June 2012

From the Prior's Window

Dear Friends of St. Albert’s,

The great solemnity of Pentecost, which draws the Easter Season to its close, is a remarkable feast at any time, but it took on added significance this year, as we gathered to witness our brother, Emmanuel Taylor’s, ordination to the priesthood.  The ceremony took place in San Francisco, at St. Dominic Church, and Archbishop George Niederauer presided.

Ordination SF 2012 Emmanuel F. Taylor OP-553

The liturgy proceeds by logical steps.  The bishop prayed over Emmanuel,

Almighty Father, we pray that you bestow on your servant the dignity of the priesthood. Renew in his heart the spirit of holiness, so that he may be steadfast in this second degree of the priestly office received from you, O God, and by his own life suggest a rule of life to others.

Because priestly ordination (like Baptism, Confirmation, and the Sacrament of the Sick) identifies an individual for special service in the Church, it has an anointing unique to the sacrament and as the bishop anointed Emmanuel’s hands he prayed,

May it please you, O Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these hands by this anointing and our blessing...that whatever they bless may be blessed, and whatever they consecrate may be consecrated in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He then gave Emmanuel a chalice containing water and wine, and a paten with a host – the elements of his Eucharistic priesthood.  He told him,

Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God, and to celebrate Masses for the living and the dead, in the name of the Lord.

Ordination SF 2012 Emmanuel F. Taylor OP-819 2

After the ordination Mass Emmanuel stayed behind to give what is commonly called a “first blessing” to the guests who attended the ceremony.  The two companions who had driven with me sneaked home to help me assemble a small display in the refectory, which Emmanuel’s family and friends could enjoy when they returned to St. Albert’s for dinner.  The elements were fairly simple; Fr. Michael Morris, who guards the treasures of the Western Province’s Liturgy in Santa Fe Institute, loaned Emmanuel two beautiful early-20th Century vestments, together with a book of magnificent photographs from a Dominican priory in France.  I prowled about in my room and added a baroque-revival chalice and paten a friend had given me, a small holy water font, and a couple of reliquaries.  The whole thing looked pretty impressive.

I had the immense pleasure of meeting our brother Emmanuel when I was pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish, in Seattle, shortly after the turn of the New Millennium.  He was, in those days, pursuing a graduate degree in Oceanography at the University of Washington, and taking part in worship and other activities at the Dominicans’ Newman Center.  I have no idea why he decided to come a mile west, to Blessed Sacrament, but he did, and he became a leader in the parish’s Young Adult group.  Another member was Angela Kim, who seemed to succeed at whatever she turned her hand to.

One of her ventures was cooking, so she and some other – now somewhat older Young Adults – journeyed from Seattle to Oakland, and prepared a remarkable dinner to celebrate Emmanuel’s ordination.  Our Pentecost Vigil was festive, indeed, and the meal extended – actually, I don’t know how long the meal went on, as I excused myself so I could go to bed and attend the following day’s First Mass with some hope of staying awake.

Odd thoughts cross one’s mind during Mass – some say the devil delights in trying to distract us.  Whatever the case, as Emmanuel – now Father Emmanuel made his way through the intricacies of his First Mass with a great deal more skill and confidence than I recall exercising at my own – I found myself wondering whether Emmanuel had even been born when I was ordained.  I’ve since consulted the records and learned that he was, in fact, slightly less than a month old at the time.  I had no idea he was so old!  Pentecost dawned sunny and warm, so those who came to Emmanuel’s Mass enjoyed a beautiful day as they waited for his blessing outside the chapel.

Emmanuel’s family and friends added forty or fifty extra places in our refectory.  To accommodate them we moved tables from the area used by the sabbatical program that meets here during the academic year.  On Saturday night and Sunday, the refectory was a wonderful spot – filled with joy and laughter.  On Monday, however, when our guests had begun to depart, the empty tables gave our dining room a decidedly mournful look and I determined something had to be done – at once! – even if Monday was Memorial Day and we hadn’t the usual maintenance crew to lend a hand.

Once again some odd thoughts had crossed my mind during prayers, so I came to lunch armed with a plan.  A friend of mine had spent the weekend with us, making a retreat.  I had carefully respected his silence, but I decided even someone on retreat could use a little exercise, so I approached him at his solitary meal and asked whether he’d help me move a couple of the extra tables back to their usual place.  He agreed, and we carried the first table past the few students (and others) who were enjoying the very simple lunch I had just finished.  By the time we returned for the second table, a fair number of willing hands had jumped to the opportunity, and before long the refectory had been returned to its consoling, everyday appearance. 

When everyone left, I found a broom and gave the floor a quick sweep – revealing quite a bit of dropped and forgotten food.  Not quite, perhaps, the twelve baskets left after the multiplication of the loaves and fish, but probably about what they found after the wedding guests departed the wedding reception at Cana.

I’ve made light of much of this past weekend’s celebration, but the events were very touching, and very, very hopeful.  An ordination marks an end to a Dominican student’s initial formation at St. Albert’s, but – thanks to you – it opens a door to a lifetime of ministry among God’s people. Fr. Emmanuel will join the Dominican community at St. Dominic’s, in San Francisco, and every person he touches through his preaching and sacramental ministry owes you a debt of gratitude for the prayers and support that have enabled us to send one more priest into Christ’s vineyard.

As you read this I will have made my way to Los Angeles, to pack up some things from my mother’s apartment.  I’m sure she will be happy to know we can use some of her belongings here in the Priory; some of the other things she knew would – one day – would make their way here, because I’d long ago told her she was “guarding” them for us.  Naturally, there’s a story here.

We Dominicans used to have a house in Kentfield, in Marin County.  It served as our novitiate for decades and, later, as a modest retreat center.  Fr. Paul Scanlon, who was Provincial at the time, told one of my fellow students and me to do what we could with the place, “as long as you don’t cost the Province any money.”  We knew we were going to sell the house and the land eventually, so one day, the priest (now dead) who lived there, decided to host a “rummage sale,” and invited his friends to come and help themselves to whatever they wanted. 

I had already witnessed the departure of too many of what I considered historic artifacts from our communities, so I thought this sounded dangerous.  By way of precaution, I engaged some neighbors from St. Albert’s to drive over to Kentfield and, when no one was looking, we hauled out a small bench and a table from the chapel, and a rather large oak pedestal from one of the parlors.  We hid the things in their basement until I could move them – where? 

I figured no one would think to investigate my mother, so I managed to spirit them to Los Angeles (using someone’s pick-up truck, with a canvas cover over the back).  No one noticed the things missing from the chapel, but the absence of the pedestal got everyone’s attention.  At the time I simply kept quiet, but now, nearly half a century later, as the Province Archivist, I rejoice to welcome its return.  I am wondering where we can put it, and whether anyone who lived at Kentfield will recognize it?

At the end of this month, members of the Western Province will gather at St. Albert’s to celebrate our hundredth year as a Province.  Dominicans arrived in California in 1851, but we were a Province for only a year.  We served under the authority of a Commissary General or Vicar General until 1912, when we re-embraced Province identity.  The Assembly is an event we eagerly look forward to, and you may be sure we will post pictures on the Priory and Province websites to share the special events that have been scheduled to mark the occasion.  In the meantime, we will celebrate Father’s Day, so let me take this opportunity to wish the fathers among our friends a happy and blessed day in their honor!

With prayers and good wishes, in Christ,

Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P.

P.S. For more pictures from Fr. Emmanuel's ordination, go here!

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