By PAUL A. BARRA
JAMES ISLAND — Father C. Thomas Miles wanted an elegant celebration for his first Mass, a solemn liturgy of the sort that used to be called a high Mass. He got what he wanted.
The 11:30 a.m. Mass on June 27 at the Church of the Nativity featured five acolytes, candles, three masters of ceremony, four deacons in attendance at the altar, flowers, incense, a choir padded with extra professional instrumentalists, visiting priests and a Bishop as homilist. A troop of Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus in silk-lined capes, chapeaux and swords formed an honor guard.
Yet for all the pomp and ceremony, the Mass was a sacrament of simple thanksgiving, according to Bishop Gregory M. Aymond, who is an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the president/rector of Father Miles’ alma mater, Notre Dame Seminary.
“We come here to give thanks to our almighty God because he still calls people to his service,” Bishop Aymond said.
The Bishop also thanked Father Miles’ grandmother, who raised him and “gave him the courage to say yes to the Lord.”
Later, in an emotion-choked finale to the liturgy, the new priest presented a bouquet of roses to his grandmother Louise Makison. Father Miles said that it was “in her eyes that I first caught a glimpse of the face of God.”
In the Gospel read by the Deacon John P. Klein, Jesus tells his followers to “love no one more than me.” For Bishop Aymond, that command alludes to one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith: the unconditional love of God.
“God (in the three persons of the Trinity) is saying that our love is so great, our only desire is that you respond to it. Thomas has done that,” he said.
The Bishop referred to the June 26 ordination in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist as an impressive ceremony in which God named the priest to carry on the ministry of our savior: “Bishop Thompson sent him forth to act and speak, not in his own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ. Father Thomas Miles was sent by God to be a prophet and a priest ….”
Then the Bishop spoke directly to his friend, telling him that when dark days shadow his ministry in the years to come, “Have courage. Remember yesterday and today, for it is God who sends you.”
The celebrant blessed the crowd that came to celebrate his first Mass as Father C. Thomas Miles with a papal blessing authorized for such first Masses.
All then gathered in the Nativity parish hall for a reception.