Father Luis M. Silva Cervantes had it all planned. May 23 was marked on a countdown app on his phone for months. After his transitional diaconate ordination, he started to make a list of guests for his priestly ordination on that date and for his first Mass to follow. There was a custom-made chasuble for his first Mass ordered by his older brother and family that was set to arrive two weeks before ordination. In February he bought a custom-made chalice from his native Mexico that was scheduled to arrive at the end of April. The same month Father Silva made a reservation at a club in Brooklyn where close friends and relatives would gather for a reception after the Ordination Mass.
Every detail was coming together, down to the invitations, holy cards and vestments. “Believe it or not,” Father Silva said, “the preparation of an ordination and a first Mass can look very much like the preparation of a wedding.”
That was when the coronavirus entered his idyllic picture. On March 12, seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary were asked to leave the Dunwoodie campus. At first, it seemed like a temporary measure, just until the virus could be contained. Then came the news that all public Masses in the Archdiocese of New York were canceled beginning the weekend of March 14-15. Still, with May 23 more than two months away, Father Silva thought his ordination was safe.
You know the rest of the story. The dominoes continued falling. The company making his chasuble emailed a few days later to say it could not be completed in time. A text the next day from the chalice company said the same thing. Then came a bigger blow, sadly explained by his brother, who said his dad’s visa interview was postponed until Aug. 8.
Father Silva was starting to realize that his ordination would not come off as planned. The seminary campus remained closed for the rest of the semester, with classes moving online and graduation canceled.
Even without an official statement, it seemed likely that his Ordination Mass would be postponed. When Father Silva left the seminary, he was taken in at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Scarsdale, where Father Thomas Lynch, the pastor, has served as a spiritual mentor to him. Then a remarkable thing happened when he was feeling sad at the prospect of his ordination being pushed back. He looked around at the priests of IHM and saw sadness, but not the same kind he felt.
“Your priests were in great pain for not being able to minister to you in the traditional way,” said Father Silva in a moving homily he delivered at IHM on the seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, which ironically was the day he would have celebrated his first Mass.
“I saw one of them with tears in his eyes, thinking of you and how painful it was for you not to participate in the Mass and receive the Holy Communion. And that’s when it hit me, and those tears made sense. Because what father wouldn’t cry bitterly when seeing his children starving?
“My dear brothers and sisters, I know that you are starving because you are not being fed with the Bread of Life that is our Lord Jesus Christ, the true food that is the Holy Communion.
“A priest is called a father because he truly is, and now, thanks to this difficult time, I have witnessed the meaning of this spiritual fatherhood. Priesthood is not about me. I won’t get ordained a priest for my own sake. I will be ordained a priest because God wants to use me as an instrument to minister to you and, more specially, to feed you with His Body and His Blood.”
Cardinal Dolan will ordain Father Silva at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Friday, June 26. Please remember him in prayer that day. Anyone who preaches like he does is already off to a good start.