MAINE, Minn. — The quiet young man lifted the host to heaven with the solemnity and absolute assurance that those present would receive what had been promised 2,000 years ago.
Those were the thoughts Kris Budke had as he watched his brother Jon celebrate his first solo Mass in Rome after his ordination into the Legion of Christ in Rome in January.
"Rome was about family and commitment and faith and hope,” Kris said. “[Seeing an] arthritic Italian woman negotiating the stones of St. Peter's square being warmly greeted by a strong young man in a collar and knowing both of them are the better for it — it put me in touch.”
The ordination was a culmination of a lifetime of religious education, the following of a vocation and the answer to many of the prayers of family and friends, as Father Jon Budke became a Catholic priest.
More than a dozen family members flew to Rome to see Father Jon's ordination, an experience for some that will leave an impression for a lifetime.
"The joy, peace, reverence and commitment of all the ordained was so obvious on the day of the ordination, and I think that flowed over to the participants in the congregation,” said his sister Karen Taylor.
"I don't think I was really at peace with his commitment to the Legionaries of Christ and especially the sacrifice that took from him and our family,” she said, “nor do I think I could have come to peace with that commitment had I not been there and seen the joy and peace in Jon on the day he was ordained.”
For Father Jon, it meant a great deal to have his parents, Don and Kathleen Budke, as well as many of his brothers and sisters present.
His parents received the rare opportunity for a personal blessing from the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, during the visit.
"It was a great joy having them there,” he said. “Obviously, Rome and the Vatican are very special places for our family and this was a very special time.”
Karen likened the experience of attending the ordination to the birth of her children.
"In a similar way joy, peace, reverence and commitment flows over parents and extended family at the birth of children,” she said. “At one event I was actively involved; at one, only an observer in most ways. Yet my faith was strengthened through both.”
The 11th child in a family of 13, Father Jon is used to the ribbing and jostling of a big family, which fit in well with the large number of rather boisterous youth present at the ordination.
"At times the atmosphere was a little raucous,” Kris said. “The ordinates and celebrants were obviously so focused that they seemed oblivious to this.”
On Feb. 18, family and friends gathered again as Father Jon celebrated his first Mass in his home parish at St. James Catholic Church.
Maintaining his dry sense of humor and surrounded by his nephews who served as altar boys, Father Jon said giving a sermon in front of people he's familiar with makes it a lot easier.
"You find yourself up on the altar and think ‘What am I doing here?’” he laughed. “It takes time to have everything sink in — even when you know this is what you were meant to do, it takes some adjusting. And being able to share that with my family is priceless.”
He has noticed that people approach him a little differently now that he's been ordained, particularly when receiving the sacraments.
"I know that it doesn't matter who the person is serving the sacraments,” Karen said. “But when it's your own brother, it just seems a little more special.”
Family ties remain strong and a weekend of get-togethers showed Father Jon that some things don't change.
"I was still given a hard time — when I deserved it,” he smiled. “I don't ever want that to change.”
Now assigned at Our Lady of Bethesda in Bethesda, Md., Father Jon will be working at a retreat center focused on giving spiritual direction to young men and women.
"Realizing that Christ has chosen you to continue the work he asked of the Twelve Apostles, sharing the experiences you have learned through all he's taught is simply a great honor,” he said.
This article is reprinted with the permission of the Fergus Falls (Minn.) Daily Journal.