Collected for the Collect

by Fr. Jeff

As I climbed the steps to the presider’s chair, my pulse increased.

I had been invited back to St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College to preside at a Mass for the community in the abbey church. As a student, I had spent many hours in the pew and the choir stalls. For years, I’d wondered what it was like to sit up there in the big chair.

Today, I found out.

Everyone had always told me that the first time could be unnerving. Having celebrated Mass in many venues before, and having served many liturgies there as the student master of ceremonies, I thought I’d be completely at home. After all, helping with the liturgies used to be my job. However, as I ascended those steps and turned to face the community, I could hear my heart beating in my throat. It was a sensation I hadn’t felt in quite a while.

I was nervous.

As I began Mass with the sign of the cross, I detected a slight quiver in my voice. I was a little taken aback. It was unusual for me to be nervous in front of a crowd. After all, that’s what priests do.

But as I looked at my friends in the monastic community, I saw their smiles. They seemed to be enjoying the moment when a student returned as a priest.

Or they were smiling because I was nervous.

Then Fr. Raphael’s words came to mind. I had spoken with him at Thanksgiving about saying Mass at the abbey church:

When you look out and see all those people, it just means we are all there cheering you on.

My pulse returned to normal by the end of the pentiential rite. Perhaps it was his words that calmed me down. Or it was the image of the eschatological Christ greeting me at the rear of the Church. Or it was Your presence. Whatever it was, today I’m thankful that I was

collected for the Collect.