The Hands of the Shepherds

Ever since I arrived at Christ the King Parish last July, I’ve gone by many names and titles. Not because I had any say in the matter—it simply comes with the territory when you wear the Roman collar. In my case, I happen to look enough like my predecessor, Fr. Chris Rehagen–tall, dark hair, all-black outfit–that some of our younger students have called me “Father Chris”, “Deacon Chris”, “Father Mike”, and—on one memorable occasion—a kindergartener loudly accusing a fully-bearded Saint Nicholas of secretly being “Father Deacon”.

Regardless of the botched titles, I am very excited for my upcoming Ordination Weekend. I have attended eight previous Holy Cross ordinations, and each one has brought me immense joy and pride. In particular, I have always been incredibly moved by the laying on of hands. There is something profound about watching the men in our community gently give their blessing to the new priests. In that moment, there is no distinction between a priest of 65 years and a priest ordained last year, or between a parish priest and a university president. In that moment, they are simply a priest of Jesus Christ. God’s gift of the priesthood is not something to be hoarded and kept hidden away; just as God lovingly called these men to ordained ministry years ago, so too do they freely welcome the young men God has chosen to serve the Church. This procession of blessing often moves me to tears, though not of sadness; it is my reaction to witnessing how deeply God cherishes His bride, the Church. And when I am the one kneeling before the altar this weekend, I pray that I will also cherish this gift as I serve God’s people.

To be honest, I can’t tell exactly how I’ll feel during this weekend. All the preparations have been made, all the programs printed, all the holy cards delivered, and all the guests are on their way. All that’s left now is the ordination itself…and the First Mass on Sunday…and the life of priesthood after that…so this weekend is only the beginning! I know I have been prepared for this over many years by many people, but there is still the thrill of an adventure that’s about to begin. And since the Lord chose this adventure for me, I trust that it will be a holy and happy one.

So no matter what the school kids call me after this weekend, I am truly happy that God has called me to serve the Church and the world as an ordained priest. When the hands of my brother priests are laid gently upon my head, I pray that God may guide my own hands with that same love and gentleness throughout my life of ministry. And I hope that when I come to the end of my days, I can look back at this weekend and thank God for entrusting this humble shepherd with the loving care of God’s sons and daughters. O Mary, Queen and Mother of all priests, pray for us!

Rev. Mr. Mike Palmer, C.S.C. is preparing to take his Ordination with the Congregation of Holy Cross. Deacon Mike attended military chaplaincy training before returning to Notre Dame to finish his priestly formation. Most recently, he was assigned to serve at Christ the King Parish in South Bend, Indiana. Deacon Mike is originally from Berkley, Michigan.

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