Growing up I had a lot of exposure to the priesthood. My parents were diligent in going to weekly Mass and I attended Catholic schools through high school. On my Mother’s side I was the second youngest of 16 cousins, the eldest of which is a priest. Quite often at family functions his uncle from the other side of his family who was also a priest would be in attendance as well. This gave me the good fortune to relate to members of the clergy in an everyday familiar setting, not just in the “speaking from the pulpit” capacity. From the time my cousin entered the seminary, his journey was always a significant topic among the family. His ordination was a celebrated, special event for all of us. It was largely because of my cousin’s call to the vocation that I often pondered a vocation for myself when I was young. Today, pursuing my calling as a husband and father I have grown to appreciate how intertwined these vocations are. In everyday Catholic life, by God’s design, all vocations support one another. In countless instances my marriage, my wife, my children and me personally have been influenced, counseled and consoled by members of the clergy.
Priests are human. The collar does not change human nature. As a matter of fact, I know of no one who is more aware of that than priests themselves. Ironically, it is this awareness that elevates my respect for those who answers God’s call. I can best relate to, and feel most connected with, those priests who through their actions and demeanor are keenly aware of their human frailty.
I picture life as a piece of cloth under construction. Threads representing the people you encounter in daily life, weaved by the interaction shared with them. Each day the cloth grows. Whether it is a casual smile from a stranger, a friend who sets aside time they really don’t have for you or an empathetic discussion with a family member, the cloth grows with every interaction. Even getting scolded as a youngster, or being wronged by another, or committing a wrong against another, weaves the cloth. I believe that when I look back on my cloth, some of the strongest threads will be woven by our priests. God’s loving touch, His healing mercy and compassion passed through our clergy so often have kept my cloth from unraveling.
I’ve told my children, their soul is the most important part of their being to me. Everything else is temporary, the soul is forever, immortal. Being one of God’s children, the same applies to me. The priests who have touched my life, have helped to shepard my soul towards my salvation. Especially through my impetuous teens, and when I’ve inflicted myself with the bane of self-love the Good Lord touched me through His priests. The sacrament of Holy Orders, what an awesome gift from God to all of humanity.