This week I received my very first chasuble. If you are not familiar with the Roman Catholic ordination rite, right after I am ordained I am vested for the very first time as a priest. Two close friends in the Lord will lovingly dress me in my stole and chasuble, and then present me to the congregation. It is a most touching ritual, one I will experience only once and remember for the rest of my days.
When the package from the manufacturer arrived, I placed it on my bed and cautiously opened it. I have never owned something so beautiful. The royal fabric shimmered up at me. I removed the chasuble with care, shook it out, held it up, and stared at it. After a few moments, I gently pulled it over my head and turned to survey myself in the mirror. The woman staring back at me was a priest. I looked deep into her eyes....and smiled.
How many of us have felt stopped from becoming who we truly are? Maybe we have internalized family expectations. Maybe we have accepted bogus cultural prescriptions. Maybe we have been crushed by institutional prejudice. Still, something very deep within us fights to express itself, to rise to the surface, to be seen and accepted and celebrated.
I have waited so long for this moment and I feel alive. But, I also got a reality check. Not too long ago I bumped into a priest friend and, after some conversation about my ordination, he said with care, “I know you are excited, and you should be. It’s a joyous time. But, beware: you are painting a target on your head and, at some point, the weight of that stole around your neck will become very heavy.” I know that he was speaking from experience. I also know that what he was saying is true.
Still, this doesn't stop me. After all, nowhere in scripture or tradition are we promised that the road to holy self-expression is easy. It isn't. It requires prayer and patience and fidelity and sacrifice and courage. But, if we want to become who we are, we must first give ourselves the permission to become. Once we do, God's Holy Spirit will rise up within us, take our soul by the hand, and guide us to that person we are meant to be.