Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Feast of the Ascension! And, Happy 101st Anniversary of the first appearance of Our Lady of Fatima! I have just enjoyed another fully-packed priesthood-week, with three days of our annual Priest’s Convocation at Marywood Retreat Center. Each year, as we gather, the jubilees of the priests reaching 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, and 25 years of priesthood are celebrated with an evening Mass and a dinner in their honor. Yesterday after the noon Mass conclusion of the Convocation, I proceeded to celebrate a funeral service for the friend of a parishioner who died quite young and quite suddenly. After Mass this (Thursday) morning, I had a call to anoint the terminally ill father of a non-parishioner and another call to the hospital to visit a parishioner unexpectedly hospitalized.
On the way home, I stopped by the Diocesan office to work out some canonical complications regarding Baptisms for children who had not been baptized by their parents…and…who have now reached the “age of reason” (7). This now requires of them, extended catechesis as an adult, prior to their reception of the Sacrament. Then, on my way home from the Catholic Center, I received a text from a former parishioner (now living in Palatka), that his wife was in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Middleburg, about to deliver their 4th child. And then, as I paused to complete my evening prayers, I took a moment to gratefully reflect on today being the 10th anniversary of my Ordination to this blessed life of priesthood.
My common (but sincere) response to many of my friends who knew me before my being called to this priestly life, is: “I have never been busier, or more tired…but I have also never been more at peace!” A great deal of that peace comes from the blessing of having been assigned by Bishop Galeone to become your pastor ten years ago. I truly feel very blessed to have been gifted with the assignment here at Mary, Queen of Heaven …“The little church in the prairie,” as I nick-named it on my first visit to see the church, the day after my ordination. The parishioners have truly been a source of joy. Even though we have grown in numbers, exponentially, the ambiance of “Family” still prevails. I just mentioned “parishioners”, as though it was some unidentified group, but they are you. You are the cause of my Joy and my Peace. And, it is to you that I owe a debt of great gratitude. Thank you for contributing to my sense of peace.
Reflecting on this week, with a day yet to go (oops, it’s already 2:00 am), I felt the week has been a bit of a compendium of a parish priest’s life. Fraternal community with my brother priests with education and increased knowledge (at our convocation). And then being present to death and consolation, birth and celebration, healing and comforting, along with attending to sacramental needs and growth. The greatest source of ecstatic peaceful joy for me (and I would imagine for all priests) as I mentioned at Mass this Thursday morning, is the time spent in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I am in no way bragging …but it does not matter what state of energy, rest, stress, or calm, I arrive in for Mass, His Peace transcends from above and literally insulates me from the worldly concerns, distractions and discomforts. His peace and joy envelop me. And, to know that we priests, are acting “In Persona Christi” for you the Faithful, conveys to me my tremendous responsibility to remain a humble and worthy conduit of God’s graces, pardon, and reconciling love. Lord knows I strive to achieve that. Thank you all for being my inspiration to continue to love the priesthood and all it entails.
Ever so briefly I want to mention that the subject our Convocation speaker addressed was “Gaining Knowledge Regarding Addictions – Alcohol and Drugs”, dwelling on the need to educate parents (and their children who are leaving high school for college, or the world in general) so they can be aware of the devastating impact they have on life. We will be receiving some information shortly from the Instructor to Help us put on an evening of enlightenment for Parents and students together. I have encountered several students form our parish who have already been in the grip of these diabolical addictions, goaded into usage by so called “friends” who are making money at the expense of others success and risk of death. Marijuana is not harmless. It is a fact…it is addictive, it is a hallucinogen that effects brain development. Alcohol, all the social drinks, beer, wine, spirits, are all potentially addictive depending on body chemistry and will power. Parents need to know the real medical facts and help educate their young adult children on the dangers and the real devastation once addicted…before they go off to college or the work-a-day world. The rapidly growing rate of addiction of our American youth is mind-boggling. With the advantage of the internet, factual information on these risks, is virtually at your fingertips. Our local hospitals and police departments are appalled at the rapidly escalating number of deaths of young adult “first-time users” of opioids and fentanyl-laced marijuana. Parents, don’t assume your child is aware of the tremendous risk or will survive the collegiate peer-pressure culture, without any education by you. Oh, and yes, deadly alcohol poisoning resulting from the ever-popular challenge of college binge-drinking is on the rise. I will print up more on this subject when the promised material arrives. In the interim, parents, (and students) just google mayoclinic.org/alcohol poisoning. You could do the same for Marijuana.
May the Lord deliver us from all evil,