Priestly Ordination of Brother Joshua Warshak, O.SS.T.
St. Lawrence Parish, Hanover/Jessup
September 12, 2020
We’ve gathered in joy for the priestly ordination of Brother Joshua Warshak, a professed member of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives. It is right that we should give God thanks and praise and express as well our gratitude to all who have had a hand in helping Bro. Josh to answer his two-fold calling to consecrated life and priesthood, beginning with Josh’s parents, together with family members and friends who are present with us today. Thank you for sharing your son, your brother, your relative and your friend with the religious family of the Trinitarians, and through them, with the wider Church.
I would also like to recognize and thank Fr. Albert Anuszweski O.SS.T., Provincial of U.S. Immaculate Heart of Mary Province, as well as Fr. James Day, Vice-Provincial, and Fr. Victor Scocco, Pastor of St. Lawrence and Resurrection. By word and example, you and your confreres have truly done the Lord’s work in forming Brother Josh in the vision and virtues of consecrated life and priesthood, as has the faculty of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. Part of Josh’s ongoing formation, for which we give thanks, is his daily interaction with the faculty and students at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, So, as we thank God for the blessing of Bro. Josh’s priestly ordination, let us also thank all who helped him to answer the call and be equipped for ministry.
“Say Not I Am Too Young”
Now, Bro. Josh, moments before your priestly ordination, let us turn our undivided attention to the Scripture readings you have chosen, beginning with the first reading that recounts the calling of Jeremiah the Prophet. Already, I have spoken of those who assisted you in accepting your vocation. But the reading from Jeremiah reminds us that it is God who has called you. The Lord says to you today what he once said to the Prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” Consecrated life and priesthood, therefore, are not merely your career path, and still less are they merely a taste you acquired along life’s journey. No, God it is who called you and set you apart – even before you were born.
Yet, it is only natural for us to resist God’s call, as did the Prophet Jeremiah. When, through the fog of human experience, God’s call does reach us, we are apt to offer the Lord reasons why he should choose someone else. We may tell the Lord that we are not yet ready or that we lack the aptitude. But the Lord’s call is persistent and reaches us through many different channels. Today, Josh, I am happy and grateful to ratify your “yes” to the Lord and to the Church.
But the Lord not only calls, he also sustains those whom he calls. God assured Jeremiah that he would remain with him through every trial, and that he would place his own words in Jeremiah’s mouth. So too, Josh, as you are ordained, you trust that God will sustain you and that the word you shall proclaim is not your own, but his.
Formation for Consecration and Mission
Having heard the call, Josh, you then entered a long period of formation, first, in the spirit of St. John DeMatha, a spirit summed up in our responsorial psalm, Psalm 146: “[The Lord] … who keeps faith forever, [who] secures justice for the oppressed, who gives bread to the hungry, the Lord [who] sets captives free…” (Ps. 146:7). You did indeed absorb the spirit of St. John DeMatha and St. Felix of Valois, who, at the dawn of the 13th century, received a call from the Holy Spirit to free those who were held captive because of their faith – whether Christian or non-Christian, whether black or white. You absorbed the spirit of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, the Trinitarians, who strive by their way of life, their prayer, and the works of their apostolate to break the chains that keep so many from sharing in the life of the Triune God, and to do so by reaching out with special love to those who are imprisoned, to those held fast by the chains of oppression, addiction, and unbelief.
So too, you were formed in the virtues that befit a Trinitarian and a priest, virtues which St. Paul enumerates in today’s reading from Ephesians, where he writes: “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness and patience…” St. Paul goes on to speak of a spirit of fraternity that is so important for religious life, but also a concern to preserve the Church’s unity – which is itself a gift of the Spirit, a unity which manifests itself in the profession of “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism”, a unity which embraces every race, language, and culture, a unity which is essential for the Church’s mission of evangelization. C. Your formation also called forth the gifts which the Spirit has given to you, gifts that will enable you to evangelize, to teach, to shepherd, and to guide, God-given gifts that equip you for the work of ministry, for the work of building up the Church, which is the Body of Christ. But as you know only too well, Josh, the work of formation is never finished. Through prayer, study, spiritual direction, and fraternal correction, you will continue to learn how to foster unity in your community and in the Church, and how to develop your God-given gifts, as each day your learn anew how to expend yourself in love for God and for the People of God.
Shepherding God’s People
In the Gospel, we meet Jesus, the Good Shepherd, expending himself for his people. Surveying the throng gathered to hear him preach and to be healed, Jesus calls our attention to the vast and heartbreaking spiritual poverty of our times, revealed in the loneliness, suicide, bitterness, and division, so apparent in our culture. Yet, this vast mission field is replete, not only with need but also with opportunity, for, no matter how it may be suppressed, the human spirit hungers and thirsts for God. So, just as the Lord invited his apostles to share in his mission, so now he invites you. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Holy Spirit will fashion in your soul the living image of Christ the High Priest, Christ the Shepherd and Spouse of his Church, Christ, the Lamb of God who laid down his life in love for the redemption of the world.
Thus, you will be enabled to speak and act in the very Person of Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church, re-enacting the death and resurrection of Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist, nourishing God’s people with the Word of Life and the Bread of Life, freeing them from the shackles of sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and helping the sick and dying to unite their sufferings to those of Christ. Like Jesus, you will seek out those who seem to have lost their way, and like Jesus you will bring them back to the fold with great rejoicing.
May your consecrated, priestly heart always be moved with pastoral love for the many people you will encounter in the course of your ministry. Through the witness of your consecrated life and your priestly ministrations, may you help them to throw off the shackles of unbelief and to experience the true freedom and joy of the sons and daughters of God. And may God bless you and keep you always in his love! Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us! St. John DeMatha, pray for us! St. John of Valois, pray for us!