Recently, I was able to attend the ordination of my brother-in-law to the priesthood, and there, before my eyes, his soul was eternally changed, indelibly marked. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon before—I’ve attended many baptisms and confirmations and Easter Vigils, and I’ve even been to another ordination. I’ve also met many persons who’ve been indelibly marked, as all who are baptized and confirmed are, and I have the immense blessing of knowing many priests. And I am among the indelibly marked! Yet we all look physically, outwardly the same as we did previously. Inwardly, though, we are changed, like the man born blind (cf. John 9: 6-9). Much like the form of bread and wine conceal the greater truth of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, so our bodies conceal the greater reality of our changed, marked, and claimed souls through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and, for some, Holy Orders.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, in paragraph 1121, that these three sacraments, in addition to conferring grace, also confer “a sacramental character or ‘seal’ by which the Christian shares in Christ’s priesthood and is made a member of the Church according to different states and functions. This configuration to Christ and the Church, brought about by the Spirit, is indelible; it remains for ever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church.” The indelible mark of these three sacraments is a positive orientation towards God and openness to His grace, that we might love Him, serve Him, and be more like Him. I’ve been baptized and confirmed, and in those sacraments, not only have I been claimed for Christ by this indelible mark—this sacramental grace from the Spirit—but I have also been given an avenue, a calling, a vocation to be more like Christ. These sacraments call me to be Christ in this world, according to my state in life.
What an incredible thing! To be so changed inwardly that it cannot be undone, no matter what. We truly are the Church, the baptized and confirmed, that we have been so changed that not even the gates of hell can change us back—we are eternally for Christ, then, by virtue of these sacraments, and that is a glorious comfort. Surely we can still choose against God, choose sin and evil and Satan, but that cannot undo or revert our souls back from this indelible mark; we are changed forever. It reminds me a lot of something C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare….There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
At my brother-in-law’s ordination, I encountered a cathedral packed with everlasting splendors, hundreds of people invested in the seven men who were giving their lives over in service to Christ and His Church, hundreds of unordinary people witnessing the eternal changing of these seven men’s souls. It is a glorious feeling to not only witness the conferring of this greatest sacrament of service but to also be among hundreds of other eternal, splendid souls who are doing the same. Surely, this is what heaven is like: a multitude of changed souls, oriented eternally toward the Triune God, worshipping, praising, and participating in Him together. This is exactly what the ordination felt like. Truly, if you’ve never been to an ordination or an Easter Vigil, make it a priority.
It is a wondrous world we live in and a wondrous God we serve and love. He is a wondrous God Who loves us so much to create us in the first place, and even more so to give us the means by which to come to Him even more fully and easily through the sacraments. Carrie Underwood has a song called “Something in the Water,” in which she sings about how baptism changed her, how the Lord has been even more at work in her life since, and how she can depend on Him even more than she could before. She’s talking about the first and most available indelible mark we can receive, this positive orientation toward grace and God. How generous is our God to give us, as Catholics, two more ways to be indelibly marked, two more ways to be even more closely configured to Him and more deeply opened up to the power of the Holy Spirit! We are the few, the proud, the eternally changed, the indelibly marked—let our lives be shining examples of this in the world, of Him in the world. People can’t tell just by looking at us that we’re any different than they are, but our words, deeds, and joy set us apart; they open up the changed nature of our souls to share with others. This is the call of baptism, of confirmation, and of the priesthood: to be lights of Christ to others as we are more closely configured to and united with Him.