Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's the Best Part of Being a Priest? I Can't Tell You.

In the Archdiocese of Boston, Tuesday of Holy Week is the day when all of the priests gather at the cathedral for the Chrism Mass.  Today, I attended the Chrism Mass and was grateful to spend that time in the company of some great priests.  Also, one of the students from the BU Catholic Center attended the Mass as well.  His effort to attend the Mass and his presence there was something joyful for me.  After the Mass, I had lunch with a few brother priests and again was joyful for their fraternity.  Afterwards, I came back to the BU Catholic Center and had Mass with our students and then had supper at our weekly spaghetti dinner.  

The best part of the day, however, was this evening.  Four priest friends and I heard confessions.  There were lots of confessions.  Non-stop confessions.  As I looked around, I was really happy for everybody.  I was happy that these students were receiving the grace of the sacrament and encountering the Divine Mercy.  I was also grateful that they were encountering great priests.  I always feel like I am doing a tremendous service to the Church when I expose people to priests who are truly great.  It makes me really happy when lay people tell me how much they love the priests whom I introduce to them.  

But, I was also happy for the priests.  Hearing confessions in a situation like that is simultaneously exhausting and life-giving.  It is in these moments that you feel most like a priest.  You feel like, "Yeah, this is why I am a priest."  And, despite the fact that trying to find parking near Boston University is a total pain, these priests keep coming to help out.  They brought to the students what only they can bring.  No one else can do that!  And the students . . . it's just great.

As I was hearing confessions and scanning the chapel, I saw Camille playing the piano.  Her job is to make sure the music is prayerful and sufficiently loud enough so that the confessions can't be overheard!  She played for 90 minutes straight and made it obvious that her playing is also her praying.  Also in the chapel was Bobby--our intern--who directed people to the priests and--as he does with everything else--kept everything running smoothly and joyfully.  At the back of the church was Wesley, one of our FOCUS Missionaries.  He is a master of making people feel joyful and welcomed.  He warmly greeted people as they came in and practically congratulated them when they left!  The Lord says that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than 99 who have no need of repenting.  Wesley brings that heavenly reality down to earth every time we have an evening of confessions at BU.  He truly rejoices.  

We heard a lot of confessions tonight.  I've never thought about this before, but what a priest does in the confessional is a beautiful sacrifice.  How so?  The hours spent hearing confessions are some of the most amazing, beautiful, and powerful moments that a priest will ever experience.  But, they are moments that will never be shared again.  In fact, those graced moments are left there in the confessional once we take off the purple stole and step out into the world again.  On nights like this, when priests are saying goodnight to one another, there is just a profound gratitude and silence.  Perhaps we say things like, "What a great night," or, "This was really beautiful."  That time in the confessional--the time when we often feel most priestly, most used by God, most profoundly astounded by our vocation--is offered totally to God and for the salvation of souls.  The very best moments of our priesthood will not be recorded in our memoirs, shared in confidence to even our closest friend, or even revisited in our own meditation.  This is what I mean by it being a sacrifice.  That time is given over completely to being used by God for the salvation of souls.  It is time that is never ours again. And, isn't it beautiful that it is the time that is totally sacrificed that becomes the most fulfilling time in our priestly life?  It goes to show that what we offer to God in sacrifice never takes happiness away from us, but rather brings us to true happiness. 

The Sacrament of Penance . . . it is totally awesome.

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