With Thanksgiving approaching, it seems appropriate to share this excerpt from the reflection I wrote just prior to my ordination. Indeed, in a way, it all started on Thanksgiving, twelve years ago:
It’s appropriate that my decision to pursue the life of a Jesuit and a priest began at Thanksgiving. Because, as I reflect on the nearly twelve years between that Thanksgiving and now, this is my prevailing sentiment—thankfulness. I give thanks for the elderly and dying woman who invited me to rub her feet, offering me one of my first lessons in priesthood. I give thanks for spontaneous prayers asked for by a struggling mother in the entrance of the church after mass or looking into the eyes of a homeless man in a White Castle parking lot in the Bronx. I give thanks for students who let the fact that I was a Jesuit make a difference in the classroom, and in their lives, sharing with me their fears about everything from academic success, to their drinking habits, war in Iraq, or a parent suffering from addiction. I give thanks for my many colleagues in ministry these years in parish ministry, hospital ministry, campus ministry, youth and young adult ministry, all of whom have taught me something about what it means to be a priest, and who let me share my experience and gifts, sometimes in challenging ways. Without all these lessons I would not have the strength to find the words, the gestures or the silence for days like the one last summer which began praying with a family reeling from the sudden stroke of husband and father, found me later in a room praying with and for a man who had just died and his family, waiting with another family for the priest who had been called to anoint their dying father, and finally standing with the parents of a man who had attempted suicide as the doctor told them he wasn’t likely to make it, and it was probably better he didn’t. At the end of the night I did my best, at the Father’s request, to be sure that his son would be anointed at the other hospital to which he was medevaced. Few days have made me as conscious as this one did of my gratitude for the many things people had taught me along the way (otherwise how could I have done it?), and the ability to pick up a phone at the end of that night and talk it all through with Abby, one of my lay ministry colleagues, before making the drive home.
Read the entire reflection here.