Fifteen years ago on May 17th, I woke up early, got dressed, and drove to Castle Island in South Boston. It was a beautiful morning and I took a walk, prayed the Rosary, and then went to the Cathedral and was ordained a priest. I often meet married couples who have celebrated their 25th, 50th, 60th, and 65th anniversaries. So, in the greater scheme of things, fifteen years is not such a long time, but for me it is a small milestone.
For some, these last fifteen years in the history of the Church in the United States, will be viewed entirely in terms of the darkness that seemed to defeat the Church. Whether it be the revelation of priestly scandals or the aggressive secularist (and government aided) attempts to silence the Church, these have not been easy days. And yet, I can say that I have loved every second of being a priest. I can think of no life that could possibly bring greater joy.
The history of the Church is replete with Christians living through difficult moments with great Faith. That is what most strikes me about these past fifteen years. What the memory of the Church will hold centuries from now is not all of those who abandoned the practice of the faith during these difficult times. It will recall the witness of all of those whose faith stood firm. Last Sunday at the Five O'clock Mass, I looked out from the pulpit and saw a young family who had just arrived home that day from vacation. Parents and children all looked exhausted. That act of fidelity on their part—coming to Mass despite what must have been a long day of travel—is how I think about these past fifteen years. In the midst of so much darkness, God has surrounded me with a cloud of faithful witnesses; people who have kept and lived the Faith, even when they were exhausted from the battle.
When I think about this time period of my life, I am filled with great joy. In the midst of all that has happened during these years in Boston, my rectory is often crowded with young priests and seminarians. These men are a sign of the continuous newness that Christ’s presence brings to life.
There is an abundance of joy in our rectory life. Of course, even if the rest of us were all miserable, the priest with whom I am assigned contains enough joy that we would still have an abundance of joy. Our home is a very happy place and I think the people are served well by our fraternity. Psalm 133 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” This is my experience of our rectory life together. Dwelling with these brothers is indeed good and pleasant. And of course, this unity is not confined to the walls of the rectory. It is lived in our experience with all of our brothers and sisters in the Faith.
Fifteen years ago, I went for a walk around Castle Island and had a great joy in my heart as I considered how I would soon be a priest. Fifteen years later, we’ve all seen and lived through a lot, but, I can testify that the joy in my heart fifteen years ago has not yielded even an ounce. It is constantly renewed and has grown a hundredfold. I wake up every day and think, “Who am I that I should be so blessed?” As we age, we sometimes think that the joy and enthusiasm of our youth dissipates. But that is not how it works when it comes to our life in Christ. He continuously restores and renews the joy of our youth and fulfills his promise, “Behold, I make all things new.”