As I first saw the headline, I tohught it would be another tirade. Yet, it is rather poinant in connecting his vocation to the priesthood with a priest from his youth:
That's a little thing. Here's another, maybe more important: One of the first priests I ever knew was the pastor of the parish where I was baptized, Fr. Leo Sutula at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Quaker Hill, Connecticut. May he rest in peace. He gave me my first Holy Communion and also (six days later) heard my first confession. He had a gentleness that gave glory to God. He also had a funny habit, at least at daily Mass, of saying all of the secret prayers out loud. So, until I learned the Mass well myself several years later, his Mass always seemed to have more prayers in it. I remember being especially struck by the private preparation prayer before Communion, which he would say out loud:
"Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy I eat your body and drink your blood. Let it not bring me condemnation but health in mind and body."
When I use this option myself, I always think of Fr. Sutula. Until I came to be a priest myself, he was my only experience of this prayer. As I pray the words myself, I'm aware of my connection to the man and his ministry in the economies of grace in my own journey. The prayer is a glimpse for me of the communion of saints.
When I was a mere youth, we often had the same visiting priest, Fr. Louis, who was a native of India, during times when the pastor was either on vacation or during the infrequent times we were between pastors in my small home parish: Immaculate Conception, Botkins, Ohio.
He also said this prayer out loud, and even 25 years later, I can still hear his distinct Indian accent as I pray this prayer now as a priest. Looking back, I can see this as a seminal moment in my own discernment of the priesthood. By hearing that call to Christ's love and mercy instead of condemnation, I started to recognize (even though I would never have been able to articulate it at the time) that the priest did something special and unique while at the altar: he called down Christ.
Fr. O'Connor would often say some of the private prayers of the priest aloud, too, especially those during the preparation of the gifts. I can remember thinking: this is not something ordinary that we are doing here. Again, did it begin to form, in me, a priestly heart? I hope so. What confirms it, when I was ordained, I didn't have to struggle to learn those prayers because I had already prayed them with the priest from my youth.
hmmm.... I think I might have just struck on my next Telegraph article....