Somebody recently described the steps to ordination using the image of Russian nesting dolls – those wooden dolls which, when each is opened, contains a smaller one and then a smaller one inside. As a man is proceeding along the path to ordination first he is installed as a lector, then on top of that he is installed as an acolyte, then he is ordained a deacon, and finally above all a priest.
So outwardly I am a priest, but inside I am still a deacon, and beneath that I am still an acolyte and also a lector.
That is a good way to think of how vocations should be discerned in everyone's life. God builds grace upon grace. First God creates us as humans – each with distinct and individual gifts, interests, passions, and potentials. In other words, first we are ourselves. That is a fundamental call in each of our lives. God calls us to be our true selves. It takes wisdom to discover, "Who am I really?" Much happiness is lost and frustration follows when we try to become what we are not.
On top of that we are baptized. We "nest" our unique selves within the life and plan of God through Jesus and His Holy Spirit. We go beyond ourselves and our own ego and discover ourselves as part of a larger plan and mystery. We propel our deepest identity forward and our true self is boosted, intensified, and developed.
On top of that God gives the grace to choose how we will configure ourselves and offer ourselves in a particular state of life – through consecrated vows of sacramental marriage or religious life. The life of love which has taken hold of us cannot offer itself sparingly. It longs to be poured out and it is through the pouring out of the life and love that the life and love is amplified and deepened even more.
On top of it all we are to take on our identity as saints. That is the final grace or nesting doll that binds it all securely together.
So congratulations to our amplified and boosted newly ordained priests. May they inspire us all to propel our deepest selves forward in God.