Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Priesthood Isn't Flashy. It's Deep.

Fr. Gabe (the pastor with whom I live) and I
I share with you today, my day. I don't share it because it is very interesting. In fact, it is rather uneventful. But, as I get ready to go to bed, I look back on this day and am grateful for it.

When I arrived at work this morning, Patrick, who is the intern at the Catholic Center was in the kitchen cleaning the stove. He mentioned that he had spilled something in there a few nights ago and needed to get it cleaned.  I think that's when I asked him if he'd like to go out for lunch together later on. He agreed.

I went upstairs and spoke to Fran, our Office Manager. Fran arrives at work around 5:30am, after driving an 1 1/2 hours to work. By the time I arrive, she's basically cleaned the building, restocked the snacks for the students, ironed the altar linens, and then started on all the work that is actually her responsibility. All the other stuff she does is because she's just a good person. (By the way, she also goes shopping for all the snacks). I made myself a cup of coffee, chatted for a bit with Fran, and then I went up to the chapel.

In the chapel were our four FOCUS Missionaries praying their daily holy hour. I prayed and tried to do my daily mediation and some spiritual reading, and then made the second cup of coffee. After spending time throwing the ball to my never tired dog, I decided to have breakfast. Patrick was still in the kitchen cleaning. I mentioned to him that I had trouble praying this morning and he told me that he was praying the Rosary while he cleaned the stove.  God bless Patrick. 

I tried to catch up on a little fundraising stuff. Admittedly, those types of things are not my favorite thing in the world to do. But, the good example of our Office Manager compels me to occasionally relent and do what needs to be done. 

Although I was looking forward to lunch with my intern, he got busy and couldn't make it.  Instead, I had a conversation with a young man whose presence I have come to appreciate over the years. Like many of the students, his intelligence, faith, and humor edify me. 

As we are preparing for our winter retreat, one of the students sent me his witness talk. I wish that I could share it with you because it was deeply moving and beautiful. If all I did today was to have read that witness talk, it would have been a day well spent.

There was an hour nap. Don't judge me. I love a nap.

I went up to the chapel to pray, but was interrupted by a student who wanted to go to Confession. That was a happy interruption.  I came back to the chapel and prayed some more. For most of that 30 minutes, there were several other students present. At Mass, there were probably about 30 or so students. Not bad for a daily Mass. One of the things that always moves me about the Catholic Center is how students arrive early to pray before Mass and how they all remain for a little while after Mass, offering prayers of thanksgiving. It's very impressive.

From there, it was our weekly spaghetti dinner. I'd guess that usually 60 or so students show up for that. During that time I heard more confessions and met with our Pastoral Board to discuss the life of our community.  One of the great things about the Catholic Center is the way that the students offer leadership. I often tell people that in a parish people say, "Father, we should do this," but nobody actually wants to take responsibility for "doing it."  One of the things that impresses me in Campus Ministry is that when the kids say, "We ought to do this," they follow it by . . . actually volunteering to do it!  Among the things that the college students take on is responsibility for evangelization, liturgical ministries, retreat planning, and service.  As a good example, every week, students at the Catholic Center make food for those who are suffering homelessness and then deliver the food to them on the streets of Boston. I love the fact that the students do this on their own. 

At 7pm, we had our weekly formation night. When I entered the room, besides a ton of students, there were two archdiocesan seminarians, a Jesuit deacon, and a Sister of the Immaculate Heart or Mary. I said that I felt like I was at the UN of religious vocations. One of the seminarians gave a talk on Baptism and then fielded a ton of questions from the students.

During the talk, I received at text from someone who had recently given me a gift. Her gift comes at a moment when I have the opportunity to help support several important good works. God works in great ways! I feel particularly blessed that because people are generous to me, I am able to help out others who are in need. It's been one of the great blessings I've received in my life. On my own, I might not be able to support certain good causes, but because people desire to support me, I am able to support others. And, the people who support me somehow know that they are really supporting others. So cool. 

Afterwards, I came home to my rectory and the pastor of the parish where I live was having dinner. He and I sat for over an hour, had some wine, and talked about all sorts of things. He is 75 and will soon be handing over the reins of his parish to a new pastor. He and I chatted about what we might preach on next week, what parish life is like, and about priesthood. Spending time with him, especially when it is unplanned, is always a blessing to me. Priesthood is a beautiful thing in that someone 75 and someone 45 are still brothers. This priest continues to educate me and help me in my life.

At the end of all of this, it doesn't read as a particularly compelling story. It is just an average day. In my life as a priest, there have been those extraordinary moments. I've been to shootings, car accidents, middle of the night tragedies, deathbed anointings etc. But, much of priesthood is lived sitting at the kitchen table talking to a brother priest, getting interrupted during prayer to hear a confession, and having lunch while taking about life with a young college student.

All I can say is that I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my life. I'm grateful.

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