Just in case anyone was wondering…IT’S GREAT BEING A PRIEST!
I have the best job in the world. Of course the word “job” staggers somewhat; but you understand my meaning.
In my heart I truly do not understand why men are not storming the seminary gates seeking formation for Holy Orders. This is such a great life. Who wouldn’t want to spend his life loving and serving Jesus Christ in and through His Bride the Church? I can truly think of no other life for me.
What is the heart of the priesthood? The Holy Eucharist. The whole purpose of our existence as priests is to bring the Eucharist to the people. How great is that? I don’t even bring them myself; that would be pathetic. I’m a miserable wreck. I bring them Jesus Christ. That’s the great thing about the sacraments; they’re not about the priest, they’re about Jesus Christ. They make Jesus present. This mystery defies description. Language fails to adequately express this reality; but it’s exceedingly good news.
Jesus is at the heart of the priesthood. The priest is a sacrament of Jesus; he is a “predicative symbol” an “acting sign” of Jesus Christ. The priest makes present He Who Is Symbolized and the summit of this ministry is the Holy Eucharist. Who wouldn’t want to have the Eucharist at the heart of who they are? Who wouldn’t want their entire day to be focused on bringing Jesus Himself to the people of God?
Of course another huge part of the priesthood is the Ministry of the Word. Even before I came to the seminary the question which burned hottest in my heart was, “How can I show others the incomparable beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” When I was studying philosophy, my professors noticed that I was always looking for catechetical or pastoral applications for the material. My question became, “How can Aristotle’s genius help me explain Truth Himself?” or, “How can Pascal’s apologetic be helpful in today’s context?” In my catechetical and homiletic preparation the question becomes, “What can be said that will best invigorate the faith of God’s people?” This work is awesome, both as a responsibility and as a joy to be the Holy Spirit’s instrument.
Another “duty” of the priest is prayer. Growth in holiness is part of our marching orders. We make a solemn promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day. It's as if God says to us, “Oh, by the way guys, prayer and spiritual progress are part of your package deal, so get to it!” Thus sanctification and death to self are fundamental to our vocation. Not bad. By God’s grace I might even get to heaven if I am faithful to this plan from above.
One of the greatest consolations of the priesthood is the people. The people of God are astonishing. Their faith, hope, love and beauty are of divine origin. There is no other way to explain it. I see God in them. So clearly. They reflect and magnify the perfections of the Almighty. They overwhelm me. I love them so much. What more can be said? It’s no wonder God loves them so, and sent His Son to bleed and die to save them (and me); they are so lovable. It is an indescribable privilege so serve them, weak sinner though I am.
My message at the end of 2003 to any who might wonder or doubt: priesthood is a great life.