8 years ago today, I was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Pilarczyk at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains, downtown.
It was a memorable day and my family joked that they had to tie a rope around my waist I was so excited and ready to start my task of working in the Lord’s vineyard.
After 8 years, I wanted to reflect a bit about what I have learned and possible things to reflect upon in our work as the Serra Club of Cincinnati.
First, I have come to appreciate more and more that the Lord is never outdone in generosity. As we give ourselves to Him, as priest (or Bishop), religious or even as a lay person (single or married), He takes what we give Him, blesses it and gives it back to us. This is the model of Mass and the pattern of our lives as Catholics. Last night, I was walking through Kroger to pick up a few things and while I was only there five minutes, tops, I was met by a family that welcomed me and mom remarked: ‘we’re going to have you over soon, I promise!’ (as she has been promising for, I think, a year and a half!) It is probably the most striking lesson as a priest: many, many more know you than you will ever know them. And it is such a beautiful thing to be able to witness.
Secondly, I am struck by the amount of work that truly needs to be done, as I am sure Jesus was struck by that same impression as well. My generation, especially, is lost and needs the direction that comes only from the Gospels. I am frightened there will be few to minister to, eventually. Frankly, I do not see many my own age at Mass. If there is anything else that drives me in my work as priest and vocation director, it is this. I am scared that my generation has bought into the lies of this world so deeply that we will not be able to be rescued. But Jesus did not preach only where he knew he would be successful, He preached everywhere. So must we.
Finally, point three, today’s First Reading gives us all a great context when we get a little too caught up in thinking I have to do this or that. Simply, St. Paul hands on his work to the next generation. This is the life of the priest. I have baptized many babies, married many couples, heard countless confessions; and I have no idea where they are now. Every once in a while, someone will come back and say, ‘you did this for me….’ Truthfully, because of the way my brain works, I usually have no idea what it was, but I’m glad they remember. More often than not, we have no idea. But we still preach, we still present the beauty of the Gospel, and then we hand it on. It is for another to reap. The Church Militant marches on through the passage of time, and is bigger than any one individual. And again, something beautiful about that, too.
I continue to be struck by the love outpoured to our priests and bishops. I had many, many facebook and twitter messages, phone calls and texts today congratulating me on 8 years as a priest. I can honestly say, I still feel like I am getting started and I am eternally grateful that God has seen fit to call me to this most wonderful way of life.