Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A vital role.

This past Sunday I was the celebrant for Baptism and welcomed 3 new members of St. Charles into the Church. The cornerstone to my homily that I give is the commitment of the parents and godparents, especially in terms of raising a child in the faith and being the first teacher of the faith. This is the cornerstone for two reasons.

First, because it is an awesome yet at the same time, important and big responsibility on the part of the parents and godparents to raise a child in the faith. This important responsibility requires dedication and commitment and therefore it is extremely important that parents and godparents take this commitment seriously and to be faithful to it.

Second, because I can firmly say that it was through the strength of my parent's faith that I found my vocation to priesthood. Catholicism was central in my upbringing and because a healthy practice of the faith was present, I found the freedom and interest to consider and eventually accept the call to priesthood. It is on this point that I say that a parent can never discount their witness to the faith or expect others to somehow fulfill their role as first teachers and guide.

Furthermore, not only does a family who prays together stay together but a family who has a strong sense of faith allows for their children to be ever more tuned into listening what vocation God is calling them to. Many young people search for purpose and meaning - their vocation - and many adults go through life in state of wondering if they are where God has called them to be. A strong sense of faith and vocation direction begins with the ones who point the direction out to us; parents!

To my brothers and sisters called to married life or who are married: please take this commitment to raising your child in the faith seriously and never give up! Also, do not be afraid!!! Passing on the faith can feel overwhelming at times but this does not mean that it cannot be done! Passing on the faith also does not require that one knows everything about the faith. For no one knows everything about the faith but everyone is growing in faith - even I am!!! The important emphasis is faithfulness. Be faithful and practice your faith to the best of your ability and God will work through you - you are not alone!

Truly: Take your candle and go light your world!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Peter the Rock

Every priest is an alter Christus (another Christ). A priest lives out life being and fulfilling the call of an alter Christus and in doing so he is called to bring Christ, to be Christ, and is Christ for the faithful. At the same time, there is an element to priesthood that requires one to be the rock and while God the Father would be considered The Rock, the rock of which I speak is that of St. Peter. St. Peter, our first Pope and the rock upon whom the Lord built the Church.

I celebrated a funeral this morning for just the second time and as I worked with the family and helped them through this difficult period in their life, I sensed the rockiness. In being a Rock what I am saying is that a priest is a witness to the faith and Christ as Peter was. At the same time, the priest brings flesh to the situation. The priest is Christ in the flesh in midst of struggle and strife. The priest puts flesh on the spiritual bones of Christ. In doing so, the priest becomes Christ who people can reach out and touch, a physical witness to the faith, and a rock they can turn to in the midst of turmoil. And so there is this call, this goal to strive for - to be the rock. The one who is not God yet stands in and points to God with his entire being, his entire life.

I am ever more aware that people will look to me as a priest, to be a rock in times when they seek security and peace. And I know I am a rock for them and at the same time I, like St. Peter, am not perfect but I strive towards perfection. I know that there is much room for me to grow. I pray that the Lord continues to grace me with His Spirit, with wisdom, and the courage to endure and persevere along the path of growth.

A priest is an alter Christus and at the same time has the rockiness of St. Peter.

What else can I say other than for all young men, especially those considering the wonderful call to priesthood that this is part of what it means to be a priest. The people will look to you and you will lead them. As Christ you will lead them. As one who has much room to grow and at times are not perfect, people will see your witness and still you will lead them.

