Photo: Felix Carroll
Called to Service
By Chris Sparks (Sep 21, 2013)
"Now we have to change your name — we can't call you Br. Chris anymore!" said Chris Alar's superior the Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, at the end of the Ordination Mass.
Surrounded by friends, Marian priests and brothers, and well-wishers, Chris Alar was ordained a deacon Saturday, Sept. 21, on the feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. So many people intended to attend, in fact, that a separate Mass was held for the four busloads of people who couldn't fit into the National Shrine itself.
View a photo gallery from the day.
The standing-room-only ordination crowd heard readings in Spanish and English, joined the Marians in praying for Chris, enthusiastically endorsed his ordination with sustained applause, and gave him a standing ovation at the end of the Mass. The choir from Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., one of the schools where Deacon Chris has received his formation, filled the church with timeless Gregorian chant and gorgeous hymns, closing the Mass with "O God Beyond All Praising." Deacon Chris's Marian brothers from the Marian Scholasticate in Washington, D.C., were also in attendance, along with many other Marians from across the country.
The Most Rev. Martin D. Holley, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. and a vir aggregatus in the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated the rite of ordination at Br. Chris's request and Fr. Provincial's invitation.
"I was acquainted with him through the Washington scholasticate there," said Bishop Holley. "I've seen his quiet, prayerful demeanor. When he asked me [to ordain him a deacon], I was very pleased, honored to be a part of his life in this way."
During his homily, Bishop Holley focused on Mary, the Eucharist, and Divine Mercy, drawing from the papal writings of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the conversion story of Dr. Scott Hahn, and the Diary of St. Faustina, before explaining what it means to be a deacon of the Church. He offered rich spiritual advice that will be profitable for Deacon Chris, for all deacons, and for Catholics everywhere.
"My dear brother in Christ, as you are about to be ordained, I encourage you always to speak these words: 'Jesus, I trust in You,'" said Bishop Holley. "Know that Jesus is with you in Word and Sacrament, and that He will always be with you in your pastoral ministry. Never forget that Jesus loves you and that it is He who has called you to this wonderful ministry of the diaconate."
Bishop Holley proceeded to outline the role of the deacon in the Catholic Church, saying, "As a deacon, you will be ordained for service under the direction of the bishop and your superior, in which you will be fully responsible for certain duties having to do with evangelization, catechesis, organization of liturgical ceremonies, Christian initiation of catechumens and neophytes, and the Church's charitable, social work. And after the imposition of hands, you will receive the Holy Spirit to strengthen you in your ministry to preach the Word of God; to administer Baptism; to be the custodian and distributor of Holy Eucharist; to assist at and bless marriages; to bring God to the dying; to instruct and exhort the people of God; to preside over worship and prayers of the faithful; to administer sacramentals; and officiate at funerals and burial services."
Bishop Holley went on to explain some of the special graces Jesus gives His deacons to strengthen them and help them be fruitful in their ministry. "During this time of ministry, Christ will show you a deeper love for Him and His people, as He will speak more profoundly to you through the Sacred Scriptures at Mass, during the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours and Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament; and through your devotion to Mother Mary and praying the Rosary, as well as through the lives of the saints and other devotions."
The bishop proceeded to recommend certain spiritual practices. "During this time, continue to deepen your devotion to the saints and angels, especially [Founder of the Marian Congregation] Bl. Stanislaus and St. Faustina, allowing them to be your friends and companions on your journey in this life, trusting that they will always be willing to intercede in prayer for you before the throne of God. Nurture deep devotion to the saints, especially our Blessed Mother Mary under the title of Rosa Mystica, and St. Joseph, Terror of Demons.
"Each day as you speak to God and pray, let God speak to you profoundly as you make a Holy Hour each day before the Blessed Sacrament, which will be the best investment that you will ever make in this world."
View Bishop Holley's homily in its entirety:
Deacon Chris professed final vows in the Marians on Aug. 16 of this year. Now that he's been ordained a deacon, he'll serve in that capacity until his ordination to the priesthood, which is planned for sometime in 2014.
"It's always, always a tremendous moment for us when we have somebody's ordination, somebody giving themselves to the Lord," said Fr. Kaz, Provincial Superior for the Marian Fathers' Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province. "For us as a community, every ordination, whether it's a diaconal or priestly ordination, means the Lord has granted us another instrument to provide His mercy and His love. Chris is a very dynamic speaker, a wonderful, wonderful young man, and very dedicated to the Lord. I think that through the ministry of the diaconate and, in a number of months, as a priest, he'll be able to carry this message in such a powerful way to people, sacramentally as well as through proclamation. So we're just very grateful to God, full of joy."
And the many Marian Helpers in attendance were clearly sharing that joy. During the traditional "cake talk," a customary short speech given by the newly ordained or professed Marians before the cake is cut at their reception, Deacon Chris offered a special thank you to all the Helpers who made his walk to the diaconal ordination possible.
"We're only here because of you guys," he said. "You're the only reason that we get an opportunity to even experience God's grace like this, to study for the priesthood, because food, insurance, tuition, all those fun things unfortunately cost. You guys have all stepped up amazingly and helped us get through all that, but more importantly, your prayers — that's what gets us through."
Fr. Kaz added, "Without the Marian Helpers, we would not be able to do the work that we do! It's thanks to them. Their support helps us train our men as priests. They empower us to do the apostolic work, the publications, the various types of media that we utilize for promotion of our faith. They are the very foundation. We just want to thank each one of them who has helped us for so many years already. As long as we are faithful to the Lord, as long as we are persevering in that mission, we will do well because it's God's mission. And please pray for us: if you're a member of the Association, I want you to pray for us. Remember everyone — those who are ordained and not ordained. Help us to always be faithful to God. Your prayer is able to protect us from all kinds of dangers, so don't forget. We also pray for you. We are grateful for you. Each day, we celebrate Masses for your intentions. We want you to experience that grace that God gives us."
View Deacon Chris' greeting to Marian Helpers filmed just an hour before his ordination:
Feel called to the religious life? To explore a vocation to the Marians, visit our vocations page. To help other young men answer God's call to become a Marian of the Immaculate Conception, visit our Ways of Helping page.