After five years of priesthood: A Thanksgiving

LayingHands

Thanks be to God for the gift bestowed upon me five years ago on the Solemnity of St. Joseph the Husband of Mary! Thanks be to God for the gift of the priesthood! It is amazing to think about this gift five years later and refect upon all that God has shared and given me in and through this share in His ministry. What an adventure it has been! 

Just before I was ordained I went on a mandatory retreat in preparation for my ordination. One of my retreat directors, a monk, encouraged me to write down my prayers of thanksgiving everyday after my ordination for this great gift bestowed upon me in ordination. I was to do this daily for at least two weeks and then periodically for the next two months. I am so glad that I did. No single offering of thanks and gratitude can ever fully express what God gives in the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Sacrament of Ordination to the Piresthood.

Truth be told this was also a very helpful practice for me. Before entering becoming a priest I tended to focus a lot on what I would be sacrificing or giving up in doing so. Every good thing chosen necessarily requires that we exclude choosing something else that is good. This is just a fact of life, but we can do great harm when we fail to focus on what we have chosen or on what has been bestowed upon us by God through saying ‘Yes’ to His call. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” By looking only on what is behind us we reveal where are heart is – or where it remains – and, “where your heart is there your treasure will be also.”

By setting out immediately after my ordination to the priesthood in prayer and thanksgiving I know it helped me to focus not on the life I left behind but on the good life God was laying out for me as a priest. Praise be to God for His goodness and grace given to me, unworthy though I am. He is a good God and truly knows what we want and desire. My few years as a priest have been a testament to this truth. God grants us our hearts desires even in the strangest of ways and it is beautiful to see and recognize when He does this.

I beleive in closling it might be good for me to end with a prayer, the first prayer of thanksgiving that I gave to God after my Presbyteral Ordination – it is good to reflect again upon the initial gratitude of that special night. Thanks be to God! Thank you God for these five years!

I must begin by saying that I have received a Grace beyond my imagining and a family much larger than ever expected. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ! I love you and trust in you. Have mercy on me. Thank you! Thank you Lord that I have received such great peace and consolation and you have allowed me to unite the people of God with you in the sacrifice of the cross. What a privilege Lord!

 

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Sister poverty, sister fidelity, sister obedience

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I was deeply moved by the word of our Holy Father Pope Francis after reading his Chrism Mass homily from Holy Week. He mentioned three sisters who help to ‘guard’ the joy of the ministerial priest. The three sisters happen to be “sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience.” Protected by these three sisters the joy of the priesthood and the joy of the priest is kept intact and flourishing!

Sister poverty keeps our hearts open for The Lord and for the Lord’s people – He and they alone are the source of joy in the life of the priest. Guarded by this sister the priest never needs to fabricate or create his joy for himself. Sister poverty ensures that he is ready and able to receive the joyful gifts God and God’s people have for him.

Sister fidelity is able to guard the priest from sadness by ensuring that he is faithful to his mission and therefore to God, God’s people and himself. His joy is protected because he is able to leave behind everything contrary to this mission and remain firm in those things that support it. He will find, in the help of sister fidelity, communion with that ‘bride’ of his and in whom he rejoices in.

Sister obedience guards the joy of the priest precisely because his complete and abundant joy is found in the Church and in The Lord. Obedience to God and the Church means not only joy in the external work entrusted to the priest but, through obedience to God in the Church the priest also remains and finds communion with the one whom he obeys and the ones form whom his obedience is directed in action – to the whole of the Church.

I love the images of these sisters.
I have one sibling, a sister, and she is beautiful and I love her and am grateful for her. She is a source of joy for me in my life and in more ways than I think I know she is one who guards a certain joy in my life. She allows me also to understand the way that these beautiful sisters – poverty, fidelity, obedience – are able to guard and provide for my joy as a priest even when, according to the ways of the world, I am so poor, so alone and so shackled by my commitments that happiness should be far from me. Praise be to God for my sisters (and my sister) for in fact guarding my joy as a priest!

Happy Easter!

“Who am I?” and the call of God

Tugging

I remember the day that I first ‘heard’ the call of God in my life to be a priest. That call came as quite a shock and it is it quite difficult to describe. The best I have been able to describe what happened that day is to liken what I felt or sensed with what one might feel having someone either grab you by the shirt collar and tug you in a certain direction or, better yet, as if someone has taken a rope and tied it around you heart (representative of the center of one’s being) and then began to tug on the rope – to tug on that heart-string – if you get what I mean. It was not a forceful tugging, it was possible to resist, but at the same time – paradoxically – it was strong and could not go unnoticed. It was both extremely clear, in that I knew that the tugging was in the direction of the priesthood, and at the same time it was extremely confusing, not due to the complexity of the call itself but because of the clarity of the call and therefore consequently because it left me an emotional wreck; I distinctly remember that I didn’t want it yet I could not deny the experience. “Lord, you’ve got the wrong guy.”  It is only in hind site that I can look back with any clarity and know that the reason I was so confused and in so much turmoil or conflict was because of where I felt called.

What was surprisingly evident about this experience was that this call was the farthest thing from my own will or desire. I knew that I had not wanted this. The call was not from myself, it came from somewhere completely outside of me and yet, at the same time, I could not deny having it. It had the particular effect it did on me because of how much the call resonated with my identity, with my being, even if as yet unrealized. I believe now that if the Lord was calling me to this, the Lord who know’s me better than I know myself, then what He was calling me to was not far from me but God was calling me to myself – to my true or fulfilled self.

It would not be until years later, after actively discerning the call of God in my life to be a priest and affirming that call with my own ‘yes’ (as much as I could then muster and can now daily muster as I continue to say ‘yes’), that I began to realize how much one’s vocation (both to holiness and to whatever particular calling given to us) is very much a part of ones identity. Only after seeing some worksheets consisting of questions about oneself that a previous vocational director would give to those discerning the priesthood did I realize that the huge and often unasked and therefore unanswered question, “Who am I?” is intimately related to the vocational call of each individual. God calls us to fulfillment, yes in holiness of life, but within that universal call we are called to be the fulfillment of our true selves. Therefore, our holiness (and with it our happiness!) and our vocation will be the fulfillment of our identity and not the denial of it. It is of critical importance that, when we discern our vocation with God and the Church, we ask not simply, “What do you want me to do Lord?” but rather, “Who am I?” Knowing who I am will be deeply informative in helping us answer the way God is leading us to fulfill the universal call to holiness within our own particular or vocational modality of that calling.

For accurate discernment to happen then there is a critical need for a personal relationship with the living God. The need for prayer is paramount – both liturgical and personal. The God who is Truth, Goodness and Beauty is the one who not only reveals Himself to us but this same God is the one who through Jesus Christ, as Blessed John Paul II so profoundly said, “reveals man to himself.” The closer we become with God and the deeper our communion with Him the more we not only come to know who He is – His Truth, Goodness and Beauty – but the more He reveals to us who we truly are, in what our complete good consists, and our innate beauty. If the kingdom of God is contained in Jesus Christ as Pope Emeritus Benedict said, then the words of Christ to, “seek first the kingdom of God,”  seem all the more paramount, since to seek the Kingdom of God, to seek communion with God in and through Jesus Christ, is to have revealed to us both God’s self and our own persons  – including the particular way to holiness God is calling each of us to.

Lord draw us to yourself and reveal to us the fulness of all truth!