Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!
6 December AD 1980
Right Reverend and Reverend Fathers and clergy, dear relatives and friends of our new priest, my dear Father Charles T. Brusca:
I am sure that each one of you here this morning joins me in offering our warmest congratulations to Father Brusca. We wish him a long, fruitful and blessed life in the service of Almighty God. We pray most fervently that the zeal and the dedication which Father Brusca brings to his priesthood today will remain unsullied throughout a long life of service to the one true Church established by Him of Whom Father Brusca in now another Self. I consider it a singular privilege that, through this soul and these hands of mine, Father Brusca has been marked with the indelible character of the sacrificial priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Today, Father Brusca, we honor you for what you are in Him and what you have achieved. Today, we kiss those hands so recently anointed with the sacred oil which has been used to consecrate those hands for the sacred ministry of Jesus Christ. We give you here today, Father Brusca, however humble and homey our limited means allow, the reception to gladden your heart—to tell you that we love you and to acknowledge what our Catholic Faith allows us to believe: that you now have the power to transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; that in the moments hence, you will also have the authority to absolve us of our sins that keep us from the Sacramental Grace with which our Blessed Lord would ever enfold us.
We rejoice with the angels in heaven standing before the great High Priest, and with the special Angel who stands beside you now as your Guardian and who has helped you to persevere and to preserve you for this moment, and who will continue to watch over you throughout your priestly days, “Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
We rejoice with your family, especially those who have come this great distance to share in the glorious hours of your reception of Holy Orders and of your first solemn offering of the great Mystery of our Faith—the reenactment of the perfect atonement of our Blessed Lord on Calvary. We rejoice especially with your mother, who has willingly and joyfully given you for this very instant which we believe God has ordained in that one vast moment of His divine will for all time.
There is not one priest here among us, Father Brusca, who, as you lay prostrate during the Litany and during the imposition of our hands and during the solemn anointing and consecration of your hands, did not re-live briefly those sacred moments in our own lives. And, please God, each one of us in there moments prays for a rededication and fervent commitment to our priesthood as we assist you to begin your own priesthood.
We who have placed our hands upon your head today began our priesthood in a different moment of the Church's history. You, Father Brusca, belong to that particular moment—and I pray it is only a moment—caught between an expression of the Catholic Faith that is dying and one that has yet to come to life. The dividing line is you and those who will come after you. The death knell, Father Brusca, is not for sacred Tradition—though well we know that there are many out there wearing many of the same priestly vestments with which you have just been clothed, who are clamoring for such a death. Rather, the death knell is for the insidious modernism which clutches for a confused world, infiltrated the very sanctuaries of Holy Church, and left God's children with a gnawing doubt—in your own words—concerning the most profound essentials of what we know to be the Faith reaffirmed in you today in your reception of Holy Orders.
That death knell, I believe, is for the blatant hypocrisy, the diabolical materialism, the wanton disregard for the mysteries of our Faith, the social humanism that preaches a brotherhood of man devoid of the Fatherhood of Almighty God.
That movement away from God and toward, not only man but Satan himself, bears within itself the seeds of its own destruction. That is why its knell is being tolled even now. Man is a composite—body and soul. Neglect either aspect of this divinely established union and the other dies. Deprive man intellectually and emotionally of what Saint Thomas teaches us is our ultimate goal—the seeking of the Supreme Good, Whom we call God—and you have deprived that man of an entire half of himself. So it is with each human being. Deprive man of his spiritual dimension and only an animal remains.
Your priesthood is the same, Father Brusca. Holy Church has given you, through me, the priesthood. Becoming a priest is your responsibility. Your Church has provided you with the means to knowledge, to belief in what you have learned, and the spiritual means to fortify yourself against the errors of this world. You will rise or fall spiritually of your own doing—by the fruit you bear in your priestly life.
There are thousands of priests, and millions more who have gone on to their eternity. There is but one priesthood of Jesus Christ, the mark of which you now bear. Oh, you, as an Old Roman Catholic priest, will be challanged on your credentials: Where were you trained, who ordained you, what is your authority? Sacred Scripture demands only that you “show us your lines.” The lines of Apostolic Succession through which you trace your priesthood are unbroken. They are not without blemish, Father, but they are unbroken. And you bear those lines in common with all other priests who bear the same Apostolic Succession with the unrelenting condition that our intention be that of the one true Church of Jesus Christ.
