The joy of being ordained to the priesthood brings with it the opportunity to share in the joy of your classmates as they too reach the goal we have been striving for these many years.
This weekend I am in Saskatoon Saskatchewan for the ordination of (now) Father Gregory Roth for the Diocese of Saskatoon. The ordination was last night, and I have just returned from concelebrating Father Greg’s first Mass at his home Parish of St. Augustines.
Friday evening was a grand one for the Church in Canada, as Father Greg and his Diocesan brother Father Hoan Nguyen were not the only ones ordained. At the same hour, the Diocese of Calgary was ordaining no less than four men to the priestbood, and earlier that night back east my own great and glorious Diocese of Hamilton ordained seminarian Allen Varlaki to the Diaconate.
Saskatoon’s brand new Holy Family Cathedral was full for the ordination, and I was once again struck by how beautifully this particular liturgy expresses our faith. Hearing these men make the same promises I made so recently, brought home for me the awesome responsibility of the priestly office; the saints whose intercession we invoked, and the prayers we offered for them reminded me that we are never alone in exercising those responsibilities; and the scriptures we heard proclaimed and Bishop Bolen’s excellent homily helped me “lift up my heart to the Lord” as we proclaim at each celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
I am confident that God’s grace, and the prayers of His people will continue to hallow this house of prayer in the years ahead, but I would have to admit that its architectural style isn’t to my taste. What would traditionally have been called the nave of the cathedral is laid out in the “fan shape”, which has become so popular in recent years. It does have the virtue of keeping the assembly close to the liturgical action. Otherwise though, the modern archicture – exposed steel beams, massive speakers suspended from the ceiling – suggests more of a “utilitarian calculus” than an eschatological evocation of the glory of the Lord.
The broad sweep of gracefully curved pews adds a touch of beauty to the nave. But the cathedral’s high-tech solar-powered stained glass windows (sunlight during the day provides power to illuminate the panes at night ) would have been more appealing to me if the images they contained were Christian in a more easily recognizable way. God’s grandeur certainly is present in the nature scenes chosen for the panes, but surely a dove isn’t the only Christian symbol our tradition has given us.
And speaking of Christian symbols, the back wall of the sanctuary features a wooden cross — without a corpus — but with the horizontal arm set at a rakish 45-degree angle, chosen best I can tell to match the decorative wooden frame just under it that forms a backdrop for the cathedra. The blessed sacrament is reserved in a tiny side chapel ( and given the overall size of the cathedral tiny is the only appropriate word for it ). When I visited it there were no kneelers, and seating for probably 10 or 12 people at best.
I’m sure there is some sort of rationale for the design decisions that went into the building, but as a ( probably ) one-time visitor, it’s hard for me to feel that the building did as much go support me in my faith as did the liturgy we celebrated in it.
That said, as of today the diocese of Saskatoon has a much needed home church, an excellent bishop, two new, devoted young priests, and from what I can see a faithful ( and faith-filled ) people. May God bless them all in the years ahead!