This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of seeing my friend, the Reverend Deacon Chris Gernetzke, get ordained by Bishop Morlino to the Deaconate of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. I have never been to an ordination of any sorts, so I was unsure what to expect.
When my wife and I arrived at the Bishop O’Connor Center, we were looking out for some friends that I had met on Facebook. We met one couple outside in the parking lot, and chatted for awhile in the main lobby. While we waited, we noticed Father Richard Heilman of Pine Bluff come in the door. After some waiting we went in to pray before the Mass.
As Mass started, the procession was long. We saw Fr. Z process in in choir and he had his biretta on. No other priests had their biretta on. Even Deacon-Elect (at that moment) Gerntzke processed up, and I was moved. He had quite the man-lace on. Bishop Morlino also processed in after many priests did so. It was rather an awesome experience.
The Mass, was very reverent. Bishop Morlino managed to give about a 20-25 minute homily. He had 4 points, though I do not recall them all. I do recall how he mentioned a great point to give in regards to married priests. If Catholics give like they do when they don’t like the priest (not much), how is a priest supposed to support a family on that kind of an income? On top of that, how is a priest, who is supposed to love his flock, going to love them if they are mean to his family and taking away their food?
Bishop Morlino also talked about how he calls it as he sees it. Truth is truth. As an example he said he was “chubby wubby” and would not get offended if someone called him that.
The rest of the Mass was very reverent. Deacon Gernetzke did an awesome job. After he was ordained, he vested, and he ad some pretty awesome looking vestments. Solid gold. Nice! All in all there were 3 new Deacons. Apparently the Diocese of Madison has had many years where they had no vocations. Pray for vocations to the priesthood.
Afterwards, my wife, friends and I all went to an Old Chicago for some celebratory food and brews. We had some great conversation about all things Catholic. I asked about how they held their hands in prayer and why their thumbs were crossed over each other. They politely informed me that all of my prayers up to this point didn’t count because I was doing it wrong. Kidding, of course.
The next day, we awoke rather early and went to Deacon Gernetzke’s first preaching Mass. They had quite a few priests who con-celebrated as well as another Deacon. There were several other Seminarians who were also assisting. Deacon Gernetzke gave an excellent homily about Mary, and what the Deacon’s role is in the Church. The Mass was also reverent even though the parish wasn’t exactly the “prettiest”.
A fun fact, the Church was shaped like a fish! Groovy!
All in all though, the Mass was good. Everything was say the black and do the red. There was a nice reception afterwards. We talked with Deacon Gernetzke, for a bit. He informed us that Sunday morning he would be doing an Extraordinary Form with Fr. Z!
Unfortunately, we were not able to attend this. However, we were able to go to Pine Bluff with Fr. Heilman!
Fr. Heilman has done an excellent job at restoring and preserving tradition at St. Mary’s in Pine Bluff. I have only spoken with him on Facebook and then briefly before the ordination. When we walked in, he was standing right there and recognized us and welcomed us. Traditionalists can be welcoming too! We chatted for a bit and then proceeded to walk into the Church.
Everything had been restored. Absolutely amazing. Fr. Heilman brought in new high altar and two side altars. He got rid of the coffee table altar that is generally used. He celebrates the Mass Ad Orientem, that is, back to the people. He reinstalled the communion rail. Everything looked pristine. It was like being transported outside of time itself and into Heaven.
Father Heilman had an excellent homily about how complaining is unchristian. He said that we as Catholics should not be seeking what is comfortable, but what is uncomfortable. We have to bear our crosses daily. He also talked about how awesome soldiers are and that we need to become an army for Christ and His Church. This was a manly homily that called every single one of us to not be content with the ordinary. We need to live our lives for Christ and be obedient to Him and His Church. We need to be good Catholics.
The music was incredibly prayerful. I have heard some of the songs before sung by various different choirs, including the dreaded Praise and Worship choirs. However, this time, it was sung from the heart with the organ. It was prayerful. It reminded me of listening to one of those chant CDs. The songs we sing (or preferably chant) at Mass need to be sung from the heart and need to be prayerful. Its not a performance. You don’t need to be a pop artist. You just need to do it.
Father said Mass intentionally and to the T. He wasn’t trying to entertain us. He was there to say Mass. There was something great about the consecration as well. Reverence. Real reverence at the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. You can tell that he believes it (the real presence), reveres it, and worships it.
We received communion at the communion rail and on the tongue. It was incredible. It was beautiful. I was overwhelmed by emotion that Father believes and encourages that we should receive in this regard. I have been criticized a few times and even denied communion for kneeling and receiving on the tongue. Father Heilman has a great article on why we should receive on the tongue AND kneeling. I suggest you read it.
I have lately been a critic of the Novus Ordo. Mostly, because I felt that it was not as good as the TLM. I still feel that the TLM is better, but after going to Fr. Heilman’s Mass, I am not entirely convinced that the NO should be completely abandoned. The Novus Ordo, in order to succeed, needs to be free from any form of irreverence and influences from the world.
Father Heilman’s Novus Ordo celebrated Ad Orientem felt as if I had indeed gone to a Mass that took place outside of time and space. This is how every Mass should be celebrated. Restore the sacred. Say the black and do the red. If you ever get the chance to go to St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff, GO! It is well worth it.
Please keep Fr Heilman and Deacon Gernetzke in your prayers. Deacon Gernetzke will be Deaconing or Sub-Deaconing two more EF’s in the month of June in the diocese of Madison.