After going through the rigors of the tribunal (I have written about it in my previous blog), at last here’s the moment we’ve been waiting for- to be invested with the cassock and surplice and to be elevated to the liturgical ministry i.e we are now extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
Last November 12 at exactly three o’clock in the afternoon was our investiture. It was presided by the Most Reverend Jose R. Manguiran, bishop of Dipolog and concelebrated by several priests coming from the dioceses of Dipolog, Ozamiz, and Pagadian. There were 12 of us sotanandi (or sotanati that’s the term for those who are to be invested). Eleven are second year seminarians and one pre-theologian (that’s me).
The night before that, I had difficulty falling asleep. Talking about mixed feelings, I’m anxious, excited and happy. You know, for all of my life this would be the first time for me to don a cassock. I wanted to be a sacristan or sbotoy (laing termino) before and I even tried to be one. Unluckily, I didn’t know how and whom to approach then. Until, I just outgrew that desire.
A day before our investiture, our brand new cassock and surplice was delivered to us. Like a child, I went rushing for them. I wanted to wear and fit them, but I withheld the thought. I don’t want to spoil the excitement. The result was difficulty to fall asleep. How can I when every time I look at my cassock hanging in my locker I just can’t unfix my eyes. Morning’s still too far and I can’t wait for the next day to come.
My parents, with my sister, aunt and niece arrived in the seminary at two thirty in the afternoon. At three o’clock, the Holy Mass started. The sotanati flanked by our parents processed to the altar. It’s like a wedding, our parents bringing us the altar to be wedded to the Lord (though we know that the investiture is still too far from the real thing which is the priestly ordination.) According to the bishop in the opening of his sermon, the first investiture did not happen inside the church, it happened in the garden of Eden (or maybe outside) when Adam and Eve realizing their sin and nakedness, covered themselves with leaves. That’s the first investiture; it reflected covering up of guilt and sinfulness. In our case, it symbolizes clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Romans 13:14
The Bishop also exhorted us to continue pursuing our desire, that we should not get tired of it, do our best to meet the demands of the seminary, and the most important of all to continue our personal relationship with the Lord through prayer.
It was a foretaste of ordination indeed. After the homily, we were presented to the community. Our names and our places were called out one by one and we responded with Ania ako (Here I am). The most moving moment for me, was when I processed to the altar for the second time, now wearing the sacred vestments and saw my parents looking at me from the pew. I know that their gaze is in a different sense now—a gaze of the future man of God and I feel so unworthy.
After the investiture, I realized that there were still rugged mountains I should pass through by now. Greater challenges are awaiting me, challenge to meet my parents and peoples expectations, not in order to please them but to finally serve them, someday when I approach the altar once again to say “Here I am Lord, I’ve come to do your will.”