A Catholic priest living the joy of priesthood in the midst of the flock.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Ending and Beginning with a Confidence in Love
For the past few days, as I've been unpacking boxes, learning what keys open what doors, unpacking more boxes, learning names, hanging pictures, and giving up for a while on opening any more boxes, in the back of my mind I've been thinking about last Sunday. It was the last day in my parish where I've spent the last thirteen years. It coincided with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, so the Mass concluded with our annual Corpus Christi Procession and Benediction. The party afterwards was totally amazing--600 parishioners, beautiful speeches, an awesome video (that I hope to post at some point), and some very thoughtful gifts.
I've wanted to write about it for the past few days. At first, I thought that my difficulty in writing about it was simply that I'm running around like crazy getting myself settled in to my new assignment. But, upon reflection, that is not the reason. The real reason is that unless you actually lived what we've been living for the past thirteen years, nothing I say can describe it. And, if you have been living it with us, nothing I say will adequately convey our experience.
When I left Beverly a few nights ago, I left with an assurance: those people love me. No, I don't mean they love me in terms of "I'm popular" or in some mere emotional way. I mean that those people have loved me with Christian Charity. They have loved me. Over the years, whether in my blog or in my bulletin columns to them, I've written extensively on the fact that I love them. It's been an awesome way to live priesthood. This shepherd loved his flock. I was so happy that in the video, one of the parishioners interviewed said just one thing, "He loves us." I loved hearing that! That was the best thing anyone could ever say about me.
For me, it seemed that all of the work and effort that went in to that extravaganza was intended to communicate something to me. Firstly, it was their way of saying, "Father, we know that you love us." And secondly, they were saying, "And we also love you." If giving me the assurance of those two things--our mutual love for one another--was their intention, then they were splendidly successful.
This assurance does not leave me melancholic. It leaves me with a renewed confidence. That incredible last day in my parish leaves me more convinced of Christ and the Gospel. In those last hours together, I was once again convinced that Christ is not an abstraction. I'm not sorry that we risked everything on loving each other. When I left there, I knew that I was loved. And those people knew that they were loved. The Church exists in order to communicate to everyone the Love of Christ. That's not an abstraction. It involves real persons, real joys, real sorrows, real problems, real aspirations. Love is Real.
No man wants to give his life for an abstraction. Priesthood isn't about some theoretical spirituality or some vague, nice sounding platitudes. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He doesn't lay down his life for an abstract concept of sheepiness.
Yesterday, I began a new assignment as the Catholic Chaplain at the Boston University Newman House. I arrive here with one very big certitude: If I love them in Christ and they love me in Christ, beautiful things will happen. That's not an abstract theory. That's a fact.