There are, I think, Father Brusca, three virtues which every priest must cultivate. Only recently, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, admonished priests throughout the world to cultivate two of these. He spoke first of humility. Very frankly, Father, I have found very little humility among my priestly colleagues of this Communion. Humility is the virtue of acknowledging our strengths in gratitude for these gifts of Almighty God , and our further recognizing that our faults are vested in our unwillingness to permit the Holy Ghost to operate within us. Humility is a happy comingling of accepting ourselves for what we are—our never-ending struggle against the good and evil that war within us—and working, through prayer, to drive out that evil.
The Holy Father also spoke about obedience. In particular, he stressed the need for seminarians not only to be taught obedience but also the need for them to come to love this virtue. This virtue is also a hallmark very much lacking in too many priests of our Communion. I am not, of course, speaking of blind obedience—for the very existence of our Communion rests on our refusal to blindly obey. But there is certainly a vast difference between blind obedience and cultivated obedience to lawful authority. Before this Mass is ended, Father Brusca, you will place your hands inot mine and promise obedience to me and my successors. It is true that, for the most part, the practice of your sacred ministry will be at some distance from me; that you will well become the manager of your own affairs. To an extent, this is as it should be, as long as you remain within dogmatic and canonical bounds. It will never be enough for you to take a personal dislike of me to throw off your obedience. It will never be enough for your to point out my idiosyncrasies—and even my failings and my secret sins, should you know these—to cast aside your obedience. It will never be enough for your to feel that I have given your responsibilities—ore even a lack of these—which you dislike or cannot understand, which will permit you to cast aside—yes, the SWEET YOKE—of holy obedience. Your bishop, indeed all your lawful superiors, possess the voice of God for you in all things which are not sinful. Obedience, then, goes hand-in-hand with humility. Humility requires obedience, even when one is annoyed by that which requires canonical obedience.
The third—or perhaps I should say the FIRST—virtue which every priest needs—and I believe that if he strives for this, humility and obedience will follow naturally—is a genuine, priestly prayer life. I would hasten to add my own observation that the reason that humility and obedience are so lacking in those who have embraced the priesthood, as well as other walks of the religious life today, is that so many have either failed to cultivate there prayer life—or worse, have abandoned it. It is impossible for anyone to have a real vocation, and at the same time fail to have a healthy prayer life. God calls us to Himself; it would be out of keeping with His nature to fail to give us the grace of a healthy prayer life.
Some months ago, Father Brusca, when you preached your first sermon, you obviously dedicated your preaching to our Holy Mother. You prefaced your sermon, as you have continued to do, by asking the faithful to join you in a Hail Mary. This pleased me immensely. It conveyed to me that you have learned that you cannot become a child of God without also being a son of Mary. Therein will lie your success, not only of your preaching, but of every priestly act you perform. As one priest expressed it to me so beautifully, “One who is in total communion with our Lady, can never be in schism with her Son's Church.”
A priest's prayer life, however, is not something for display only before his congregation. It is a way of life that he never ceases to cultivate. It is inner, personal, devout, and consistent. It is everything that is important in his life. It is not hollow or merely ritualistic. It is the soul of a man constantly striving to become the other Christ for which holy Church has given you the potential this morning. may a good prayer life be everything to which you aspire.
Today, my dear Father, you wear our Lady's image upon the back of the priestly vestment which holy Church has given to you. It is my prayer that henceforth that image of the Mother of God—of your Mother and the Mother of us all—will be transfixed within your soul, so that when you come before the judgment seat of her divine Son, He will welcome you as He would His own Mother.
God bless you my dear Father. Mary enfold you in her loving heart. May both bless and enfold us all. Amen.
The Most Reverend John J. Humphreys Bishop of Florida, Old Roman Catholic 5501 Sixty-Second Avenue North Pinellas Park, Florida 33565