Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A man on the move...

As you may have noticed, I haven't posted for a while. Things in ministry are still going well and at the same time busy. Just a couple weeks ago we had our Carnival (festival) at St. Charles and as I mentioned before in my previous post, I was slinging ice cream with the youth group!

Last week, St. Charles saw the passing of a good friend and priest. Fr. James Conry died on July 13th after a recurring battle with cancer. Amidst the end of the Carnival and Fr. Conry's passing, things around the parish were quite busy, especially because we were down 2 staff members (Fr. Steve and Sr. Denise) who were with members of our youth group in Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day.

For the first time, amidst all the business I experienced what I had long expected and always knew what would be part of ministry and priesthood. I would be called on, and all in ministry are called on, to roll with the punches, to be people on the move - responding to the situations you encounter and being ready to take on whatever is coming down the pike.

For much of the past couple of weeks I felt as though I was pushing myself to be more, live more, and love more as each challenge, twist, and turn presented itself. I'm not going to lie, I was tired at the end of each day and at times I felt like I was just doing my best to keep up and was wondering when the barrage was going to stop, but in the end it was a good sense of being tired and a deepening of that loving relationship a priest is to have with his people. In new ways I really sensed what it means to lay down your life for others. In all of this I felt my life being poured out so that others may live. The lived experience of this is quite different from being told about it or educated on it.

I have always said, I wanted to become a priest partly because each day was a new adventure and you never know what will happen. Now I have had some experience in the adventure and what it feels like to live it to a certain degree and I look forward to a lifetime of more adventures to come.

Priesthood is an adventure, you never know what will happen from day to day and at the same time you rely upon God and God's presence which is the constant known, a thread if you will, holding all things together.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Living for others

Before I begin or get any further, I would ask for prayers for the repose of the soul of Fr. James Conry, who lost his battle with cancer yesterday. He was in his 80s, a beloved priest and friend to all. Words cannot express how much he will be missed. When he retired he came to St. Charles and was in residence here the past 11 years.

Sorry for the delay in updates! The Carnival (parish festival) just wrapped last night at St. Charles. Fun was had by all!!! For my part, well, I had 2 responsibilities: 1 pray for good weather & 2 work the ice cream booth with the youth group. The Carnival began last Wednesday with a parade and was open every night from 6:30-10:30pm.

I thank God for the amazing weather - not a single drop of rain during any of the hours the carnival was open!!! Even more so, I thank God for the awesome teens and young adults at St. Charles who put in long hours making the ice cream booth a success! I would especially like to mention the teens who were unable to go to WYD in Sydney and stayed behind to sling ice cream - they truly stepped up!!! I love our teens and echo what Sr. Denise says: "they're the best!"

Some of our youth group is currently in Australia for WYD '08. The group left last Friday and they are now in Australia having a wonderful time! This also meant that Sr. Denise and Fr. Steve were able to give me a two night crash course in managing and running the ice cream booth - Thank God I have some Dairy Queen experience in my past - LOL! But seriously - in terms of jumping in and helping run/manage the booth - again everything went so very well, our teens truly stepped up and it was great! My feet are a lil' sore but otherwise I'm doing well.

In stepping into the role of taking the lead with the youth group I must say I did feel like a proud parent or something like that! Also, I did sense an added sense of duty and responsibility - it was like: "I have to take care of my kids." I think in some way this is a revelation to the caring and nurturing aspect of being priesthood - the fatherhood part of it!

Even though I feel like I've been pulling 'all-nighters' the past 5 nights... sort of like finals week but more! I am still good to go and I love what I do - the adventure of priesthood is awesome! In some ways the experience of a very busy week plus the carnival last week taught me or helped me live out what it means to live for others in the parish context and what it means to give your life and to die to self. Priesthood - bud-ah bup-pah-pah I'm lovin' it!!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lonely? No... are you?...

"You know as a priest you're going to be lonely and unhappy!" "It must be sad being a priest, you have no one to go home to." "You won't be happy until priests are able to get married." - These, and there have been others, have been some of the comments that myself and brother priests and seminarians have heard over many years. In some ways, these words can be discouraging and not necessarily for the reason(s) you might expect. I find these words to be discouraging not because they are negative but because, in my opinion, the people who have had the audacity to say such things come across like sheep without a shepherd! I don't mean this in a condescending way but rather, I say it with great honesty and Christian charity. Truly.

People who wish to express their discontent with celibacy and the lifestyle of a priest, using language in the company of the previous mentioned quotes, are quite confused. These statements that are, I guess, an attempt to pick away or jab at celibacy are logically inconsistent for at least two reasons, (and I'm sure there are other reasons too).

First, does anyone knowingly choose to be lonely? Honestly, who in their right mind would do that? Answer: No one! Therefore, how could anyone logically presuppose that some one is going to be lonely or would choose a lifestyle of loneliness? In what set of circumstances would choosing a 'lonely lifestyle' make sense?

Sidebar: Answering the call to priesthood is a choice, not a force of the hand or twist of the arm. Somehow over the years answering the call has become equated with being forced to do something against one's will for the Lord. In response to this somewhat pervasive negative view on answering the call, I have two words: not true!

Second, how does anyone know what makes another person happy? Again, I don't mean to be mean or condescending but an honest gut reaction I have is: "Who are you to say what makes me happy?" For when one says, 'you will be lonely and unhappy,' presupposes the one making the statement knows what will make the person whom he/she is talking about, happy or unhappy and quite frankly, how could anyone presuppose to know this of another person?

What has sparked my colorful, direct, and rawly honest commentary?

Today I concelebrated at the funeral of a brother priest, Fr. John Richards. As I was at the funeral I looked around I saw 60 plus brother priests from the other four fine men I was ordained with to the fine leadership of the Diocese of Cleveland. I saw multiple generations of brothers. Brothers, my family. Lonely? Nope!

Every Sunday, I look out from the sanctuary at Mass and I do not see a congregation, parishioners (even though technically they are), or members but rather, I see my family. I have more members in my family then John & Kate Plus 8, The Brady Bunch, and Cheaper by the Dozen (the Bakers), put together!!! Lonely? Nope!

I am priest and I am not lonely! I spend each day taking care of my family to the best of my ability and I walk with them in good times and in bad. My life is full of life. I am not alone nor lonely. In no other vocation could I possibly have a life as blessed as this with such a great depth of generation and diversity and a brotherhood that is a rock.

I have entered this vocation freely and without reservation to give myself to the Church in a particular way. I have chosen to honor my role as priest and my parish family for the rest of my life. I accept all the Lord has entrusted to me and will do my best to guide them and care for them according to the law of Christ and his Church. I promise to be true to those I serve in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love them and honor them all the days of my life, until death do us part.

What is loneliness then? Perhaps its an attitude or choice or perception, I'm not completely sure nor am I an expert. Some loneliness is tied to clinical depression and that's an entirely different matter. But what I do know is that loneliness is not rooted in a vocation. Just as a person is not 'incomplete' unless he/she is married; honestly, some of the loneliest people in the world are married. I have met some of them. The main point here is that you are complete on your own and lonely on your own too, not having a spouse in the sacrament of marriage does not equate to being lonely! If you are full of life then you will have life.

Saving the best for last: I have Christ. As a priest I strive to live my life in union with God and the Church. Is God not enough? More than enough!

I am not alone, priesthood is not lonely, period.