In a race, the baton is passed from one runner to another. When an elderly priest passes his chalice on to the next priest, he passes on the symbol of the priesthood to the next man. In our diocese, we offer to the newly ordained chalices which are often old and tarnished from priests who have run the race and have died. As a young priest, I received a chalice from Father Willibald Hackner who was ordained in 1915. He died in his late nineties, a good and holy priest. Imagine how many people were given the Body and Blood of Christ through his years of celebrating the Sacraments. Father Hackner had a very important insight about life and how we live our vocation. He shared with me that in life there are..
Two great stages:
In the first stage, God gives us many gifts and the temptation is to think that the gifts come from us and therefore we can so easily fall into pride. The test of this first stage of life is to recognize God as the Giver/Source of all that we have and are, and therefore to be humble before Him—to see ourselves as stewards before such a great and loving God.
In the second stage of life, the Lord begins to take away each gift one by one. As we begin to lose our physical strength, eyesight, etc., it is very difficult to give up what has been ours for so long. Each gift is slowly taken back by the Giver until we stand naked before Him. At that point the temptation is to be bitter and frustrated. The test at this stage is to stand naked before our God in a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude. Father Hackner used to tell the stories of all that he did as a young priest, strong and talented. In his old age I saw him lose his ability to walk, to see, to hear, and finally he lost so much of his memory that he no longer recognized me. Yet, in spite of all the loss, he held his rosary tight and spent his days praying and persevering. Father Hackner died running the race of humility, gratitude, and holiness. He gave me his chalice. As I celebrate Mass with his chalice—the baton of his priesthood, I know that I too will pass through the same stages as he did. I hope to run the race learning how to see God as the Source of all and to be humble, and finally when all is returned, to be thankful as I stand empty and naked of my talents before my God.