I may not be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 6), and I may feel more like Peter the Rock than The Rock and yet I know people will look to me and I will forge ahead and do the best, with God, that I can.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The greatest praise of God is a person fully alive! - St. Irenaeus

Yesterday, today, and in the days to come the political world and in many ways the United States will experience, mourn, and cope with the loss of Tim Russert; and perhaps especially in November during the Presidential Election where his presence in the political world will surely be missed. Although I do not know a great deal about him, I do know that for me he came across as a voice of objective reason and responsible reporting in politics in Washington D.C., in a time when such a thing is hard to find. Even more so, any time I watched Meet the Press or heard Tim speak, I always sensed that I was hearing a truly authentic person. Tim reminds me time and time again of the passion and enthusiasm we must all have in life - for faith, family, and others. Tim was not afraid to be himself, he was truly himself through and through, there was no TV-face or TV-personality - you got The Tim Russert on and off the camera, period! He was a strong Catholic and made no apologies for it. He was not afraid to proceed in his own ethical way and he also took the examples and learned from others to become better at his craft. He took his God given talents and made no waste of them. St. Irenaeus, a saint who lived in the 2nd century said, "The greatest praise of God is a man fully alive." Tim gave the greatest praise to God; his enthusiasm was beyond compare.

For us perhaps there are these lessons: be fully alive! Harvest the talents God has given you, learn from those who have gone before you - parents, mentors, collegues, etc. - and strive always to better yourself in every aspect of our life. Don't settle for anything which is less than your best self!

Tim's death coincides in many ways with the messages we heard in the Gospel from Matthew this week in the Sermon on the Mount. In particular Thursday's passage (Mt. 5:20-26) in which Jesus tells us that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees. Which reminds us that while we must observe the Commandments of the Lord, we cannot do them in a perfunctory way but rather, the Commandments of the Lord must draw us into deeper conversion - we must be authentic persons inside and out. We cannot do the right things exteriorly while we lack love, hope, and faith - the right things - interiorly.

The passing of Tim Russert causes me to pause for two reasons: first, because my parents are the same age. Second, in October of 2006 I experienced the loss of a dear friend from high school in a tragic car accident and all of these things remind me how precious and fragile life is. That being said, I wonder, what am I holding back and what more can I do to be fully alive?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How's it going? Do you like it?

How's it going? Do you like it [St. Charles]? These are two questions that I have heard frequently over the past several days. To begin with, my new life as a parochial vicar at St. Charles Borromeo in Parma, OH, I don't like it... I LOVE IT!!! I enjoy what I do as a priest more than I ever thought I would. Even in the times when I have felt stress or confusion during my beginning days here, the Lord has brought me through it and carried me and allowed me to experience His grace in ways unimaginable!

My first weekend at St. Charles I found myself at every Mass giving the traditional introductory speech or the "Hi, my name is talk" as it may be more affectionately called! LOL! All the Masses went well this weekend and the reception into the St. Charles family is more than I could have asked for. I have never quite experienced a parish community where people have such a close bond with the Church and not just individual families but generations of families! I found a spirit here that I have not quite experienced before! Overall, I have sensed that I am home!

This week has been fun! I did celebrated my first funeral on Monday - even in death there is grace. On Tuesday I had Mass with the school, the last one on the last day of school - pure fun! I truly love what I do and I think both events again taught me of the vital role of the priest in the lives of others - the comfort for those in pain and the leader for the leaders of tomorrow. Priesthood isn't what I thought it would be... it's better than that!

Now that many of the 'firsts' have take place, it's on to more of sinking into the routine and flow of this place in the best way possible. What adventures will take place tomorrow, next week, next month, next year? I couldn't tell you... and I can't wait!

Take your candle and go light your world...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Lord You alone can heal me...

The seminary is an interesting place... for many reasons... one of the interesting experiences that I had as a seminarian was to study and practice celebrating the sacraments, and in regards to the basic principles of celebrating the sacraments, rubrics, etc. I am prepared and competent to minister. However, over the past week-and-a-half I have experienced things the seminary did not, nor could it ever have prepared me for... when I actually entered into celebrating Reconciliation (Confession), Anointing of the Sick, and Communion calls as a priest I felt and sensed God's presence and witnessed God's presence in ways I never have before and never thought possible... but it happened... and I am grateful... and profoundly touched in some supernatural unexplainable way... blown away if you will by experiencing God's grace, healing, and mercy in new ways.

