When I originally thought of this blog series on religious and priestly life from the inside, I thought I would describe what it was like to be ordained. The odd thing is that in just a month, several priestly acts were more powerful for me that the ordination rite. With this blog on my first month as a priest, I’ll finish this blog 4-part series (Vocations Come from Love, A Religious in a Secular Society, and A Priest amidst the People were the other 3).
Just as some people are really excited about the marriage ceremony and others about the life as a couple, we priests put varying value on the actual ceremony. I thought a lot about being a priest but little about the ceremony of ordination. In fact as I write this over a month later, I finally went through all 5,000 photos of the ordination. I know I was ordained; what else matters? Jesus did not call me to the ordination rite directly but only as a result of calling me to be a priest.
So often we can get caught up in the rite. If anything, I did the opposite.
So what has been so powerful?
The first super-powerful experience was the 3rd mass on Christmas. I celebrated once at a parish and once with the community. The third mass I had all alone. Jesus was coming just for me. Then it really hit me: Jesus had really given me the gift of the priesthood.
The second super-powerful experience has been hearing confessions – one was over a decade since the last time. I can’t say much else.
In fact, hearing confessions is a joy I never expected. I kind of figured that it would be part of the sacrifice you accept with accepting the vocation. I never expected the pleasure. I figured it would be tough to listen to all the junk in people’s lives. I don’t want to know exactly how many times you did that sin. Plus, how could I keep closed lips. Yet, each time I hear confessions, I can feel God’s mercy in an almost physical way.
I’ll tell one final experience to round out my first month. The first mass that I celebrated solo shows my faith. It’s easy to believe that this priest you’ve known for years is celebrating mass and it’s really becoming Jesus, but then what happens when I know that I and I alone said the words that made the bread Jesus. That takes faith! I genuflected and thought to myself, “is that really Jesus? I mean, I just said the words but it’s just the same me I’ve always been.” It doesn’t become easier for us to believe just because we’re ordained, in fact, at times it’s harder to believe.
I finally feel whole. It took a few weeks to fit into my new role but now I feel like I’m doing exactly what I was made for. That’s a vocation.
I don’t think these experiences are universal but I thought I’d share mine. Hopefully they help you to understand this side so you can promote vocations. This concludes this series on religious life and priesthood from the inside.