Thursday, May 26, 2005

Following the Design Protocol

The lives of men are filled with moments worth remembering. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, graduation, and many more events punctuate the otherwise unremarkable roll of day to night succeeding down the generations. Today is such a day for myself. Five years ago, in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I laid down on the floor, and pledged to give my life for the Gospel as a priest of Jesus Christ.

To tell you that every day has been wonderful would be to put forth a terrible piece of revisionist history. But this year, I have had the experience of seeing what it is I am made for.

Since your ordination anniversary is not a day off, I celebrated the Sacred Mysteries this morning. Then after puttering around all morning, doing paperwork, I got up and did some sick calls and then made a visit to the local jail. At the hospital, the woman I visited was clearly out of the woods, but I visited because I was worried about her spiritual health. She is (hopefully soon to be was) a lapsed Catholic who lapsed many moons ago. We chatted and then I enquired about the lapse in practice. In those moments, I try to stress that one need not stay outside -- you can always come home. Then I swung over to the nursing home and visited a couple of the residents. I was particularly struck by the moment when I imposed my hands before anointing one gentleman. He began to tremble -- not convulsively, but clearly in pain. As I placed my hands on his head, I could not help but think of the times my mother placed her hands on my head when I was feverish. From there, I swung over to the country jail to visit an inmate. He had been a parishioner but had lapsed in practice as of late. Frankly, I thought he had moved away. It wasn't clear how long he would be in or when he would be transferred. As the day ended, I ran to the local Kinko's to make copies for this weekend's Third Order Dominican Meeting in OKC.

Now, to forestall commentary, I don't tell you this to toot my horn or to elicit "well done" from anyone. I just know that I more often miss the mark of pastoral excellence. Quite frankly, I would suspect that most priests do exactly the same sorts of things in their average day. This is what makes priesthood greater than its attendant complications. What part of life did I not reach into, not because I am particularly astute or gifted but because I was given the sacred power via the sacrament of Order to do so. When you do what you are made for, then you can be called "Father" and not find in it a title of honor but rather a vocation to live up to.

I consider it divine justice that I was ordained on the Feast of St. Philip Neri. He was a priest known for his orthodoxy and his joy, his fidelity and his simplicity. I pray that today, every priest, throughout the world, thanks to the intercession of St. Philip, may have his heart expanded so that he may make greater room in it to love God and to love his little flock.

St. Philip Neri, pray for them.
St. John Vianney, pray for them.
Bl. Damien of Molokai, pray for them.

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