Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Priesthood . . . One Step at a Time

Recently, someone asked me what are some of my favorite parts of being a priest.  I know that the answer should revolve around the Sacraments. Please don't get me wrong.  I love preaching at Mass, offering the Holy Sacrifice, hearing confessions, anointing the sick, baptizing and confirming, and witnessing marriages. I'm a liturgical kind of guy.  I LOVE being a minister of the Sacraments.  But, there is another part of priesthood that I love too.  I love being a priest on the stairs.

Both when I was a parish priest and now as a university chaplain, I love standing on the stairs before Sunday Mass. It's where I get to talk to people, hear about their lives, and receive requests to hear confessions.  When I was a parish priest, I would often sit out on my rectory porch in the nice weather and read my book in the evenings. So many people would stop by to talk. Some were people who never came to church. Some were people I saw at Mass but never really got to know. But, when you sit on the front steps of your house on the main street, people feel comfortable stopping by and chatting.  Police officers would pull over and get out of their cars to chat, runners would pause to say a quick hello, and troubled souls would engage in conversation.

This evening the Boston University Catholic Center hosted an evening for our seniors.  We had Mass together and then dinner. Our Office Manager, Fran, did her usual heroics and cooked dinner for about 25 people. She decorated, cooked a feast, and cleaned.  She's a gem.  Meanwhile, we went around the table and talked about what the students would be doing when they graduate and we asked them to share some memories of their time at the BU Catholic Center.  It was really a very beautiful conversation. 

After dinner was over, a good crowd of us went and sat on the front steps of the Catholic Center for well over an hour. We laughed, told stories, and enjoyed each other's company.  When I suggested that "this is really nice," they were sure to say (mockingly), "Yes. It is very human."  (That is one of my "go to" comments.)  Yes, it is very human.  This is what is missing from so much of life. To me, this is what the Church is.  There was, in fact, something very humanizing about our evening. We were living something beautiful together.

If you were a student living in any of the other buildings along our street or if you were a passerby, you would have looked tonight and thought, "Those people seem so happy together." What I love about the Catholic Center is that it is never an "either/or" proposition. It is not a matter of choosing between the Sacraments or the Stairs. We live out the whole Catholic life together.  It is a place where Adoration, Almsgiving, Friendship, Worship, Confession, Mass, Frisbee, eating, socializing, goofing around, and a thousand other "human" gestures are lived out daily. 

Tonight, as we hung out on the steps and I repeated the same stories that I've told a hundred times, we loved each other. What happens on those steps is the result of living a Sacramental life together in the chapel. If anyone were looking down from their buildings and saw and heard us as we conversed, they would have to say, "Those people love one another." And , they'd be right. We love each other, not just as people who happen to be fond of each other. We love each other because we have encountered the Love of God in Christ Jesus. 

If I were to write a book on the priesthood, sure there would be chapters about the priest at the altar, in the confessional, at the deathbed, and in the pulpit.  But, there would most definitely be a chapter entitled, "The Priest on the Stairs." Tonight, I am very grateful to be a priest and I am very grateful for the stairs that the Lord has given to me. I am also grateful for the many people who have shared a place on the stairs with me. Msgr. Luigi Giussani once spoke about how the early Church grew because, day by day, people noticed a small group of Christians gathering together at Solomon's Portico together.  Eventually, people became curious and wondered what this small group was all about.  Gradually, one by one, this grew into the Universal Church.  Tonight, I am grateful that on the stairs of the Catholic Center, we have our own Solomon's Portico.  The more we pray together and live a friendship together, the more attractive that becomes to others.  

Being on the stairs . . . it's not a gimmick or a program. It's just Catholic friends living life together.  When Catholics live a Sacramental life together and seek to follow Christ, what happens on the stairs becomes an invitation to others.  I am grateful tonight for our community. It was good to be with them in the chapel, at the dinner table, and on the stairs. What happened at Solomon's Portico two thousand years ago is still happening today. We are loving God and loving each other. And that, is how the Church grows.

1 comment:

  1. "We are loving God and loving each other. And that is how the Church grows." Sounds a lot like yesterday's (5/12) Gospel from John 17. I made known to them your name and will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.