Yesterday I arrived at St. Michael's right on time for my catechism lesson. I was pretty happy with myself since last time I was about 10 minutes late and felt bad for making Fr. Fischer wait. But this time I showed up at exactly 1:00p.m.
When the door opened it wasn't Fr. Fischer though, it was a substitute. At first I was a bit worried something had happened since he made no mention of his being out of town. However the kind priest introduced himself and let me know that Fr. Fischer had something to go to and I guess had forgotten to tell me. He mentioned he had come over from Elmhurst, where the FSSP has their HQ in North America.
No big deal. We started off with a prayer and a glass of water and began trying to figure out the lesson plans together. Yesterday's topic was intended to be on the Holiness and Apostolicity of the Church. Well, we talked about that all right but in a much different way than I would have had Fr. Fischer been there. Not better necessarily, just different.
You know - this whole experience has been absolutely great. I have never met such holy people who love what they do. They all experience difficulties but every priest whom I've come into contact with in the Fraternity of Saint Peter seems to love being a priest. They love talking about the faith - which they all know so well. I learn more in one lesson with these guys than I did in almost all of college. Their education must be superior to anything else in the country. Its really quite impressive.
Anyhow, yesterday we spoke about the Holiness of the Church - the sacraments, their institution. Mainly we went into baptism, communion, and confession. We really got to the heart of each and discussed metaphysically what was going on. No words were minced and I can tell you this was probably one of the most personable and exciting lessons I've had. It was actually thrilling to hear such clear and concise language used in discussing the outward signs of the Church's holiness.
For instance, in discussing the Eucharist, Father said that at the time of the consecration and when the priest holds up the Eucharist for everyone to see - that is the time when the channel between us and God, through the one mediator, is opened in the sacrament and that we should begin pouring out hearts out for forgiveness, asking for mercy, and in thanksgiving. He gave insight to ad orientam posture as well, saying, "The priest faces the altar and the crucifix as a representative of the congregation." But he also pointed out that Christ is our only mediatior and since the priest is an alter christus he serves as the bridge between God and Man. I am not doing it justice however it was as though he was reading the Catechsim to me in a way I've not done before.
He related the teachings to me in terms of his own personal experiences with friends and family. We even discussed the Novus Ordo, about which he said while his preference lay with the Tridentine Mass he would take a bullet for the novus ordo because it is just as much the true Mass. This comes from someone working at HQ for the FSSP.
These priests are vibrant, loving, personable, intelligent, and educated men. My experiences with them only continue to encourage me on my journey and give me more and more peace that what I am doing is the right thing.
He left me with a blessing and said this to me, which will stick with me for a long time:
"Well, so long Matt and I want you to know that I will remember you in a special way each time I ascend the altar."
I'm sure he's got a lot of people to remember but him saying that really had an effect on me. I was a bit taken back since we had just spent two hours discussing the sacraments and in large part the Eucharist. Having an even better understanding that I already did and knowing his personal take on it makes it even more special that such a holy priest will keep me in his prayers before he takes to the business of confecting our Lord's body and blood.
Mass this morning was especially beautiful. Considering my lessons yesterday it was even easier to unite myself with the re-presentation of the sacrifice. I followed his instruction to open myself up at the consecration and elevation. I've never felt more in tune with what is going on that I did today. Result: participatio actuoso.