master of Ceremonies, with Rev. Mr. Francisco Bringuela, Jr., and Rev. Mr. Brian Sattler serving as deacons. The beautiful voices of the seminary choir added to the warmth and complemented the solemnity of the Mass with music selected by Mrs. Myrna Keough, the seminary choir director. Sr. Teresa Gould, F.H., conducted the choristers while Br. Teresio Caldwell, O.S.B., played the organ.
The Archbishop concluded his preaching with an invitation to invoke the Holy Spirit and to let the Spirit do His work among His people. He also added, "Pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for perseverance."
Warm wishes, greetings and hugs later followed the Mass when the Archbishop and the candidates, together with their bishops, vocation directors, and guest priests gathered outside the Abbey Church for a photo opportunity.
When asked whether he is on fire after the Candidacy Mass, Mr. Marinelo Sanguin of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said, "Dare we hope!"
Off the hilltop, the "fire" of the day's event was contagious when photos were posted on the Facebook page for Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary. One Facebook follower commented, "Felicidades y estan en nuestras oraciones!" (Congratulations and you are in our prayers). As of the writing of this article, the post has reached more than 2000 views, making it the most viewed post on the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary Facebook page.