DOMUS GALILAEAE - Here follows the wish of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa to Samuel Tobar Maida, a new deacon of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Galilee, along with the invitation “to pack your suitcase” with what is indispensable for this journey, to be a servant, “obedient to what the Lord will ask of you.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has a new deacon: Samuel Francisco Tobar Maida, Salvadorian, 33 years old, of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Galilee, who was ordained by the hands of H.B. Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa on March 18, the eve of the solemnity of St. Joseph, in the Church of Domus Galilaeae. The celebration was attended by Fr. Aktham Hijazin, parish priest of Rameh, where Samuel is serving, along with Sisters of the Rosary and brothers from the Fassouta Neocatechumenal community, where the young man is completing his faith-formation journey. From San Salvador, Samuel’s large family and community of origin followed; a great distance bridged through the Internet and spiritual communion.
There is a plan of salvation in which God calls us to participate, often upsetting our projects, and inviting us to take on new and unexpected realities. As it was for St. Joseph, it is so for those who follow the Lord to answer the call is to be ready to “pack up”- this is the evocative image used by Patriarch Pizzaballa - what cannot be renounced for a life of obedience and service. That is also how the Patriarch’s homily could be summarized. First of all, commenting on the Gospel, he stressed that our infidelities and sins are not an obstacle to God. “The genealogy of Jesus, which represents the history of salvation, of Revelation, is not a story of perfect men: God entered into the life of this world as it is. The same can be said about the failures and betrayals that have happened even within your own personal history of salvation,” he said as he addressed the deacon “have not prevented the Lord from making you part of his plan for you and about you.”
At the heart of the homily and indeed the entire celebration were the virtues and obedience of St. Joseph: present like a red thread, or the lace-design behind the Word of God, the promises and prayers of the ordination ritual, and the signs of the liturgy.
“Like all the men of every period, Joseph had his life plan; he wanted to start a family and had found a wonderful woman, Mary, whom he loved very much. Then everything suddenly changed, the angel arrives, calling him to do something unexpected: to become the father of a son who is not his, husband of a wife who will never be completely his, to enter into a different plan, new, unwanted, not sought after, and that will never be completely his, at least from a human point of view. It often seems as if the Lord enjoys distorting our plans, our initiatives; this is because He wants to show that He leads. The greatest sin is to reject or not accept God’s plan, once revealed”. Patriarch Pizzaballa then pointed out that in St. Joseph’s four dreams, the same expression recurs: “take with you,” which means “take on” a plan that does not belong to you, that you do not feel yours. Indeed, “Joseph did not fully understand the Lord’s plan, but he trusted and entrusted himself,” he then noted. “The angel called him, and he immediately responded, in obedient silence”. “Joseph had to make a plan for a completely new journey; somehow he had to change his suitcase, and take with him - that is, assume and make his own - totally new realities.” The Patriarch’s exhortation to the new deacon was to pack his suitcase with what will be necessary for the journey throughout his life, and which will see many passages. “What will you take with you on this journey, in your suitcase, in your heart? What will you take with you on this journey, in your suitcase, in your heart? Something, or someone, that you consider indispensable, that will be an integral part of your journey wherever you go, whatever you do; and that will be constitutive, distinctive, of your identity as a person, as a priest: ask yourself what you will take with you always, in this project of God to which you have been called”.
The story of Samuel, who felt the call to the priesthood at the age of five, is significant: a vocation put aside and forgotten as he grew up. Studying architecture at the university, he said, “I had the dream of getting married, having a lot of money, and living quietly. But this caused me great dissatisfaction. I realized that my life project did not make sense, that it was petty and selfish. At this existential crossroads, I grasped that my life had to take another direction. In a spiritual retreat, giving his willingness to follow Christ, he felt a personal call from the Lord by name.
“Your angel,” the Patriarch pointed out, “will be the Church. Through the Church, God will tell you what the plan will be that it will change continually, that you will sometimes understand it, sometimes not, that you will sometimes reject it. In it, God’s plan of salvation will be made manifest. The same plan which had begun with Abraham and now reaches you”. Finally, a warning: “even when you do become a priest, you will remain a deacon: never the master of God’s plan, but always a servant, a servant of the Church, of the people entrusted to you. It is in that way that you will serve the Lord”.
“Through the intercession of St. Joseph,” concluded the Bishop of Jerusalem, “may the Lord help you always to be a faithful guardian of His plan for you and His Church, to which you are entrusted and handed over. May you always be faithful and obedient to what the Lord asks of you, in health, in sickness, in pain, in trials, but also in joy: always to be part of God’s life and in God.
Among the most touching Ordination moments, after taking the promises, before the diaconal rite of investiture, and the handing over of the Book of Gospels was the singing of the litanies, during which the candidate was prostrate on the ground. The Ordination prayer was profoundly moving; it invoked upon the chosen one the same virtues used to describe St. Joseph - “humble in service, upright and pure of heart, vigilant and faithful in spirit,” “strong and persevering in faith,” “may the example of his life, generous and chaste, be a constant reminder of the Gospel and arouse imitators in your holy people.”
At the end of the celebration, Patriarch Pizzaballa thanked Samuel’s parents for the gift they had done in giving life to him, to the Church in Jerusalem. He is the eleventh of twelve children.