Thursday, December 22, 2011
To The God Who Gives Joy to My Youth
My parents happen to live in proximity to a couple of parishes where newly ordained priests were recently assigned. This morning, as I was talking to my mother she relayed to me two conversations that she had with parishioners from each of those parishes. In both instances, the parisioners expressed how much they love their new priests.
I know both of the priests in question and when I think about each of them, two common attributes come to mind. They are men who are serious and joyful. I suspect that these two qualities are, in part, what endears them to their parishioners.
Without seriousness, the priest can be given over to being an entertainer or someone who only says things that win easy approval. Without seriousness, the liturgy often devolves into silliness and preaching becomes a stand-up comedy act. Without seriousness, the sacraments aren't loved and the Gospel isn't preached. Without seriousness, the priest is more concerned about his day off than about his days on.
Without joy, preaching becomes moralism, the liturgy becomes oppressive, and the priest becomes aloof to his parishioners. Without joy, the parishioners sense that the priest doesn't care about them. Like a lack of seriousness, a lack of joy leads to laziness about the pastoral life. Without joy, the priest becomes an obstacle to evangelization, no matter how articulate he might be.
The two new and young priests that I mentioned above are serious about their vocation. They are serious about faithfully communicating the Gospel and devoutly celebrating the Sacred Mysteries. Their seriousness is not a lack of humanity. It is just the opposite. Their seriousness shows them to be true men, faithful spouses to the Church, and good spiritual fathers.
These two priests are joyful in their vocation. Whether it is in the pulpit or in the school yard, they convey an abiding joy in their apostolic mission. When people encounter them, they think, "I want what they have." Their joy conveys the fuller humanity that is possible when one gives himself over to the Christian life.
When the shepherd is serious, the people know he has the courage to lay down his life for the sheep. When the shepherd is joyful, the people know he has the love to lay down his life for the sheep. As I think of these two new priests, I think also of a much older priest, Pope Benedict XVI. Do we not see in him these very traits of seriousness and joy?
Why blog about such a thing today? Well, when I spoke to my mother this morning and she relayed the comments made by her friends about these two priests, she said to me, "You know, it is so nice to hear people say such good things about their priests." And, when I hung up the phone, I realized that hearing that these two good priests are out there doing such good work made me happy.
The Gospel of Christ is serious and joyful. And the Archdiocese of Boston and those two parishes are blessed to have these two serious and joyful priests bearing faithful witness to that Gospel. Good news is worth sharing and the work of these two good priests is definitely good news.