“Do you want to exercise the sacerdotal ministry, for all your life?”
“Yes, I want it.”
“Do you want to celebrate with devotion and fidelity the mysteries of Christ … to the praise of God and for the sanctification of the Christian people?”
“Yes, I want it.”
“Do you want to be ever more closely united to Christ the high priest?”
“Yes, with God’s help, I want it.”
This exchange between ordaining bishop and ordinand forms part of the rite of priestly ordination. I listened to it last month, when we attended a Dominican friar’s ordination in Rome. But if you have recently attended an ordination yourself in an English-speaking country, you might notice a difference between what you heard and the text above, a literal translation of the Italian. In the U.S. English translation, the bishop’s questions begin, “Do you resolve to…,” with the ordinand responding simply, “I do.”
Clearly, the same intention underlies both translations. However, there was something about the repeated, Vuoi …? Sì, lo voglio — “Do you want …?” “Yes, I want it” — that touched me profoundly.
Looking back on our lives, we can pinpoint moments when we were filled with a holy desire — for God, to give ourselves to another in marriage, to welcome children. As Fra Jean-Gabriel repeated, “I want it … I want it,” I was contemplating the desire for union with God that brought me to the convent door, that found voice in the words of my vows, and that burbles as a merry brook under all my daily activities.
What a gift these holy desires are. Without their impetus, we would never undertake and never persevere through those sacrifices and sufferings that make us the mature, virtuous persons we are meant to be (cf. Eph. 4:13). A priest’s holy desire, if he nourishes it through a lifetime, molds him into a generous servant of his flock, a merciful healer of those wounded by sin, a bold preacher of truth.
This is the power of the “Yes, I want it.” But “I want it” is also, poignantly, a cry of powerlessness. Fra Jean-Gabriel wants to serve, he wants to be conformed to Christ, but these desires can only come to fruition with God’s aid. We want to be faithful spouses, patient parents — but we quickly realize that we are beggars.
And so we must at last recognize and surrender to the power of God’s infinite desire for us. In his encyclical on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Venerable Pius XII heaps up biblical examples of the stunning longsuffering of God’s love. The pope speaks, finally, of the desire of Christ’s sacred human Heart for our sanctification, “a living Heart, wounded as it were, and throbbing [now] with a love yet more intense than when it was wounded in death by the Roman soldier's lance.”
God desires our good. When we express to Him our longing for what is true, good, and beautiful, for ourselves and others, He responds, “Yes, I want it!”
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.