Gifts of chalice and paten parallel vocation journey

The night before transitional deacons Matthew Hawkins and Blake Britton were ordained to the priesthood, their chalices and patens were blessed by Bishop John Noonan at Vespers. The sacred vessels are more than a ritual on the path to priesthood, they reflect something of the men themselves.

Deacon Britton’s chalice and paten were a combined gift from various family members and friends. The beautifully crafted chalice was handmade in Poland by the Uruszczak family who have been making sacred vessels for more than three generations. Embedded in the base are six medallions of silver and gold, each depicting a different scene or character from Christian history. Much like the journey of each individual, it is a reminder that the spiritual life requires nurturing, mutual love and commitment.

An image of the crucifixion serves as a reminder of the sacrifice offered at Holy Mass. Opposite the medallion of the crucifixion is an image of the Blessed Mother. “Mary is the one who most profoundly participates in the offering of her Son to the Father; She is the New Eve whose heart was the seed-bed in which blossomed the first-fruits of Christ salvation, namely, the Church of which she is the first and most prestigious member,” said Deacon Britton. It is also reminiscent of how Britton’s mother, Lydia, consecrated him in the womb to Our Lady.

On the bottom of the chalice is inscribed, “Secundum Verbum Tuum meaning “According to your Word.” These are the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lk 1:38. Deacon Britton noted, “These words of Our Lady have become my guiding principle of discipleship; to do all things according to the Word, the Word made flesh who is Jesus Christ.”

Four medallions of the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John adorn the chalice. “Flowing from the communion of love which exists between Christ crucified and the Church is the Gospel,” explained Deacon Britton. “Engraved and intertwined around the six medallions are grape vines. These eventually all connect at the neck of the chalice and then burst into blooms of wheat and grapes…  symbolic of the fact that the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our faith, is the means of direct communion with the realities depicted by the six medallions – the sacrifice of Christ, the Church and the Gospel.” These are a fitting reminder of the sacredness of consecration which Deacon Britton has so anticipated.

Deacon Matthew Hawkins’ chalice and paten were a gift from his parents. He and his mother, Judy, shopped for them together. More than 100 years old, Deacon Hawkins said, “I felt this would represent my own vocation since I am a little older than the average vocation; it also shows that the bumps and bruises – those imperfections – we earn along the journey, enhance our story and character adding to the beauty.” He added that its age also reflects the longevity of our faith and the priesthood as one that has been handed down through the generations. Because it was made in France, there are several fleur-de-lis, a sign of purity and a symbol often seen with St. Joseph “who is a quiet, hidden, hard-working patron of mine,” said Deacon Hawkins.

Around the base are three medals of the Holy Family. Deacon Matthew noted, “Vocations aren’t nurtured in a vacuum, but are often sown in the soil of a loving family. Also, it is in the midst of the family where we first learn how to offer sacrifice for the good of others—this cup of sacrifice rising up from the midst of the Holy Family will become the cup of salvation each and every day.”

And finally, surrounding the chalice’s stem are the words Ego sum vitis, vos palmitis, translated “I am the vine, you are the branches.” For Deacon Hawkins, this is “a constant reminder to remain in Christ, for all the fruit that is borne belongs to Him. It is His life, His love, that is to pulse through my vines and into my ministry.”

The sacred vessels, now blessed, will be a holy reminder of the call of these two men, where they came from and where God is leading them.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – May 25, 2018