I know that "What is a priest's day like" is a topic of interest to probably a very small number of people. Even smaller in number are the people who are interested in what this priest's day was like. But, today was a particularly happy day for me.
This morning I woke up and prayed. This alone is a privilege. Sometimes we can treat prayer as though it were an inconvenience or a burden. But, when I'm thinking clearly, I realize that prayer is such an awesome gift. There are people who never pray. Maybe no one ever taught them or they don't even know anything about God. There are other people who wake up in the morning and have babies crying or they have to get breakfast ready for their children. They don't have the privilege of praying first thing in the morning. The best that they can do is squeeze in a brief prayer when they awake. There are other people who are in hospitals or nursing homes. Among them, some are too weary to pray and others have perhaps forgotten how to pray. But, I have the capacity, the knowledge, and the freedom to pray when I wake up. How privileged am I?
Having finished prayer and driven to work, I spent a good amount of time talking to our Office Manager, Fran (a model of charity). On my way up, upstairs to pray a Holy Hour, I ran into a student. I asked him, "What's going on?" He mentioned something about his life and said, "So, I'm going upstairs to the chapel to pray." When we got there, there was already another student there praying. It is a privilege to see young people praying.
During my prayer time, I was struck by the intensity of this young man's prayer. Kneeling, eyes closed, still as can be. It was moving to me. Soon, the three of us who were there were joined by two or three others. During the Holy Hour, I was reading a little bit from a great spiritual book and the author was speaking about the active purification of the memory. His point was basically that we often allow our memory to be filled with things that hinder us from growing in the spiritual life. We remember our past sins and the ways that others have hurt us. These memories can often lead us to a forgetfulness of God. The author says that the way to purify the memory is continuously to call to mind the great things that God has done, most especially to ponder the Eucharist. It's a blessing that I have the opportunity to spend this hour with God and to read such holy things.
After Holy Hour, we had Mass. For some reason or another, today was one of those days that I wished Mass could just continue forever. I was in the zone.
After Mass, one of the students and I had lunch together. I'm blessed that my congregation lives, eats, works, and prays in the same place. I see a lot of them every day and not just once a week. We live the life of a strong Catholic community, sharing not only the sacraments together, but life in all of its aspects.
When I returned from lunch, I checked my email and found an unexpected and beautiful email from a former parishioner of mine. I've been blessed along the way that lay people have really encouraged me in my priestly life. Her email reminded me of how blessed I am to be a priest, to live a closeness with lay people, and to have the joy of sharing the Word.
I took an hour's nap. (I gave up feeling guilty about taking a little nap a long time ago)!
This evening, a young priest--Fr. Tom MacDonald--came and gave a talk to the students on how to discern your vocation. Although I knew that he would do a great job, I was really struck by how excellent it was. The students loved it. Their questions were wonderful and Fr. Tom did a great job responding to their questions. My heart really was filled with a certain pride because this priest who is a friend of mine was giving such an awesome presentation and because the students were so engaging and articulate in their questioning. It was beautiful to witness this.
At the end of the evening, as all of us were just conversing, I was also struck by the two Jesuit seminarians who work with us at the Catholic Center. These two guys are really solid and I have really come to appreciate their spirituality, generosity, presence, and friendship.
On my way home, I drove two of our FOCUS Missionaries home and enjoyed giving one of them a hard time. Some day, when she's in heaven and I am still in Purgatory (I hope), she will have the last laugh.
As I was pulling into my driveway, I received a text from one of the students. The text reminded me again of what an awesome privilege it is to be a priest. Who am I?
God places three very beautiful gifts into the hands of a priest. He places his Word, His Body and Blood, and His People. I have the privilege of spending my whole life holding these three gifts. There's an intimacy that develops between the priest and these gifts. The more this intimacy grows, the more unworthy of it you feel. To be chosen by God to hold these sacred treasures is a cause for pure wonderment. Paradoxically, the more this intimacy increases, the more incomprehensible the whole thing becomes. It is nearly impossible to believe that tomorrow I could feel any less worthy of this vocation or any more filled with wonder by it. But, this is the nature of Divine Love. When it manifests itself, we are filled with wonder and humility before it. I suppose that this is a foretaste of what heaven must be like. The saints must gaze upon the Blessed Trinity and wonder, "How is it possible that I am here?" For me, this is what priesthood is like. How is it possible that God loves me this much to place into my hands, His Word, His Body and Blood, and His people?