5) We need you to live a life of service rooted in a life of prayer.
Lay people do not – or should not – expect you to be Superman, accomplishing all things at all times with all of your own powers.
But what we do expect, hope for and pray for are priests who are always receiving from God in prayer. Only out of the overflow of what you receive can you then give.
This is closely linked with humility, a virtue that is so necessary for all of the rest.
Humility is also a virtue I have seen modeled quite beautifully by two priests in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in the past few weeks.
A couple of weeks ago, Bishop Binzer spoke at Theology on Tap in Cincinnati. At the conclusion of his talk, he looked at the crowd of young adults and said, “I’m here to serve.” It was a simple sentence but a profound reality that we all knew was true – our bishop is here to serve.
Only a week or so before, I was present at the priestly ordination at the cathedral. At the conclusion of the Mass, Archbishop Schnurr knelt on the floor and asked the new priests for their first blessing. It was a moving moment that once again captured the reality: our archbishop is here to serve.
Archbishop Schnurr, Bishop Binzer, Fathers … perhaps this gets to the heart of the call of your priesthood, together with the laity of the Church: We are here to serve.
We are here to serve in different ways, in different capacities. This does not water down the reality that you have been granted an incredible gift of sharing in the ordained priesthood of Christ.
One young woman, a college freshman, responded to my question of what lay people are looking for from their priests and summarized it quite nicely:
“I know exactly [what] I want from my parish priest. I want him to be Jesus. […] I want a priest that is authentically in Persona Christi. On a pilgrimage […] I went to Confession. I walked in and knelt down, before beginning the priest just looked at me with complete purity and aw. I quickly realized His eyes were not his own, but Christ's. My soul filling with joy and peace I soaked in the consoling love of the Father before I began confessing my sins. Even now almost a year later in times of desolation I am still able to remember something as simple as the way he looked at me and saw the beauty of my soul. This is the power of a priest who has surrendered all to the person of Christ.”
Yes, like this young person shared – lay people want and need you to be in Persona Christi. We need you to reflect the love, sacrifice and selflessness of Christ to your parishes and ministries, loving your bride, the Church, always knowing that you are held securely in the Father’s arms.
Fathers, thank you for your lives of service. Thank you for receiving the Lord’s call and continually saying “yes” to Him. I pray that God abundantly blesses you as you continue to become more and more like Jesus Christ, giving your lives in service for the Church.