The Forty Hours is complete. After four days, at ten hours a day, the parish has completed its Forty Hours of Adoration. People from across the area came to worship our Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. As part of the services, each evening, the parish hosted a solemn preached Holy Hour. (Don't worry. I know I mentioned this on the other site. I'll be bringing those posts back shortly.) On the first two nights, the sermons were by yours truly and covered the ideas of "The Holy Eucharist as the Essential Sacrament" and "The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Stewardship." On Wednesday night, Fr. Phil Seeton came from St. Charles to speak on the Eucharist in the Eastern Church. It was really intriguing and for me, at least, thought provoking. I am not sure how many of the people responded but given that he drew the largest crowd, take that for what it is worth. Last night, Fr. Joseph Irwin shared with the people on the topic of "The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Witness." All the talks went off really well, especially mine, because I had almost no time to prepare them. This weekend, the parish will have a potluck luncheon together and then tour our renovated RE building. All in all, a pretty fruitful week. However, this is not why I am writing; this is the background story.
Fr. Irwin is one of my great priest friends - he's one of the in pectore members of the hegemony. He is staying overnight here because it is about 2.5 hours back to Duncan where he serves as pastor. Last night, after the Holy Hour, we came back to the rectory and watched Hot Fuzz, one of the great films by Pegg/Frost/Wright. It's a delightful treatment of the action buddy cop movie. Watching it again for the fourth or fifth time, this time I was taken with how well the film is put together. Earlier viewings led me to think that it was too long by about 20 minutes. I am the one responsible for corrupting Fr. Irwin with the boys. To listen to him crack up at the same spots I did, just added more joy to the moment.
Before the Holy Hour, I served dinner and that is always smashing. Not the dinner, but the company. It is so good to have someone at dinner with you, and when they are a good friend, all the better.
The great sadness of priesthood is not the solitude, but the loneliness. As human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, we look for connection, for community, for communion. We can't really function without it. Think a moment on how many hours are spent on the psychiatrist's couch talking about bad past relationships influence and warp the current relationships. You'll see that I am right. Given the size of my diocese, frequent interaction with your brother priests comes at a premium. In my previous assignment, the nearest priests were an hour away in any direction. Now the nearest priests are about half as far: thirty minutes to Shawnee, Seminole, and Chandler. But even then, when you share brotherhood with another, there is still a greater dimension, that of friendship.
Friendship is a particularly kind of brotherhood (or sisterhood). Brotherhood might be a bond formed by forces beyond our control. How often have we lamented that we cannot choose our family. Divine Providence suggest however that this is a good thing; it teaches us to love even when our personal preference would be to withdraw. The security of family though makes it "Safe" to extend one's self. And we learn to love beyond our likes and dislikes. Friendship is different. Friendship requires the challenge of extending one's self as a gift to the other with the danger of having the gift rejected. This is made all the more painful when you add the possibility of your seeing the good in another, a good you would like to encounter and know, only to not have that same apprehension of your personal good reciprocated. It can be a pretty gutting thing.
Thinking on the last several nights, I am grateful for the priest friends I have. I am grateful because it reminds me I am not pulling the sledge alone. The experience of friendship, Blessed Aelred of Riveleux said, is a foretaste of the friendship of heaven. How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together as friends.