At the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse during Holy Week, the young Deacon Jason Hage assisted our bishop who blessed the chrism oil that will be used June 7 to anoint Jason at his ordination as a brand new priest.
I reflected on what a delightful connection it all was — and on my 40th anniversary coming soon.
Where did the time go? How many great parishes and wonderful persons of all ages have I had the privilege of knowing, befriending and serving in times of happiness, and times of loss or sadness, tragedy and success.
The life of the parish priest is truly wondrous, taxing, fulfilling and blessed. At times there are too many people who seek too many things from the priest, all at the same time. Sometimes, there is no one around when some company would be welcomed.
The words of Pope Francis said in a recent talk about vocations ring true: “A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people”
So many good, faithful, big-hearted, even really fun and dedicated Catholic folks of every age are there in our parish communities. I’ve had the blessing of being in five or six of those “households of faith” over 40 years.
Perhaps to be outgoing, open to new people of every sort, able to make friends with those we call the “unchurched” is a help for a parish priest in these days when we have to meet them where they’re at rather than expect them to come to that altar.
But the place of the priest who is more reflective with an aura of prayerfulness, a more stay-at-home and devoted agent of God is equally effective and needed. In whatever way the parish priest does it, each with their own style, what counts is to make evident the qualities that St. Paul encouraged in the new young “priest” Timothy (read the Epistle to Timothy).
Paul said: “I remind you to stir into flame the gift bestowed upon you when my hands were placed upon you. The spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit, but rather one that makes us strong, loving and wise.”
Today, a lively, creative parish priest who is happy in his chosen life can influence people in many ways and make being Catholic a cherished and enjoyable blessing, helping each person whether a kid or a golden-ager become the person Christ invites them to be.
Many years ago a pope was visiting some priests at the Vatican. One said he was a professor in a great university, the other a secretary to a powerful bishop. The third priest said he was only a parish priest with the care of souls.
The pope knelt before the third one and asked for his blessing.
What a life it is, a worthy vocation, a way to help make people and situations a bit better, to live as a member of many families yet not really belonging to any one.
To share many sufferings and penetrate the deepest secrets; to help heal wounds and to be a part of so many celebrations and times of joy.
To take the word of the Gospel, week after week and work it through, much like an artist with a canvas before him, to apply that word and make it helpful for God’s people gathered.
This is the life of a priest.