Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Does a Priest Do All Day: Revisited

The BU Catholic Center's Men's Hike in York, Maine
When you have a blog, you can look up to see the search terms that people use to locate your blog.  Honestly, I don't know how it all works, but I have some limited sense about it.  When I began this blog, I had hoped that it might be a place where some young man who was thinking about a vocation might come and find some encouragement.  As it turns out, one of the more common searches that directs people to my blog is, "What does a priest do all day?"  Some time ago, I had written a post about what a priest does.  At the time, I was a parish priest.  I imagine that when that question gets put into a search engine, it is coming from a young man who is thinking about priesthood.

Since I wrote that post, I am no longer a parish priest.  I spend my days (and nights) as a chaplain at Boston University.  My days (and nights) are considerably different than they were six months ago.  The differences are many.

From lots of funerals to no funerals.  No baptisms (except at Easter).  My congregation is almost entirely between the ages of 18-22.  A parish church is at its fullest on Christmas Day.  I don't have a congregation on Christmas.  The parish daily Mass congregation is mostly retired people.  I'm the oldest person at most of my daily Masses!  The youngest person at my Sunday Masses is probably 18.  In a parish, the early Mass is 7am and the late Mass is 5pm.  At the university, the early Mass is 12:30pm and the late Mass is 10pm.

It's completely different.  So, what does this priest do all day now?  It's a totally different experience.  I live in a rectory with a lot of good guys.  I'm the youngest guy in the house by a good amount of years. In some instances, I'm almost half the age of some of the priests here.  When I arrive at work, I'm about twice the age of the people there!

I spend a lot of my time hanging out with college kids.  Eating meals, drinking coffee, talking about sports, movies (most of which I haven't seen), and talking about life.  The building in which I work is called the Newman House (or the Catholic Center).  It really is a house.  And, in a lot of ways, we have a home together.  The students come and hang out there all day.  It's really like a family in a lot of ways.

I get to hear a good amount of confessions on a daily basis, pray with students, offer Mass, and talk about evangelization.  I spend a lot of time with young people who really have a great desire to evangelize.  They're out inviting others to come to our home and enjoy our friendship.  I'm really impressed by how organized and dedicated they are to the work of evangelization.  They're not interested in self-promotion.  They're interested in promoting the Gospel.  They're interested in growing in holiness.  They are prayerful and charitable.

In a parish, I had to go visit families in order to grow close to them.  At the university, the students come to me.  They hang out, joke around, and care for one another in our Newman House.  In a parish, there's a lot of administration and human resources issues.  At the Newman House, most of my time is spent in direct contact with the young people.  We talk about moral issues, vocations, theological questions, and family life.  In a lot of ways, we're a family for each other.

I was pastor of an awesome parish.  Now, I spend all of my time with kids who most likely came from great parishes.  Some of them didn't come from great parishes, but someday they're going to go back and will build great parishes.  They'll be great lay people, priests, and religious.  They really love God and are convinced of Christ.  They're not ideologues.  They are just convincing witnesses.  They're sincere, without guile, intelligent, funny, and prayerful.

This priest spends most of his time hanging out with college kids.  And you know, a lot of what we do together seems like a big waste of time.  That's the best part.  Eating lunch together, drinking coffee together, talking about ridiculous things . . . this is where friendship is born and nurtured.  When I look back at my life as a parish priest, I can say what made it such a great parish is that we were friends.  There's no other way.  Wasting time together is one of my favorite things at the Newman House.

The Church began with a friendship.  This is the Christian method.  When the Church continues to live a friendship, it is then that it is most faithful to her identity.  It is in the lived reality of a friendship that we become more convinced of Christ and are more committed to following him as disciples.  This is Jesus' method.  This is the method of Sts. Paul, Francis, Ignatius, Dominic, and Blessed John Paul II.

So, what does a priest do all day?  He is at the service of communion.  This happens at Mass and in Confession, but also it happens when two or three are gathered in Jesus' name.  It happens at lunch and during conversations.  It happens while drinking coffee, playing Frisbee, and discussing reruns of "The Office."  It happens at adoration and at Morning Prayer.  It happens in friendship.

Friendship is one of those things that you can't put into a manual and expect everyone to follow it.  It happens through the work of Christ.  I'm grateful that my life is spent at the service of friendship; the friendship that is given by Christ, sustained by Christ, and leads to Christ.  To be a minister of Christ is to be a minister of his joy, a minister of his friendship.  This friendship is everything.

If you are some young man searching the Internet trying to find out "What does a priest do all day," I hope that this post helps.  A priest stands at the heart of the communion (the friendship) of the Church.  This is everything.  Everything a priest does is for this purpose.  He is a minister of Divine Friendship.  If a priest isn't wasting his time on building up friendship . . . he really is wasting his time.

A priest loves the people entrusted to him.  That's what a priest does all day.

1 comment:

  1. I am very happy and proud that you are making such a difference in the lives of these stdents and the kids are enriching your vocation as well. I used to love to go to your 5 pm Mass (I am from Danvers) when I missed the last Mass at Annunciation. My family used to try to get to Beverly at least once a month. I am sure your witness will inspire some young people to enter the priesthood and the religious life. God Bless you and a Merry Christmas to everyone at the Newman House!