Friday, July 30, 2010

Dead Priest Quotes

In writing about my predecessor's passing, I came across these quotes, which came from "A Priest Forever", Fr Benedict Groeschel's book about the life and death of Fr. Eugene Hamilton, as well as Archbishop Fulton Sheen's book, "The Priest Is Not His Own".

“Priests should look upon death as one of the last functions of the priesthood. It is their last Mass. This mortal body with which you were born at the incarnation was for you, O Jesus, only the material of the sacrifice. This is what this mortal body should be for each of those who share your priesthood. They must make use of it, as you did, to preach the truth, to edify men. But the essential, sacerdotal use they must make of it is to die. … They should, then, prepare for it as they prepare to celebrate Mass, because the death of a priest is a Mass, united to your death and consummated in yours for the salvation of mankind.”
Fr. Gaston Courtois

“A priest must aim to fulfill the ideal of death, the death of a victim united with Jesus crucified. … Our whole life should be a preparatory exercise for the great act of our death, the act of our supreme sacrifice with Jesus.”
Fr. Jules Leo Grimal

“Our struggle as priests then is not to become angelic and to live as if we had no body, but to become more Christlike. ‘This is my earnest longing and my hope … that this body of mine will do Christ honor. (Philippians 1:20)’”
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

“From the day of his ordination, a priest can never forget that he has been called by God himself. The priest is called to be...
...a servant,
...a victim,
...a brother,
...a listener,
...a friend.”
Terence Cardinal Cooke

Joy... Pain... Sunshine... Rain.

Sorry that I haven't written in a bit. The Haiku was a flash of genius in my normally predictable and unimaginative life. Still, it got me thinking of a few more poetic shots across the bow towards those who annoy me. You know what they say, "When life throws you lemons, make a pipebomb." Wha, just me?

Anyway, I recall saying to myself last May that I was looking forward to an uneventful summer. My first one, in fact, since the last time my summer did not involve packing, moving, unpacking, and getting to know a new place. That last time was 2007. That was the year Anna Nicole Smith died and Al Gore won a Nobel prize, just to set the stage.

So, last week, I was formally and officially installed as Pastor of St. Lawrence Parish. My Bishop was here along with 14 priests (no easy task on a Sunday). It was a glorious day, a bit on the hot and humid side (it is July, after all), but still a great day which found me in a daze I hadn't felt since my ordination weekend, wondering if it all was really happening. Here's a pic:

Joys and sorrows are a part of every person's life, and the same can be said in the life of a parish. This past Wednesday, my predecessor as Pastor of St. Lawrence, Father Joe Szulwach, passed away. Though we knew his health was not at all good, the quick decline we witnessed and his past rallies from death's door made it still a bit of a shock. His body will arrive here on Monday afternoon, and his funeral is scheduled for next Tuesday. Though I've had some experience with a dying Pastor, I'm still nervous about making sure I've done everything properly. Tomorrow, in fact, I'll have another "first" in my Priestly life: vesting a deceased Priest.

So next week is August, and I've often said that in the lift of a parish Priest, summer ends on the Feast of the Assumption. That's when thoughts turn towards September and the emergence of all the meetings and programs that come out of summer hibernation.

Monday, July 05, 2010

July 5

So today everyone gets a day off to celebrate July 4th. But today is July 5th. I always remember a few years ago, where the Monday after the 4th was celebrated as "Independence Day Holiday". I was getting ready to celebrate Mass, when the weekend organist came in to tell me she was playing because it was the "4th of July". I told her she could certainly stay, but that July 4th had passed and I didn't want any patriotic music at this Mass. She gave me one of those looks.

So today is July 5th and everyone takes another day off. Somehow our forefathers put their necks on the line with King George, so that we could have a day off. But a day off from what? Kids are already off from school, so are teachers. It's wasted on them. If I were them, I'd petition for a day off in September sometime, maybe the day after Labor day.

[whoops, went off on a tangent there. let me bring it back]

So the Gospel this morning tells the story of Jesus interacting with two people: The synagogue official and the woman with the hemorrhage. Two great moments:
  • The synagogue official was not just an official, but the man in charge of the day to day running of the Temple. Chosen by the elders, he would have been a man of undoubted faith and an unquestionable reputation among his people. What a moment it must have been when this highly esteemed man who represented the Temple itself came and knelt before Christ. How many gasps there must've been in the crowd at this sign of submission. But he also would have been a guy who loathed Jesus, and the way He was luring people away from Judaism (eg - work on the sabbath). If this guy is coming to Jesus on behalf of his daughter, he's doing so because he has tried everything else to heal her. His belief in Jesus' power is somewhat limited, but normal, since he believed Jesus could only heal her if He touched her.
  • The woman with the hemorrhage is suffering daily. Blood loss would have made her perpetually weak. Society would have stayed away from her, since Jewish law said a woman was unclean during her menstrual cycle (her condition made her perpetually unclean in their eyes). She, too, probably tried every cure and remedy people recommended, all to no avail. Finally, she goes to Jesus. She has such a faith in His power that she feels even touching his clothing (touching something that is touching Him) will heal her.
The danger is that she was looking to touch Jesus' tallit just for the healing power, like some sort of vending machine. We still have that crowd around us: How many of our Catholic brothers and sisters come out for ashes or to have their throat blessed, without any desire or intention to go to Mass or Confession? It leans towards idolatry, just a hop, skip, and jump from those who think rock crystals have special powers. Even Jesus is afraid the crowd (and the woman) will feel His healing power comes from his garments, so He makes sure to tell the woman her faith healed her.

Finally, I also love that line at MT 9:24, when Jesus says the girl is "not dead, but sleeping". Sometimes as parish Priests, we can throw our arms up in the air in disgust and surrender when we see people continually arrive late for Mass, get up in the middle of the consecration to go to the bathroom, or leave right after receiving the Eucharist. I love that Gospel passage because it gives me hope. Their faith is not dead, just dormant and needs to be woken up.

Now, what can I do to "wake" it? Oh, lots of things (he says with an evil grin).

Friday, July 02, 2010

Why am I smiling?

Good question. A few reasons.

First, the humidity has been gone for almost 48 hours now. It fell just right, so that I had an enjoyable day off yesterday driving around back roads of my diocese without the need for air conditioning.

Next, on Fridays, one of my predecessors as Pastor here (now retired and living in the area) comes and says the daily Mass here, giving me the chance not so much to "sleep in" as take extra time, have a second cup of coffee, and watching TV. With a cool breeze blowing through my rooms it was a lovely morning.

Finally, I had a funeral this morning of an 80 year old man I anointed a few days ago. Eight children. Twenty grandchildren. Lots of sibling who, themselves, have large families. To quote Rocco Palmo's overused words, "suffice it to say" the church was packed.

But what made this funeral palpably different was the level of participation. Everyone knew the responses. People sang. Everyone knew when to stand and sit and kneel. Everyone was respectful. Sadly, this is so rare today that, when it does happen, it stays with me (and any priest of deacon reading this will back me up on that). Truthfully, having one funeral like this fortifies me enough to take nine other funerals in which it seems that the only one who went to church regularly was the deceased.

THAT'S why I'm smiling.