Greetings! I am on retreat this week and so posts may be late or sporatic! Sorry for the inconvenience. Say prayer for me as I say one for all of Adam's Ale readers. (I'll light a candle for you too!)
I’m on the road today. After the last Mass on Sunday, the last walk of Sebastian (at this point he started to suspect something,) and before evaporating out the door going over notes with my ever vigilant parochial vicar, I slipped in behind the wheel of my car, set the GPS, (I’m beginning the slippery slope toward high tech dependence saint preserve me) and stepped on the gas pedal to my yearly retreat. It was time to go. I was starting to get snarky and was taking things too personally. These being major signs that it was time for this priest to charge his spiritual batteries and reboot.
This is the first time that I am going to the retreat house on my own. I usually buddy up with at least one other priest but schedules were so conflicted and convoluted this year it was easiest just to make the seven hour trip on my own. A whole program of entertainment was in place to keep me interested in driving. The first hour was listening to “Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me” an NPR news quiz. When the signal was lost there were various CDs (and my rosary) to keep my company. There was a book on tape – a book that I read about ten years ago and enjoyed thoroughly and now was listening to again on CD, “Pillars of the Earth.” There was also “Nick Danger, Third Eye” which I can recite line for line. “What’s all this brouhaha? Brouhaha? Ha ha ha!”
The rest of the time was taken from CDs more in keeping with the purpose of my trip. One was entitled, “The Year of the Priest.” I listened to it with what I’ll admit was a bit of embarrassment. It went on at length about the great sacrifices priests make. And we do. But . . .
Now, there is no denying that there are priests who make extraordinary sacrifices: leaving family behind, working in terrible conditions, suffering poverty, way overworked, being accused unjustly of all sorts of things, and in some parts of the world facing severe opposition and almost monthly a priest meets with martyrdom. But you know what? If you are called to the priesthood, it is a far grander sacrifice not to be ordained. I have met these men in the confessional. They did what they were “supposed” to do – pressured by family or peers to do what everyone else was doing – wife, kids, job - and now quietly sacrificing something within themselves in order to fulfill the life they vowed to live.
Everybody makes sacrifices. You cannot begin to build anything until you sacrifice something. One must say no to many things in order to start creating something great out of the idea you are willing to say yes to. The sacrifices I make in order to be a priest I gladly do. My priest friends and I, when we get together, talk about how fortunate we are and are in wonder that more men do not choose this life. We know the sacrifices that others make and are in wonder at them. At the breakfast shop on our day away we see a mother and father struggling with a young child in the throes of a tantrum or a young couple obviously in a fight with their arms crossed, or we perhaps we’ve talked with family who may have to pull their children from the school because of a monetary set back and think we are lucky for the life we are privileged to live. “How do they do that?” Yet we also know that if that is the life to which God is calling them, anything else would seem a trial.
The escapism book that I am reading told a story about an honor that the main character is receiving. (I hesitate to recommend this book before I finish though I am quite enjoying it. It happened once that I recommended a book when half way through that was just delightful but turned rather lurid to the point that I was embarrassed even to have it on my bookshelf!) When the character was told of his honor it was so well written that I felt his thrill. I started to wonder what honor I could receive that would give me the same thrill. To be quite honest I can’t think of anything that would be more of an honor than of being the pastor of my parish. Become bishop? No. Win an award? No.
The richest man in the world is the one who is happy with what he has. Sure there are things I would like to change (one of which is wishing the Sebastian was on this trip with me.) But they are minor in comparison to the benefits that being a priest is to me.
Sometimes I worry about the future. Will there be a day that I am sorry that I do not have (grand)children? Will I feel loss for not having a family and a home? I was told to expect that when I turned 40 (and am well past that now.) But I realize there has not been a day that I have regretted (maybe a couple of incidents however) and that I am happy today and there is no reason to suspect that I will be unhappy, at least overall, tomorrow.
I hope you have said yes to something. I pray that your yes is bringing you closer to God and joy. But to those of you who are really facing sacrifices whether you be a priest, a married person, a deacon, a religious, or a single person, thank you. Thank you for saying yes and doing your best to build something greater than yourself for the benefit of your brothers and sisters and for the glory of God.