The Happy Priest: Celebrating the Gift of Priesthood
It was on December 24, 1987 when I laid prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary of a beautiful parish in Rome, Italy dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe
As I celebrate the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the Catholic priesthood on December 24th, these words of Saint Augustine resonate in my heart with deep emotion.
God is defined in the Sacred Scripture as love. "God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God and God lives in him" (1 John 16).
It was on December 24, 1987 when I laid prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary of a beautiful parish in Rome, Italy dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I can remember the chanting of the Litany of the Saints: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, followed by the imposition of hands upon my head and the anointing of my hands with the holy oil of chrism by the late Cardinal Jerome Hamer, the then Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
"You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and forever" (Hebrews 7: 18).
The Catholic priesthood is the vehicle through which I have been able to experience and participate in the love of God.
"To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek him the greatest adventure, to find him the greatest human achievement."
I am in love and my twenty five years of priesthood has been an amazing adventure of love.
My bride is the Church, the Bride of Christ. Most of the time my bride is beautiful to behold and wonderful to be with, but sometimes my bride can be like a nagging wife in curlers or worse yet, unfaithful and corrupt.
Nevertheless, Jesus calls me each day to love this Bride with renewed love made in acts of service, patience and forgiveness.
Yes, I am in love. I love the incense as it makes its way to the sky in praise of God. I love our sacred music and our chants. I love our prayers that console us so.
I love our cathedrals, our basilicas, our churches and our small mission churches.
I love our saints who inspire us so much by lives lived with grandeur and poetry. Most especially I love the martyrs because they preferred to die than to give in to evil.
I love our popes, especially popes like Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who have provided me with so much inspiration on how to be a good priest for the times that I have been called to serve the people of God.
I love the Catholic priests of my life: the priest who baptized me, the priest who heard my first confession and the priest who gave me the Holy Eucharist for the first time. I am grateful for those priests who inspired me by their example to follow in their footsteps and to those priests whom I call my friends.
Most especially I love to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. How amazing it is to stand at the altar of sacrifice and repeat those amazing words: "For this is my body which will be given up for you;" "For this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins."
However, this life lived in love would have never been possible were it not for the love experienced in a loving home, where my parents passed on to me the greatest gift of all: the gift of faith.
I am in love. I love being a Catholic and I love being a Catholic priest.
Within any walk of life there are always difficulties, trials and persecutions. Married couples experience moments of tremendous obstacles and so do priests. However, Saint Paul reminds us that love "endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13: 7).
If you were to ask me what is and has been my most difficult challenge as a priest, it is precisely what Saint Paul affirms to Saint Timothy: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths" (2 Timothy 4: 3-4).
I have seen and have heard of things that would cause the strongest of men to retreat from the battle. I have not and will never give up because I am convinced that the promise of Jesus is true, that "the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Matthew 16: 18).
It is important for us to focus on the saints of the Church, not her sinners, and it is essential that we strive to be among those saints. It is easy to complain and to point fingers; it is difficult to live out the gospel with authenticity and maturity.
Twenty five years of Catholic priesthood and the journey goes on because Saint Paul also ...
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