June 5, 2013
Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for the ordination of Father Scott A. Belina to the priesthood May 25 at St. Mary’s Cathedral
Deacon Scott Anthony Belina, soon you shall be consecrated priest, handed over to God forever as a bridegroom to His bride, the Church. You have prayed and prepared yourself, as well as any bridegroom could, to enter into your marriage. Years ago, Cardinal O’Connor offered some wonderful insights about this bride whom you take this day.
This bride you marry today is the Church in this world, the family of God’s people. God’s people who are strong and holy, God’s people who are weak and sinful. God’s people who are good and generous. God’s people who are selfish and demanding. God’s people who will love you beyond any love you ever imagined, but God’s people who, at times, will seem to you to hate you and to be resentful of you and to be spiteful toward you and take advantage of your goodness. God’s people, your bride, will give you indescribable pleasure and immense pain, unutterable joy and profound sorrow. These are God’s people, not yet a fully risen people, not yet a perfect people. And today these are the people that you take unto your own as their bridegroom, as their priest, as their shepherd.
As your bishop, I give you but one mandate: love our Church, love God’s people. Love them for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Love them until death, after which both you and they will be transfigured in glory. Yes, as St. Peter wrote: you must be a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory to be revealed.
Deacon Scott, know your parish family, as Christ knows His sheep and they know Him. Be with them, rejoice and mourn as one of their own. Love your families. Make “Father” Scott more than a title of respect but, also, a term of endearment. Wear the name as a badge of proof of your Christ-like bonded-ness with your people. To be conformed to Christ is to go out of oneself. The priest who seldom goes out of himself misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Going out of ourselves is where our priestly hearts find joy, where the word “Father” truly describes who we are and becomes more than a courteous greeting.
Be kind to them and gentle. Urge them to be what God wants them to be but forgive them when they fail to become what God wants them to become, as they, your bride, will forgive you for your sins, for your weaknesses. Preach to them courageously the truth always. Be a credible witness.
Let your holiness of life be a delightful fragrance to Christ’s faithful. God’s people deserve nothing less from their priests. As Pope Francis recently exhorted some men he was to ordain: Do not be a mere functionary who does priestly things, be a true pastor of souls. God’s people know instinctively that we priests are called to be holy for them. We strive to be holy not in lieu of their holiness, but we strive to be holy for them, as part of our priestly sacrifice. Everything about the priest is to be for them.
Look at these—your soon-to-be brother priests—men who have joyfully laid down their lives for God’s holy people. Learn from them, be inspired by them, as I am, as they and I, in turn, will learn from and be inspired by you. You are about to enter a very special fraternity. Give your love to this priestly body that claims such a beautiful legacy of pastoral charity for all of God’s people.
The fervor of a priest’s life depends entirely upon the Mass, where the priest offers his own life in sacrifice. Each time you kiss the altar as you begin the celebration of the Eucharist, consciously make it an intimate gesture which expresses the joining of your own self-sacrifice with that of the High Priest, Jesus Christ. Every time we bow to perform this simple act we remind ourselves that a priest never belongs to himself. Daily celebration of the Eucharist helps transform the busy priest’s life from a shallow activism into a focused and unified life of service.
Because there is but one flock, one bride, I rely on you as a co-worker in my ministry as bishop of the flock entrusted to us. Ordination to the priesthood is not a license for private practice. Under my leadership, as your bishop, you must invest time, energy, heart and soul collaborating earnestly with others equal in dignity: consecrated religious, the deacon community, parish council members and staff personnel. Our baptismal responsibility, Christian dignity and pastoral planning demand that priests invite, equip and entrust our lay sisters and brothers in fulfilling their rightful duty in parish life, building up the Body of Christ. Always strive to bring the faithful together in one family.
Following Christ in the priestly ministry with a clear awareness of whose you are brings a transparent joy and evangelizing zeal. A faithful priest shines out and attracts people to Jesus if his life and his ministry is a joyful manifestation of his adherence to Jesus’ ministry. It’s all about Jesus. The priest’s life is a continuation of the life and action of Christ Himself. Therein lies your joy, your peace, your sense of fulfillment.
In the continuation of Christ’s life you will administer to your Bride, the Holy Sacraments of the Divine Bridegroom. You will baptize. You will heal and reconcile. You will extend the tender mercy of God in the Sacrament of Penance and experience it personally through your own confession of sins. Deacon Scott, you will gently anoint and console the suffering and dying.
Dear Deacon Scott, with your ordination, Jesus does not suppress the beautiful qualities of who you are as a unique child of God. No, He uplifts them, He ennobles them, He makes them His own, calling them to serve His mystery and His work. You, who are so beautifully unique and gifted, will become, as a priest of God, a true instrument, mediator of Jesus’ merciful love and compassion. What a gift you are to the Church. You are a sign of hope and cause of great joy for the Diocese of Ogdensburg. The world needs God and will therefore always need people like you who live for Him totally and proclaim Him to others. A necessary ingredient for authentic evangelization is priestly passion and pastoral charity. Live your priestly life to its fullest!
Finally, Deacon Scott, know that you are never, never alone in living out your priestly vocation. Know and rely upon the prayers and loving support of me, your bishop, of your brother priests, indeed of all your family of faith, so many of whom have joined us for this festive occasion. Let Mary, the Mother of Priests, be your cherished companion on the journey before you. Soon to be priest of God, may St. John Vianney, patron of diocesan priests, inspire your ministry.
I extend my deep gratitude to your family, particularly your mother and father, your sister and brothers—all your loved ones who are rightly very proud individuals this day. Randy and Patricia, your own faith, love and guidance are the reasons why we are all here today. Thank you for your son. We are grateful, also, to all those who have been important facilitators of Deacon Scott’s intellectual, human and spiritual formation. We extend words of appreciation and welcome to the faculty, staff and community of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary where Scott has called home these last six years. We, particularly welcome Fr. Joseph Bongard, vice rector of St. Charles who is present with us this day representing the Seminary community.
And now, my brother, Scott, please rise to declare publicly your desire to become a priest and to serve the Church of God in our Diocese of Ogdensburg.