In Tribute to a Priest, Ceremoniere and Liturgist: Fr. Dana Robert Christensen, KHS

One of the most devoted priests we know to the cause of the Roman Rite is our good friend Fr. Dana Christensen of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Fr. Dana is a priest of great merit and renown with a growing online following.  He is well known for his efforts to promote the cause of good liturgy and the best proper liturgical praxis, living the liturgy as the Church has given it to us as part of a living tradition.  Recently he launched an excellent new blog which we highly recommend, A Living Sacrifice, that can be followed here - it offers excellent treatises on various topics.  

Fr. Dana seen in coro - in the above photo, in the front row, on the left.  

Fr. Dana is a young priest, ordained in 2005.  That same year he was invested as a knight of the most noble Equestrian Order of the Most Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, knighted with a silver sword and gilded spurs.  He has long been a devotee of both good liturgy and strong Marian devotion, a distinction that must be pointed out, an important link that is crucial to understanding priestly spirituality (priest and victim).  Fr. Dana has traveled to Fatima, Rome and Jerusalem as a pilgrim and is well-known and well-liked by all who meet him.  As a young man he was privileged to meet Mother Angelica of EWTN fame.  As a seminarian in the Holy Year 2000 he had the grace to meet Pope St. John Paul II and as a young priest he was later received in audience by Raymond Cardinal Burke at his flat in Rome.  His inspiring interview with Dr. Taylor Marshall can be seen here.  

Fr. Dana is a spiritual son of Fr. Robert Fox, the most famous priest that came from South Dakota, the founder of the Fatima Family Apostolate.  Fr. Fox, also affectionately known by many as the "Fatima priest," was born in Watertown, South Dakota.  In later years at nearby St. Mary of Mercy parish in Alexandria he built the Fatima Family Shrine, a Mid-America place of pilgrimage and devotion symbolically at the geographical center of North America.  Later, Fr. Dana was assigned here as a priest and served the community with distinction.  The shrine is a place of prayer.  It even has a nearby Carmel, founded in 1997.  The shrine gardens provide a worthy place of meditation, brining to mind holy thoughts such as the dolorous passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the lives of the saints, the credible witnesses the Church has produced through the ages by grace, suffering and perseverance.      

Displayed below is a version of Fr. Dana's presbyteral coat-of-arms (all priests are entitled to use a coat-of-arms, the blazoning of armorial bearings is an art and science, a long popular custom among Roman clergy).  This version is the creation of the Italian heraldist and graphic designer, Enzo Parrino.  The ecclesiastical heraldry displays a red-enameled Crusader Cross hanging at the bottom of the arms, symbolic of Fr. Dana's knightly rank.  Fr. Dana is also an oblate of the American Benedictines of Norcia, Italy.  The name he received in religion in 2017 as a professed oblate member is Ambrose, in honor of St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church and fierce defender of the Faith.  St. Ambrose, born in Trier, Germany, was one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of his time as well as a composer of music.  He served as the Roman Governor of his region of Milan before he was unexpectedly called to the altar by popular acclamation to be consecrated bishop.  

The closer to Christ, the brighter the cross.  Fr. Dana is a gallant priest with knightly manners.  Upon returning from a pilgrimage to Fatima, where he asked Our Lady to make him a saint, Fr. Dana received word of a possible diagnosis of ALS.   This was confirmed after a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  Fr. Dana has since retired from active ministry.  He now spends his time praying and interceding before the Blessed Sacrament, writing for his blog and providing important commentary on social media platforms.  His online reflections are a treasure trove of golden wisdom, a rare find in today's world of "cancel culture" where all serious Christians are beginning to feel the diminution of freedom of conscience and religious liberty.  Fr. Dana has become a strong voice for the sick and disabled, an advocate for all those in need.    

Fr. Dana is no longer able to use his arms or hands and can no longer offer Holy Mass alone.  He writes using an eye gaze computer, a remarkable feat of technology that is controlled by the movement of his own eyes.  In this manner, writing has become his principle mode of preaching the Gospel, reaching a global audience online.  Fr. Dana has poetically described his journey, likening his experience to that of the early Church Fathers in the desert who lived in caves in the remote and barren lands of Upper Egypt: "I feel more and more like the Desert Fathers each day as my disease progresses.  My body is my cave and it is within its silence I do battle with the devil." Indeed, his personal motto is Vox Clamantis In Deserto ("a voice of one crying out in the desert"), taken from Mark 1:3 in reference to John the Baptist calling people to prepare the way of the Lord.  

In some ways this deep and profound description of the desert brings to mind the Dark Night of the Soul, a classic in the literature of mysticism by St. John of the Cross.  The written verse and prose of Fr. Dana, like that of St. John of the Cross, forms at once a most impressive and melodious spiritual canticle that not many men have given utterance.  Fr. Dana has been transformed through the joy of suffering into a most sublime mystic, soaring aloft on the wings of Divine love to heights not known to hardly any of us.  

True to the character of his love for Divine Liturgy, Fr. Dana's style is always forceful and energetic.  We see a master-mind who has scaled the heights of immolation and oblation and from that summit looks down upon us and dominates the plain below and the paths leading upwards.  His journey is so appealingly human and yet divine, a powerful illustration that grace, far from destroying nature, ennobles and dignifies it.  There is always found agreement between the natural and the supernatural, between principles of sound reason and the manifestations of divine grace.         

Fr. Dana writes on his blog in one of his most simple and sublimest passages with an intermingling of philosophy and mystical theology: "Even though I can no longer offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I offer myself as a living sacrifice in union with the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.  I offer myself through the hands of Mary in reparation for the sins which so wound the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  I also offer my sufferings for the Church and for my brother priests."  

The Church in her wisdom teaches us there is redemptive value in suffering.  In some ways this brings to mind a proverb from ancient Rome, "From the bitterness of disease man learns the sweetness of health."  For the Desert Fathers, there is immense spiritual meaning and blessing in suffering.  Let us pray for Fr. Dana and ask him to pray for us, that nothing go to waste as he ascends the spiritual mountain on a long journey into the desert where chosen few are called, cradled in the cusp of the immediate saving power of God.  I encourage readers to follow Fr. Dana's excellent blog and to gleam from it immeasurable wisdom and to collaborate with him in his blog ministry here.  

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