This year, Theological College seminarians, faculty, and staff commemorated “Sulpician Christmas,” the Feast of the Presentation, on November 23, beginning with the celebration of the Eucharist in the main chapel, which is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple. The Mass was followed by a festive dinner and concluded with the annual “New Men Show,” during which the first-year seminarians poked fun at their formators and at the graduating class of fourth-theologian deacons. This was the end-of-semester celebration since the seminarians would be departing by November 25, not to return until after their annual retreats on January 15 for a week of formation activities and semi-quarantine before classes resume on January 25.
This occasion was made especially memorable by the unveiling of a painting of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, which was commissioned by TC patrons Esther and David Montgomery and created by Sulpician artist Fr. Peter Wm. Gray. David Montgomery was present for the blessing of the painting and its dedication to Fr. David Thayer, P.S.S., longtime friend of the Montgomerys, TC formator, and the evening’s Mass homilist. Fr. Thayer’s profound homily highlighted the pivotal role of Mary in the lives of all present, as role model and Mother: “Throughout her life, she kept the Word and responded with a ‘yes.’”
The Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is central to the identity of the Society of St. Sulpice. It recognizes the start of her consecrated service to the Lord, the “entry of the most holy Theotokos into the Temple.” The founder of the Sulpician order, Fr. Jean-Jacques Olier, entrusted the entire order to the protection of Mary—“Auspice Maria ”—and specifically instructed that the Feast of the Presentation become their patronal feast day, as Mary provides a perfect model for priesthood. Her docility to God’s plan, her willingness to say “yes” to God’s mysterious message given to her at the Annunciation that she would bear a Son, and her great prayer of thanksgiving and praise, the Magnificat, are all emblematic of the ideal ministry of priests who are called to dedicate themselves entirely to the Lord’s service. Mary’s assent, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” is the perfect priestly response to the call to serve the Lord through the ministry of Word and Sacrament.