Well it has been one year since I started wearing it…my ring…and it seems that most of you have noticed it. Being that it is the second weekend of Advent, the time when we follow John the Baptist into the wilderness to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” I thought it would be fitting to explain what the ring means to me about the Kingdom of Heaven.
The why comes from a greater understanding of why so many Priests of this generation choose to wear a ring. It largely comes from the imagery of Christ the Bridegroom marrying the Church. The fact that a Priest is consecrated to live in persona Christi (in the person of Jesus Christ when they exercise their sanctifying, teaching, and guiding functions for the sake of the Church) would be reason enough to support the wearing of the ring. But with the obvious effects and horrors of the abuse scandal in recent years, many have chosen to embrace an outward sign of their commitment to remaining faithful to their sacred vows. Also, after my Dad died, something changed in me. My first spiritual directee from my first parish, Sr. Brigid Ancilla Marie from The Sisters of Life, was the first to notice “you are different…you have finally accepted your Fatherhood.” At first I didn’t quite understand what she meant, since I had always respected being a Father. Then I realized that while my Dad was alive, I relied on him to identify the role of “father.” She was right, I did begin to change and I wanted to love those I was given to serve in a more urgent and effective way. I prayed it would be less of my heart and more of The Father’s Heart or Jesus’ Sacred Heart. Since my Mom wears my Dad’s ring around her neck now, I thought it was time for my own.
I asked my niece’s Jewish husband (Thanks Daniel) to help me design it. After several months I settled for three symbols. My first comes from the name given to me at my Priesthood ordination and pastorate to St. Francis de Sales, Saint Kieran: The Cross of St. Kieran (found on a tomb at Clonmacnoise, County Offaly, Ireland—it is on my tombstone already so I can momento mori/remember I must die). The second is the love I have always known from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which led me to fully accepting the gift of The Sacred Heart of Jesus. The third one is a Hebrew word hidden inside my ring, ruah, which means the breath of The Lord. It is God’s breath that was breathed into the clay of the earth to create humanity to be in His image. Ruah is also an early image of the Holy Spirit’s breath breathed upon the Church at Pentecost (the weekend I was ordained and when I celebrated my first Mass). So there you have it! Maranatha, Fr. Bline
(P.S. This year we moved The Immaculate Conception to Monday the 9th; also Our Lady of Guadalupe is the 12th, Santa Lucia the 13th, & St. Juan de la Cruz on the 14th)