Thursday, February 19, 2004

Why I Love Being a Priest (Part One)

Last night, as I was making some coffee and mentally reviewing my notes for the RE class that I teach, the phone rang. It was a woman who was in the hospital in Alva and wanted to see me. I wasn't terribly surprised by the call. Her son gave me the heads-up that I would be hearing from her. But you know how that goes. People's best intentions don't always translate into action.

Anyway, I went to the hospital and sat for a time with a woman who obviously, to my untrained but kind of experienced eye, would not last long. The cause? Congestive Heart Failure. Already on oxygen, you could tell that the long road of suffering and dying was beginning. Her son was there as well, monitoring the interaction. She told the story of how the previous priest had made it clear that she was not welcome if she thought that active homosexuality was not permissible or a cause for moral scandal. I talked to her briefly but didn't really cross-examine the story. At this point, it was all moot. The other guy was gone and she probably held the orthodox stand on homosexuality.

So, in one marathon sacramental action, I heard her confession, gave her the anointing of the sick, and gave her communion. During the anointing, she said, "You aren't like that other priest." I smiled but said nothing. I was trying to administer a sacrament for gosh sakes. And in the end, she seemed more confident and pleased. Her son received communion as well. He is a faithful member at one of my missions so that was a double blessing for him and for her. For the first time in a long time, an objective obstacle to communion between them was gone.

And that is why I love being a priest. In moments like that, what is really happening? It has NOTHING to do with my talents or capacities. It has everything to do with Christ. The Church exists to bring and to perfect communion between Man and God. It does this with the instruments of Grace that Christ has lovingly given and continues to give to His Bride. And so my little tab collar proclaims to everyone who sees it, "Hey, Buddy. God is for you, not against you. He wants you to find life and have it abundantly."

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