Aside from the gift of Holy Orders that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio bestows upon the newly ordained priests of the diocese, he also presents each one with a special gift.
It’s a piece of his personal crown of thorns plant, the original of which was handed down from his grandmother.
“The tradition is that this is the plant that was used to make the crown of thorns for Jesus,” the bishop told Currents reporter Tim Harfmann.
The tropical plant that demands lots of sun and a weekly watering, occasionally blooms bright red flowers. He keeps the mother plant in a sunny area of his Brooklyn residence, carefully cutting and potting each one for the new priests.
“I give it to the priests to remind them that their lives as priests will have ups and downs but they have to persevere. There’s no rose without a thorn and you recognize that there are two sides to life. There’s the difficult and there’s the beautiful.”
It’s a lesson that the priests appreciate as they pursue their ministries.
Father Chris Heanue, who was ordained two years ago and now serves as the administrator of Holy Child parish in Richmond Hill, says he keeps his in a sunny spot in his living room area and he’s grateful to the bishop for the gift.
“It’s a remembrance of our ordination day,” he explains. “When I have an exhausting day, it reminds me that it’s all in the life of a priest.”
Father Chris Bethge, a parochial vicar at Incarnation, Queens Village, says he keeps his plant in his room. He said when he returns and sees it, it reminds him that there are great joys and trials as well in his work as a priest.
Father Stephen Saffron, a parochial vicar at St. Anselm’s, Bay Ridge, admitted that his plant died and when the bishop came for Confirmation, he told him. Within three weeks, the bishop sprouted a new plant and had it delivered to the Brooklyn rectory.
“It develops a beautiful flower,” says Father Steve, “and so it reminds you that even though it might prick you, there’s beauty in everything around us.”
Father Lukasz Kubiak, who was ordained last year and serves at St. Helen’s, Howard Beach, laments that his plant disappeared.
He said that he went home to Poland for three weeks and when he returned, the plant was gone.
“I love flowers,” he said. “So, I will get another one. Someone must have loved it more than I did.”
Just a practical reminder to take the good with the bad, to remember to smell the roses amidst the thorns.