Thursday, May 29, 2008
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR PRIESTS!
Tomorrow, May 30, is BOTH the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus AND the World Day of Prayer for Priests
This is significant, for who is Christ but our High Priest? And who is the Priest at your parish, the one you call "Father", but one chosen by Christ to follow in His steps, who in turn, calls you and teaches you to conform yourself to Christ?
From the website above:
It is timely that we express our appreciation to so many priests who are indeed a daily reflection of Christ's love for his people. We wish to express our love for our priests and provide them with the support and encouragement they deserve. We express great joy in affirming and encouraging our priests as the servants of God's people. We are also encouraging people around the world to stop whatever they are doing at 3pm local time and spend a quiet moment praying in thanksgiving for our priests and contemplating the gift of priesthood.
The priesthood is a gift to us all; it was Padre Pio who observed that the world can survive more easily without the sun than it can without the Mass. And indeed, what happens at Mass? Heaven touches earth. At the behest of whom? God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, through the consecrated hands of the priest.
The world could not survive without the priesthood!
I used to be terrified of priests. Not because they ever did anything wrong, but because I did. I had a guilty conscience. I had fallen away, and my perception of priests was that they were the holiest of the holy, they'd be able to see right through me, and if they ever met me they'd drag me immediately off to the Confessional to be reconciled to God. Because that was what I needed and I knew it.
But I didn't want to go. God is merciful, though, and through a long winding road, He finally brought me to Confession and made me face who I really was; but more importantly, who He was calling me to be. And I made that 12-year Confession face-to-face to a priest I'll never forget. While I am an affectionate person, I do have a strong sense of boundaries, and after I was absolved, I came very close to throwing my arms around the dear priest who talked me through my distress and revealed to me the true face of Jesus Christ. He had called me the "prodigal daughter" and was overjoyed I'd come Home, finally, and to this day I wish I HAD followed that impulse, for I would have been hugging Christ himself in that joyful moment. I only wish I knew who he was so I could pray for him by name.
I was still terrified of priests for a long time, for it was hard to leave the life I was living; it's aways hard to dig yourself out of pit of your own creation and one the world helps you dig more deeply but has no interest in building steps for escape. But I was serious about wanting to really live a life in Christ, and God did not abandon me and in fact, used His priests in various ways. Since that time, I've come to know the priests at the parish I attend; we've had many as we are a large parish so they send us newly ordained priests for a couple years and then send them onward to be on their own.
Not only have these priests provided me with the Sacraments which I so desperately need, but they've provided me with an example of holiness, encouraged me in trying to be a better human being, and even a Saint (an ongoing joke with one of them...I wore out my "extension", though!). The priests I've known have helped me teach RCIA especially when I began, and remained available for questions as I prepared my talks. Two of them provided me references for two different grad schools, even though they really didn't know me well enough at the time of those letters, but apparently felt that someone seeking to be more Catholic was a good thing! And I was accepted to both schools (so the must have lied for me....) Those same two also provided me with references for my current job (a church), and their references were crucial!
But it goes beyond the Sacraments and Administrative things; these men who have given their lives to Christ really ARE our Fathers. As a woman, maybe it's easier for me to understand the image of the "Bride of Christ" that is the Church, and see truly how these men have given up everything in order to bring Christ to us all! They love children, they love families, and they know they will never have their "own". Yet I have to wonder how often our parish mimics a large family, and how often Father goes home (Fathers plural in our case!) and rubs his temples, willing the headache away, realizing that even adults are his children? And we're WORSE! His work is largely thankless and he goes from a harsh funeral one moment to a joyful parishioner who's been greatly blessed in some way, to a wedding, to hearing Confessions (of even prodigal daughters like myself), to even his own family tragedies. And yet, in all of this, he continues to serve Christ by serving us and leading us.
Every time I say "Father" I mean it. Every time I see a priest, I'm thankful to Christ for calling him and sending him across my path. I'm thankful to the priest who baptized me, who heard my First Confession, gave me my First Communion, and the Bishop who Confirmed me. I'm thakful for all those priests who have ever been there to provide an example, lend an ear, respond to an email, and offer friendship in Christ for a tiny soul seeking to do God's will.
I will be praying hard tomorrow for priests, especially at 3 pm, and I ask you all to join me and the rest of the world in doing so.
Were it not for the priests God has sent across my path, I don't know where I'd be...certainly not where I am now. Pray for priests. Pray for their holiness, their strength in living out their vows, their Fatherhood to us all...and for an increase in many more!
Thank you, Fathers, and maybe you don't hear it enough, so let this resonate with you:
WE LOVE YOU!
And we will NEVER stop praying for you!