On Thursday we celebrated the closing Mass for this academic year, followed by the traditional cookout and bocci tournament. Here's my homily, followed by some photos of the day (just before everyone got in their cars and went home to their summer assignments!)
Well, its almost over. And I daresay the exams, the composites and the papers are gratefully fading from view, as you imagine the day you will be ordained and your first Mass, or what the parish will be like, or the country you’ll be visiting, or even the year you’ve decided to take off from formation. So much ahead of you, and all in pursuit of one goal: to figure out what God wants of you, whether he wants you to be a Priest.
And not just any priest, a Diocesan Priest, a parish priest for the rest of your life.
Nearly seventy years ago, there was a young and talented Bishop’s secretary whose reflections on parish priesthood were offered at Our Lady of the Presentation Church, where our lecture hall stands today. He was preaching at a celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Father Daniel Donovan, OLP Pastor. Father John Wright had just left the Seminary as a teacher of Logic and was now serving as secretary to the newest Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing.
Father Wright, who would later in his life found my home Diocese and later still serve as a Cardinal of the Roman Church, was an outstanding orator, and offered these words on who you seek to be:
This vocation, to serve the diocese in obedience to a bishop, has a dignity of its own. It's apostolate is permanent and never changing, as the essential needs of men for Christ's priesthood are unchanging.
The great religious orders, with their particular vocations, come into existence and respond to the particular needs of certain epochs and certain places; and they dissolve and disappear when the need which first brought them into being itself no longer exists.
But the diocesan priest must meet the needs of all the faithful and at all times.
He is not the son of St. Ignatius, but he must have all the soldierly obedience of the Jesuit and a readiness to swallow his pride for the sake of objectives higher than himself.
He is not the son of St. Francis, but he must be possessed of the genial joy that comes of a priestly heart unfreighted with the vulgar baggage of place or property or preferment.
He is not the son of St. Benedict, nor of St. Bernard, nor of any other of the great founders of priestly communities, but he must always find his companionship in the fraternity of his fellow priests and share the community of their burdens.
The diocesan priest is not the son of St. Dominic, but all the love of the preachers for God's holy Word must be his as week in, week out, he preaches the law of the Gospel and tries to remember, in daily contact with his people this secret: that the voice which penetrates the hearts of the hearer is the voice commanded by the speaker’s own life; because what his word enjoins, his example helps to bring about.
He is constituted a priest by his obedience to the apostles, in their successors, the Bishops. It is by his obedience that he becomes assimilated to the priesthood of Christ, as it was by Christ's obedience that he became himself a Priest.
By the act of your will by which you become one with Christ in loving obedience to him and to his Church, your human personality becomes veiled before the eyes of men and even those of God. In you…God sees no longer a man pleading before him, but his own Son, the co-sharer of his nature. To his altar you daily bring bread and wine, but God still sees the Upper Room and hears his Christ blessing these species…
From the pulpit you preach, and the accent is yours and all the style. But God, listening to you, hears the voice of his own Son, our own Teacher, the Master, the Christ….
Then if in joy you come to him finally with a lifelong priesthood manifestly fruitful in triumphs for Christ, God will see you resplendent with a glory happily not your own, for the Creator of Light is not dazzled by the brilliance of any creature, but rather Christ’s, the light of his own Light, lumen de lumine.
And if, mayhap, you come to him somehow defeated, beaten, or betrayed in all you strove to do to bring his Kingdom to pass on earth, then you may still lift your confident gaze to him, for he will see in your eyes, since you are with Christ, the blended tears of two: yours and those of his Son!
That is the Priesthood we seek and for which God still seeks men like you and me. May God draw you closer to his will this summer and every day of the rest of your lives.