Friday, April 27, 2007

TO BE A PRIEST

It is an awesome and terrifying thing to be a priest.

A combination of a question from a fellow blogger and some quiet time in prayer had me contemplating my priesthood yesterday. Most of the time I think God keeps my brain pretty dull to the reality of this vocation. This dullness is a gift.

This is the way I see it. It is like once, while hiking in the Adirondacks I came across a black bear. I was close enough to see his muscles working under his thick black coat and make out the teeth in his open snout. I was rendered speechless and could not move but could only look on in awe. If we could truly “see” in its entirety what is offered to us in holy orders (or in baptism for that matter,) I think we would be likewise so overawed that we would be powerless to move at the magnificence of it.

Sometimes I get the slightest glimpse of it, usually at the mass. One usual spot is the response to the exhortation, “Pray my brothers and sisters that this, our sacrifice, may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father.”

A look out into the congregation reveals some pretty amazing people. I see my elders, others who do incredible ministries, people far more intelligent, persons with greater spirituality, I see my true brothers and sisters and hear them say, “May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His Name, for our good, and the good of all His Church.” If I listen too carefully to the enormity of this statement it comes close to overpowering me. “How can they entrust this to me?” Can you imagine being on the altar and seeing your Mom saying this? Your best friend? Your professor? Eyes on you, they entrust you with this sacred action and then wait for you to lead them to the Eucharist.

Can you imagine the first time you say, “On the night before He died, He took bread in His sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to You, His Almighty Father, He gave You thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to His disciples and said, ‘Take this all of you and eat it. This is My Body which will be given up for you.’” And it becomes His Body. Who can comprehend this?

Can you see how easy it would be for a priest to let this go to his head? To forget that in reality, it has nothing to do with him, it is all Christ. For a brief moment God allows his sins to be put into a bracket, He works through him, and brings about the source and summit of our lives.

Fortunately there is a prayer just before communion that puts the priest squarely in his place. “. . .I eat Your Body and drink Your Blood, let it not bring me condemnation but health in mind and body.” Christ is present by His own power, not mine. He is present by His own purity, not mine. Before the priest is life and death, a blessing and a curse. If he is in serious sin it is a tragedy. After all what is serious sin? It is a sober, informed, serious, and free rejection of God and His people. Before Him is that God and what a mockery he makes of Him by receiving Him whom he rejects. It is also the cause and symbol of the unity of the Body of Christ. What hypocrisy to partake of the Eucharist while at the same time rejecting the same community.

Yet, if he loves, if he strives to be the man God calls him to be, if he is priest to his people and son to his God, before him is the power of the universe.

Why did God choose him to be a priest? Because he is holier than the rest of the Church? Because he is smarter? Because he is more worthy? Because he is more loved? No. He was chosen because God asked and he said yes and thereby God was able to work with him as where someone else said no. That’s it. Then he takes the ciborium down to the aisle of the church, says, “The Body of Christ,” and places the Eucharist on the tongue of his Dad and wonders, “How could anyone say no to the priesthood?”



The self same power of the word makes the priest holy and venerable, for he is set apart from the rest of the community by the new blessing which he has received. As far as externals go, he is who he was; but his invisible soul is changed for the better by a certain invisible power and grace.” - St. Gregory of Nyssa

11 comments:

sparky said...

Beautiful.

Habemus Papam said...

Awesome post!! I got goose bumps just reading it. Makes one really think.....

uncle jim said...

Thank YOU for saying 'Yes!', as all too many have said 'No!' and walked away without answering the call.

G-d's blessing still follows, though ... even when we blow it like that, He still looks after us and loves us and guides us and gives us every opportunity to do something else for Him and His people.

I will refrain from referencing that song that says "Our G-d is an awesome G-d." - I'll refrain from that 'cause we sometimes tire of hearing it - why is that?

Another great post.

So in appreciation for your 'Yes!, I'll offer a prayer for a young MN lady who is trying to discern where G-d is leading her next.

Anonymous said...

Wow

I am so happy that I found this website. thank you.

MJ said...

Great post! Thanks for saying yes and for encouraging others to do the same. As I commented in one of your previous posts we all must ask and encourage young men and women that we think may have a vocation. Sometimes just putting the thought in their heads and hearts causes them to consider. It could make a difference.

Adoro te Devote said...

What an incredible and inspiring post! I have always wondered what goes through the priests' mind during the concecration. How beautiful! And to have your family right there. That has to be such a huge blessing for all of you!

If I was your mother I'd be so proud of you! (I'm sure she is.)

If I ever get married and have children, I hope they become priests or enter religious life.

Fr. V said...

Thanks all.

Yes MJ - you are right. As you mentioned the #1 reason guys who said that they had thought of becoming priests didn;t try it out - nobody asked and they didn't therefor feel worthy. ASK ASK ASK

Adoro - Funny you should say that. After reading the last exhortation on the Eucharist and B16 was saying how often parents discourage their kids for various reasons, I asked the mother of one of the vocations from this parish to write about her experience, concerns and joys. Perhpas it will help others who are not as positive as you.

Rob said...

-B16 was saying how often parents discourage their kids for various reasons-

I can think of one reason. They only have one kid and want grandkids. Of course, a parent should be proud to have their son become a priest, but I think in the past people were more willing because thye had other children who would give them a different reward: grandchildren. SO one kid was given to God and the others gave you grandkids.

Now, everyone wants one child and a retirement package that includes Caribbean cruises. And we expect these people to make sacrifices?

Adoro te Devote said...

Fr. V., is she willing to have you post her writings here for all of us to read?

In our diocese, there are 3 parishes that contribute to the seminaries, for the most part. Mine is one of them, so I know a few parents of seminarians...and boy, are they proud when their "little boys" are accepted into the seminary!

If I get this job I'm hoping to get, I'm going to put in a plug for Vocations as much as I can, and I don't care if it's the pre-K group and their parents.

Of course..this particular parish is quite faithful and Spirit-filled, so they'd be open to such a message.

:-)

I remember my Mom encouraging my brother to become a priest...although she went about it in the wrong way.

I don't think she ever encouraged me to enter religious life, and ironically, the first person to address me directly with that idea was a Deputy I knew and for whom I babysat on occasion. I was in college at the time and he was one of my references for a scholarship I applied for. He suggested I consider religious life so I could be a "nun with a gun".

The other person was my cousin (so she was actually the first), sometime around my Confirmation. She was relating to someone that at one point a wise individual had told her that "Every good Catholic woman should seriously consider becoming a nun."

I determined at that point that I was:

A. Not a good Catholic
B. Not going to become a Nun.

But what she said remained with me, and it took me about 18 years to follow that advice.

But it stuck...and it's the little things that stick, not the big ones. It's the small, casual references that remain with us and nag us to death.

Because God speaks through the small events, not so much the large ones.

MJ said...

Because God speaks through the small events, not so much the large ones.
Adoro I totally agree with you. How often does something happen that you were praying for or things come together( all of these just small things) and you think what were the chances of that happening. It's the Holy Spirit. If we keep our hearts open to God He will get us where we are supposed to be. Some of us stubborn ones may just take a little longer bthan others!!

Lilder said...

Thank you!