Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Priesthood Is Lived As a Constant Surprise

Joe and I Praying at the Relics of St. Maria Goretti (Photo by George Martell)
After an exhausting retreat this past weekend with 70 BU students, I thought that our intern, FOCUS Missionaries, and I needed a day off, so the Catholic Center was closed on Monday. Around Noon, I met up with Joe, our intern and we had Mass together before walking to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston in order to venerate the relics of St. Maria Goretti. If you do not know the story of St. Maria Goretti, it is a beautiful testimony to purity and to the power of mercy. While kneeling there, I especially prayed for all of the young people (and especially young women) I've encountered at the BU Catholic Center and in my previous assignment. I also entrusted some vocations to her intercession.  In the evening time, the parents of one of our FOCUS Missionaries treated all of us to dinner. It was a great evening with a lot of laughs. 

At the heart of our First Semester events is our Fall Retreat. The retreat is put together by six students along with out intern, Joe. They not only organize the theme of the retreat, but they also attend to the million details that are part of such a huge undertaking. One of the best parts of preparing for this retreat was seeing our FOCUS Missionaries, retreat team, and intern all on their phones reaching out to students whom they have met or students who had mentioned on their registration cards that they'd like to go on a retreat with us. I think one of my favorite moments on retreat was when one of the new students said, "Father, thank you for making me come on this retreat." Occasionally I apply a little bit of pressure to help people make the right decision about coming on retreat . . . . 

The Fall Retreat takes place in a beautiful location in New Hampshire. It is beautiful, but it is freezing cold! Built as a summer camp, the cabins are unheated and in October, that means it is very cold! A week before the retreat, the weather was predicting massive rain storms. That would have been a disaster! We, however, were saved and while cold the first two days, we were spared the rain. On Sunday, the sun was shining and 55 degrees felt like a warm summer day!

The retreat was great! The talks were given by Fr. Eric Cadin who is a relatively newly ordained
Among the saints Fr. Eric focused upon during our reteat
was Fr. Damien of Molokai. Here is Fr. Eric kneeling at the grave of Fr. Damien
priest in the Archdiocese of Boston and is currently assigned to the Vocation Office. He gave some wonderful talks, provided a prayerful example, hung out with the students, and spent a couple of hours of free time playing football with some of the retreatants. One of the great joys of priesthood for me is introducing great people to one another. I felt very proud to introduce Fr. Eric to our community and to introduce our community to Fr. Eric. I think it is safe to say that by the end of the weekend, there is a mutual love between them all.

In addition to Fr. Eric's conferences, two students and one FOCUS Missionary gave witness talks about how Christ has worked in their life. These witness talks--that are a staple of our retreats--are always amazing. It is so encouraging to hear people share their testimony.

The Faithful Four
At the end of the retreat, one of the busses transporting students broke down. All but three of our students and one FOCUS Missionary were able to squeeze into one bus. Those four volunteered to remain behind and wait for a couple of more hours to be picked up.
Their example of joyful generosity and service to others is typical of these four and a great witness.

For the most part, I tend to use this blog as the place where I offer my witness.  It is the place where I am able to point out specific examples of living the joy of being Catholic and living the joy of being a priest. The specific place where I encounter Christ today is among these university students and our small staff who serve here. If the Church is supposed to be a place where people are welcomed and experience Christ's love, then the Church is alive and well here at Boston University. If every parish in the United States had just a fraction of what these young men and women are living together, the Church would be growing exponentially.  I am privileged to live this experience with them.  I hope that you are encouraged by what you see here. I wish I could explain it better, but there's just too much to say and too few words to say it. 

As a priest, I feel like it is my responsibility to be the first one who is surprised, moved, and awed by what Christ is doing. My repeated experience is that when great things are happening in the life of a Catholic community, it is not because we caused it or figured it out. It is because we have obediently followed where the Spirit moves us. As I survey what God is doing among us here, I am surprised, moved and awed. After eighteen years of priesthood, it makes me so happy that I wake up every day and am still constantly surprised by God's goodness.

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