Saturday, September 20, 2014

What's It Like to Be a Priest?

It's not an unusual occurrence for me to be asked, "What is it like to be a priest?"  Every answer seems trite.  That's why I try to blog about my experience as a priest.  In communicating my experience, I hope that I also communicate something of the intensity of the joy that priesthood brings.  To that end:

This evening was an evening of prayer and training for our student retreat leaders who have been organizing and preparing our Fall retreat that will take place next weekend.  The title of the retreat is "Encounter."  In response to Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel," the retreat will attempt to return to the very basics of our Christian Faith: Jesus Christ.  One of our student retreat leaders began the training tonight by quoting from the exhortation.  "I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: 'Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life to a new horizon and a decisive direction.'"  Hearing this young university student quote this particular passage made my heart very joyful.  This is everything!  I have always loved this quote from Pope Benedict XVI and was delighted to find it in Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation.  But to hear a young person draw this line out as something that struck him too . . . well, this is just very beautiful.

As I was hearing confessions, I could hear the others in the chapel singing in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  

When they were leaving for the evening, one student came up to me and hugged me and said, "Thank you for baptizing me at Easter. I am so happy to be a Catholic!"

What's it like being a priest?  Tonight, I was with about 25 young people.  They were organizing a retreat, going to confession, adoring and praising God in the Blessed Sacrament, loving each other, and talking about the centrality of encountering Christ.  I get to witness all of that and to minister among them.  To be a priest is to live the event of Christ.  This event--this encounter--gives you the constant sense that something truly beautiful and extraordinary is happening.  That's what it's like to be a priest.

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