When I celebrated the Anointing of the Sick first with my grandfather (my first time and truly a special moment) and assisted at an Anointing Mass at my home parish, St. Bede the Venerable in Mentor, OH (see websites/links) I was captivated by two things. First, the thought that I can bring God's healing presence to another person, and that God's grace works through me (and my brother priests) in a unique way such as this floors me... who am I that God called me to do this special thing... the words of Jesus in Matthew's Gospel this weekend, "Follow me," come to mind and these two simple but profound words have taken on new meaning for me... talk about entering into the Mystery! It feels like God is reaching down from the Supernatural into our natural world and I'm at the tip of His fingers helping to communicate His grace. It is not me but God working through me... working through me... ... ...wow!

Second, I have been profoundly touched by how people have sought the Lord in time of need and sorrow. To see the tears in my brother's and sister's eyes as they receive the grace of God's healing sacraments has caused me to me to wonder at times how anyone could doubt God's presence... I do not know... yes there are tragic things that take place in our lives and in this world that are not in the world to come... and yes, these sort of events can shake, rattle, and roll one's faith I'm sure... but to see my brothers and sisters lean in and receive the grace of God reaching out to them - yes, God is real, God is, was, and always will be alive, and yes God is present even when we think He may not be. Christ: yesterday, today, and forever!!!

To conclude my thoughts this time around, I know I've only been a priest for only just under a month, I don't have the greatness of years of experience of my brother priests, but even in my short time I have experienced the greatness of God, it has been awesome and I hunger for more. This life is truly grace filled! If you've considered a vocation in the Church, pray over Jesus' words in Matthew's Gospel today: "Follow me," hear Jesus speaking to you, ask what this means for you, accept where God is calling you, and let these words resonate within you once again, and lastly: FOLLOW HIM.

Take your candle and go light your world...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What was it like for the Apostles?

Well my friends, with much anticipation and joy the first day came and the first day went, the second day... Last night was only about 82.2736549% full of sound sleeping - I was excited about the first day at St. Charles. What would happen? What would God have in store for me? What adventures were about to transpire?

Overall, today was quiet but in a good way - this doesn't mean I didn't do anything, either! So don't even go there!!! LOL!

Today started by first packing the last of the necessities at my parent's house and making the drive to St. Charles. I have to admit at the end of 9 years in seminary formation I had no idea I had accumalated so much stuff in my seminary room! I must admit, I see new wisdom to only taking a walking stick, sandles, and 1 tunic!!! It has occured to me that these next four years will certainly involve a renewal of simplicity of life! I guess it's true what 'they' say: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid).

Although I must admit that over the past week one prevailing thought that has been somewhat at the forefront of my mind: what was it like for the Apostles when they first started out? For myself, although there are some uncertainties as I start out and priesthood fleshes itself out in my life - my uncertainties must be pretty small in comparison to those of the Apostles. I consider myself venturing into uncharted yet charted territory. The Apostles had to work most everything out from celebration to articulation of the faith. At least for myself, I have history, liturgical documents, scriptural commentary, Canon Law and other policies, the wisdom and examples of those who have gone before me, and the vision and direction of a good bishop - all of which aid me in ministry in ways unlike the Apostles. I may not know what will happen next but I walk into the unknown with arsenal. The Apostles really didn't have the same sort of blueprints did they? I'm sure, as I've said before, any uncertainties or queries I may have about how to get started or begin the ministry God has entrusted to me, must be nothing in comparison to the Apostles. At the same time, there is a part of me that resonates with the experience, and feels like I'm entering into their experience in my own way.

Day one of entering into this experience found me as I said packing the last few things and arriving, but then I found myself getting to the usual stuff I suppose anyone would do on their first day - arranging my calendar with different things that will be coming up soon and future weddings and at the same time asking a billion and a half first day questions: where is ____, what is ____, how do I ____, what do I need to know about ___, etc. and so on! But as I sit here, it is joy, and tomorrow is another day, another day filled with opportunities to take my candle and light the world.

Take your candle and go light your world...

Pax te cum!