I just know him as Dan ‘The Man’ or simply ‘Big Dan’. The first moniker refers to Stan ‘The Man’ Musial, the Hall of Fame baseball player from the St. Louis Cardinals of the 40’s and 50’s. The second refers to his stature – all 6′ 6″ of it! Dan is the tallest person almost everywhere he goes. He has been my brother-in-law and friend for the past 14 years.
From the beginning we had to learn to get along because we are married to inseparable, Italian sisters who are only 10 months apart in age. In other words, we all spend a lot of time together. We were destined from the outset to spend every holiday and countless other occasions together. At first glance we appeared to be an Oscar and Felix, a real odd couple. He is from the Midwest and I am from the East Coast. He is quick, practical and hands-on and I am bookish and academic. He is a diehard college football fan and I gravitate more toward baseball and soccer. He loves action movies with as many battle scenes and explosions as possible, while I prefer more artsy and slow-paced films. He is a classic extrovert and I am more introverted. He would rather sip Amaretto and eat a bowl of berries, while I enjoy an occasional brandy and cigar. Just two different guys with a mutual respect and deep faith brought together by our wives. It’s been a lot of fun being part of the family with ‘Big Dan’.
I was so excited to attend Dan’s Rite of Candidacy Mass for the Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia last Saturday. The four of us drove down together to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary to witness Dan and 16 other men be accepted as diaconate candidates by Bishop Robert Maginnis.
It was a pristine morning and the sun shone brightly as we arrived at the Seminary. Almost immediately we could tell that Dan was the Mayor of Diaconate Town! He seemed to know everyone in sight. The walk up to the church was filled with introductions, friendly banter, jokes, and back slapping. Everything about this seemed to fit Dan perfectly.
Dan and Anita gave us a brief tour of the hallowed halls of this majestic seminary. Beautiful oil paintings of cardinals and bishops of yesteryear lined the walls punctuated by seating areas of high-backed, antique chairs. After the tour, they gave Maria and me instructions on where to sit in the church and at what parts of the ceremony to take pictures. I was designated the official family photographer.
The brilliant sunlight radiated through the large, stain-glassed windows in the church. The rows of pews on either side of the main aisle faced each other. The seminarians recite the Divine Office daily in the church and chant the prayers back and forth. A lovely, stone statue of the Blessed Mother stood next to the altar . The ornate, arched ceiling gazed down upon the proceedings.
The mass commenced a little after 10:30am. Anita and the other wives of the candidates processed in first, genuflected in pairs before the tabernacle, and filed to their assigned seats. The candidates followed suit and each took his place in front of his wife. The procession continued as the deacons, priests, and finally, the bishop, all took up their stations near the altar. The mass proceeded as normal until the time when the homily is customarily given. Bishop Maginnis sat in a large armchair arranged for him in front of the altar. The candidates lined up in pairs before the bishop who, in turn, called the name of each candidate. When the name of each was called, he stated “present” in a clear, sententious manner, stepped forward, and bowed. The bishop spoke words of welcome and encouragement and explained that each man was being given a special call to a life of service in the Church. The attendees applauded enthusiastically at the conclusion of the mass for the bishop, deacons, the candidates, and their wives.
The four of us enjoyed a delicious lunch at one of our favorite Asian restaurants, Sangkee. It was the perfect ending to the celebration.
Dan still has five more years of study and formation before he will ultimately be ordained a deacon in 2017. He takes weekly theology classes at the seminary and will complete his studies with a Masters Degree in Theology. We are all very proud of him and support him fully in responding to God’s call for him.
St. Therese had an initiation ceremony of her own on this date in 1890. It was the public ceremony of the Reception of the Veil on September 24, 1890 following her Profession two weeks earlier. The large, black veil hiding her face symbolized that her countenance would no longer be seen by anyone outside the cloister and that her path now would be entirely hidden and interior.
It was not an easy day for Therese who described the trials vividly when she wrote that, “The ceremony of my reception of the Veil took place on the 24th of September and the day was veiled in tears. Papa was not there to bless his Queen; Father Pichon was in Canada; the Bishop, who was supposed to come and dine with Uncle, did not come at all since he was sick. In a word, everything was sadness and bitterness. And still peace, always peace, reigned at the bottom of the chalice. That day, too, Jesus permitted that I was unable to hold back my tears and these were misunderstood. In fact, I had been able to bear up under much greater crosses without crying; however, this was because I was helped by powerful graces. Jesus left me to my own resources on the 24th and I soon showed how little these resources really were.” (Story of A Soul, p. 167-168)