Monday, March 30, 2015

Priesthood Is to be Constantly Moved by the Wonder of Christ

When I first started writing this blog, it was for the purpose of sharing my experience as a priest.  My experience does not occur in an abstraction, but rather in particular places, at particular times, with particular persons.  I don't want my witness to Christ to be theoretical because my experience of Christ is NOT theoretical. I've mostly looked at this blog as an opportunity to share my concrete experience.  If this witness is of help to somebody else, I am happy for that.

When I write glowingly about my previous parish or about the young people here at BU, I don't do so not to suggest that they are better than anyone else. I do so because it is in the midst of these particular people that I encounter Christ.  I write about them because this is where Christ has placed me and this is where I am moved by Christ.  If, for instance, one met the Man Born Blind from the Gospel or Lazarus, we would not really want them to tell us about the theology of miracles.  If we met them, we would say, "Tell us about the day you got your sight!"  "Tell us about the day you got raised from the dead!"  So, though not quite the experience of going from blind to sight or from death to life, I nonetheless want to share what my experience of Holy Week is going to be this year.

On the eve of Palm Sunday, I drove to a retreat house where forty-one young men were attending a discernment weekend hosted by the Archdiocese of Boston Vocation Office.  Cardinal Sean O'Malley was leading the retreat.  Six of the attendees were from our Catholic Center at Boston University.  Although I met a few of the other attendees, I really only know the BU guys well.  What struck me about them is the fact that they went on this retreat together.  They have a friendship together.  They are growing in their Catholic manhood together.  They encourage one another.  There is a joy in them.  I was touched by this. My encounter with Christ does not occur in the abstract.  It occurs in the friendship that is lived in our community together at the BU Catholic Center.  I am moved by what Christ is doing in our midst.

I have been and will be moved this week by the great desire for holiness that will fill the hearts of the people entrusted to my pastoral care.  It's a beautiful gift as a priest to have the privilege of encouraging those who are struggling with sin and temptation.  Their desire for holiness moves me to desire greater holiness. Total gratitude.

This evening, I joined our RCIA for dinner at the Catholic Center.  They've been meeting all year and are now at the threshold of the Sacraments.  At the Easter Vigil I will baptize and confirm five of them and will receive several others into the Catholic Church and confirm them.  How awesome is that?!  What is particularly moving to me about these numbers is that we can't claim credit for them.  Somehow, these people just found their way to us.  In other words, their presence here is not because "we've done something."  Their presence is just a total grace and a sign that Christ is doing something.

Last night when I went to that discernment retreat, I was really happy when I looked around and saw the great priests who were there helping out.  Again, these guys are evidence that Christ is doing something.  On Tuesday of this week, I will attend the Chrism Mass with all of the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston.  I will see a priest with whom I lived for three months when I was just three years ordained.  He's the pastor of a great parish called St. Agnes in Arlington.  He is a GREAT priest.  I don't see him as often as I would like, but I will be moved--once again--just to talk to him and recall his priestly friendship and example.  I will see priests who I knew when they were seminarians who are now setting the world ablaze.  I will see . . . well, I could go on and on with this.  Basically, I will be moved by the example of some wonderful priests.

On Holy Thursday, I will be moved by the example of the Eucharistic Procession from the campus chapel to our Catholic Center.  Then, I will be moved as we process several miles to the Cathedral to join the Cardinal for Night Prayer.

On Good Friday, I will be moved as Fr. Rick (a Franciscan priest who assists us) and Deacon Chris (a Jesuit scholastic who serves with us) lead our students and me to the adoration of the Cross.

For the past few weeks, one of our students has been home because her father is gravely ill.  Tonight, I was moved by the great love that her friends in the Catholic community have for her as they pray for her and her father and as they worry about her.  

My experience of the priesthood and of the Christian life is an experience of continued surprise.  I stand in awe at all of the beautiful things that Christ is doing in our midst.  You can't really plan for a man born blind to receive his sight or a man to be raised from the dead.  You can't really plan for a sinner to come to repentance and being transformed.  You can't really plan for someone hearing Christ calling him to be a priest.  You can't plan for people to love one another.  As a priest, what I can do is be faithful to the movement of God.  When I see Christ doing beautiful things in our midst, I can allow myself to be moved by them.  And, in being moved, I can attract others to be moved.  

In the end, it is all very humbling isn't it?  We don't build anything.  God does something awesome and it moves us.  It moves us so much that we talk about it, live out of it, and share it.  Then, others are moved and talk about it, live out of it, and share it.  This is how the Gospel was first preached.  This is how the Gospel is still preached.  

This week, this priest is encountering Christ in the friendship of our Catholic Center Community.  This encounter moves me and fills me with conviction in Jesus Christ.  In many ways, priesthood for me means that I am the one who is filled with the greatest wonder at what Christ is doing.  I am the one who is the most surprised, the most moved.  God calls his priests to be men filled with wonder.  He calls us to echo the words and disposition of Mary, the Mother of Priests: "The Almighty has done great things for me and Holy is His Name."

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