Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
To the Most Holy Virgin I entrust this Year for Priests. I ask her to awaken in the heart of every priest a generous and renewed commitment to the ideal of complete self-oblation to Christ and the Church which inspired the thoughts and actions of the saintly Curé of Ars. It was his fervent prayer life and his impassioned love of Christ Crucified that enabled John Mary Vianney to grow daily in his total self-oblation to God and the Church. May his example lead all priests to offer that witness of unity with their Bishop, with one another and with the lay faithful, which today, as ever, is so necessary. Despite all the evil present in our world, the words which Christ spoke to his Apostles in the Upper Room continue to inspire us: “In the world you have tribulation; but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Our faith in the Divine Master gives us the strength to look to the future with confidence. Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!
May our faith be deepened. And may we everyday become better servants of the servants of God.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Today I celebrate a year as a priest. And it is truly something to celebrate! I love being a priest, even though it has only been one year, and there are still so many “priestly” things I haven’t done. So, no need to change the name of the blog. One year in, I’m still a rookie. But I have also been a Jesuit for almost 12 years, and that, to me, is just as much cause for celebration. That’s why I’m glad that today was pretty low-key as far as anniversary celebrations go. I didn’t preside at a mass to celebrate the year. Instead, I concelebrated the first mass of another brother Jesuit. Then, I enjoyed the day with several other brother Jesuits—spending the afternoon in the city, going out to dinner, seeing a movie and just talking. A fitting way for this “old” Jesuit to celebrate the gift of my “young” priesthood, a gift inseparable from whom I have become because of my brother Jesuits and, of course, the people whom I’ve had the privilege to minister with and to. Next week I’ll celebrate with them.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
One of the exciting things about being a priest, especially a Jesuit priest, is that we are not always sure what kind of situations we might find ourselves in that demand our ministerial skills. The recent General Congregation spoke several times, as has the Pope, about how often as Jesuits we are especially called to be on the “frontiers” of faith and culture. Some of my most privileged moments of connecting with people have been outside of typical “church” contexts. Traveling from one place to another, for example, you never know what kind of need you might encounter. Often there’s a chance to help someone, or listen to their story in a way that is part of my priestly vocation, even if that person doesn’t even know that I’m a priest (I don’t wear clerics 24/7). But I also like it when I’m with a group of people, my fellow German students last summer, for example, in which I just happen to be a priest sharing an experience with them. A lot of the time the fact that I’m a priest doesn’t make a difference, but there are times that it does. There are the conversations—what’s it like? And there are the times when people do have a need to talk about something, or ask for help, and they know that I’m someone who they can probably count on.
I’ve noticed recently that I run into a lot of people that I would term “religiously indifferent.” They’re not hostile toward God or religion. And they are often very good people. However, for some reason, it hasn’t occurred to them that God should be a part of their life. It makes me wonder what it would be like to be “chaplain” to a group of people that one is not typically chaplain to. Like bikers, circus performers, journalists, buskers, CEOs or something like that. Those are interesting “frontiers” one could explore!
Father Jim Martin has offered a peek into just such an experience in his book A Jesuit Off-Broadway. Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t a light-hearted reminiscence on one Jesuit’s brief dalliance with the
One of the most moving parts of the book for me, came at the very beginning, in the foreword by the playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis. He explains:
“I asked many questions that, perhaps, one is not supposed to ask, and, on occasion, Father Jim would reply with answers that perhaps he was not supposed to give. I tried to—and needed to—leave no stone unturned, and Father Jim, secure in his faith and his priesthood, never did anything but supply direct answers to pointed questions. And he did so kindly, thoughtfully, and with both a passion for the subject and a wealth of com-passion for me—his confused, often irate and disconsolate lapsed Catholic Interrogator. In short, he was everything I think a Priest should be: caring, thoughtful, strong, unimpeachable—and up for the challenge. In short, I have no doubt that Father Jim is one of Jesus’ true soldiers. And trust me: I’m not the doubt-free type. I drown in doubt, and to the degree that that’s true, Father Jim, from our first meeting and right up to today, is slowly teaching me to swim.”
Friday, June 12, 2009
I'm taking some time to reflect on Pope Benedict's latest message to priests, on the Feast of Corpus Christi:
“Being Eucharist! This must be our constant desire and duty so that the sacrifice of our existence accompanies our offering of the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar. Every day, from the Body and Blood of the Lord we find that free and pure love that renders us worthy ministers of the Christ and witnesses of its joy."
That's just a taste. More here.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Trying to keep this all straight can be even more of a challenge those weeks, like one I had a while back, when I find myself saying mass in six different places in one week! I depend on people when I arrive to tell me what to do, how they do things, etc. This at times takes a little coaxing because many are apt to defer to me and say, "whatever you want, Father." After which I have to convince them that what I really want is to do things the way they are accustomed to doing them. It usually gets worked out. However, we still don't always get things straight. Recently, after a music director told me they were singing "everything," we had a very awkward silence when it came time for the "Gloria." As we discovered, once I asked in the middle of mass, "everything" meant "everything but . . ." Most recently, when offering daily mass somewhere for the first time, the server whispered to me halfway through mass, "Do you know we have adoration after mass?" No, I said, nobody told me that, just tell me what to do . . .
You only have to be a priest for a little while to realize that those that obsess over everything in the mass being "perfect," are doomed to be disappointed. As much as everyone involved makes the effort to ensure that it is reverent, prayerful and perhaps even inspiring, there will always be those little gaffs which remind us that our worship, as our lives, is beset by human frailty. And I expect this is as it should be.
Now, where am I?
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Ordination season has begun. Please pray for our new "rookie" priests. This weekend I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the ordination of one of our newest Jesuit priests, Father Andre Brouillette, SJ, of French Canada. He's pictured above with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the presiding bishop. Still a new priest myself, it brought back a lot of the feelings of my own ordination less than a year ago. And it was especially moving because I got to share it with my friend and his family (even if the language gap made communication a challenge at times--my French is very rusty). It was also a community event, as several of us traveled from Boston to be there with Andre. Below, you can see Father Peter Nguyen, SJ, who, like me, was ordained last year, laying hands on Andre (I was in line right behind him).
In the United States, all our new Jesuit priests will be ordained in the next three weeks. Some of our international brothers who study here with us will also be ordained then, as well as in July in August. I know many of them, and they will be a great gift to the Church. But I also know they face many challenges. So, again, please pray for them, and all the rest of us rookie priests.
You can find more photos from the ordination, as well as the Cardinal's homily (in French) here.