Monday, April 20, 2009


One of the things that brought me closest to leaving the seminary was reports from priests. “Get to know Jesus now,” they warned, “ because you will not have time to after you become a priest.” Now, it is always a good idea to “get to know Jesus now” no matter when now is, but as for not having time once you are priest I have found is dependent on how determined you are to stay in touch with Him and (and this took me a couple of years) learning the power of the word, “No. I can’t possible do another thing and remain a stable human being for you.” As one priest put it, “There is not an incredible amount of institutional accountability in the priesthood. You are as busy or not as you choose to be.” Well, at least that is true within reason.

The comment that made me more nervous was a priest who said how he hates Sunday afternoon. “Everybody goes home to their families and we retreat into the rectory to be alone and lonely.”

Well, that glass half empty too did not hold water. Now I will grant you that it might be largely owing to the fact that I require much more solitude than perhaps the average Joe does. Every personality test that I’ve ever taken has told me (just in case I did not know it) that I live a lot in my head and I easily amuse myself. Simple minds: simple pleasures. But far from finding Sunday afternoon a disappointing and barren wasteland, I find it an island that I fight to keep from being filled up with more people to see and things to do. . . “You are as busy as you want to be . . .”

So it is the Easter Vigil. Promptly at 9:15 standing by the bonfire provided by the Boy Scouts we began, “My brothers and sisters . . .” For the next two hours we celebrated in the most grand fashion ending with the choir singing the Halleluiah Chorus. Then there was shaking hands and wishes of Happy Easter, the clean-up, and then the church was empty. The lights were off with just a glow from the sanctuary lamp and the votive candles. The scent of flowers and incense still lingered. And it was quiet. Quiet, quiet, quiet. A magical moment after the hubbub and activity of the past week.

Though tired I was still rather keyed up so Sebastian and I got ourselves a little refreshment, had a seat, and processed that which we had just experienced. Half of the enjoyment of experiencing something is having it within you to relive: the lighting of the fire, the church aglow from the people’ s candles as viewed from the sanctuary, the singing of the Exultet, the lights coming on and bells ringing at the Gloria, the looks on the faces of the newly baptized as they stood after having the water poured, the torches coming out for the consecration, the church singing the final song with full voice. It was this quiet time that I cherish – God and me going over the wonderful evening we had together. Unpacking a religious experience can be just as important as going through it. There is still so much to learn, enjoy, and grow from that was not gleaned the first time.

Mystical is the time spent at the Mass, magical is the quiet time of reflection afterwards.


Elena LaVictoire said...

That's an interesting quote from the priest about Sunday afternoons. I always thought priests had a lot of invitations for Sunday dinner! or that they could attend a myriad of CYO events if they wanted to and be welcomed warmly at every one of them!

Anonymous said...

Father, you sound like a "contemplative" with a rich thought life. No wonder your homilies and blogs are so interesting. Also, I'm glad that you know when to distance yourself from your flock and remand us to the Lord's care. A pastor can't be expected to do everything for us.

Daisy said...

It is a pity when some priests use 'busywork' as an excuse not to conduct devotions in the parish - I can't comment on their devotional life.

Our priests have Monday as their day off and so the presbytery is usually empty on Sunday afternoon.

uncle jim said...

must be the season to wander philosophically.

I think many of us need more scheduled down-time.

roberta said...

I suppose we understand what the priests meant about getting to know Jesus before a raft of busyness sets in.
I feel fortunate that on re-converting to the Church, I met Pope Benedict in his writings : he would clearly say things like "Where do we meet God?" and he answered: in the liturgy, in the sacraments , in the Word of God in scripture.
Reading that took a great weight off my mind as when I try to meditate or contemplate all I do is end up worrying about ME and MY problems,etc.
But here was a way out of this vicious--and ultimately unhelpful--cycle: From the I read the Pope"s idea, when I read the Psalms, went to Mass, listened to the word, I really knew I was hearing God! Even if I didn't always "feel" like it...perhps that was the real problem with the one who said priests would be too busy to get to know God...the old "feelings" approach to "spirituality"--is not the answer to everything.
And what about meeting Jesus in our neighbor?
But all in all, we know we are all challenged, priests included, to find the way to climb that holy mountain and find our way to Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. We can all help each other on that road.