John 1:14 – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Hebrews 7:15-17 – And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
Two years ago, August 18, 2012, I took my vows as an Ordained Priest with the then Old Catholic Apostolic Church, now known as the International Old Catholic Churches. I never would have thought I was to become a priest, nor that I would have the opportunities to perform some of the Sacraments that I was so graciously blessed with being able to perform.
Several Holy Matrimony Sacraments, a few Sacraments of the Anointing of the Sick, and a few Sacraments of Confession later, and I realize what a blessing it is to be able to serve those who seek out my spiritual advice and comfort. Those who look to me to help them in their times of spiritual need, as well as those who sought me out to be the one to unite them together in their marriages, and those who just wanted someone to talk to and know that I had experienced much of what ailed them as well.
It was not because I was a Priest, or because I wore vestments, or that I had a great sounding title, or that I was some Holy, and Religiously Pious person. It was because they knew me as they were, a human, with compassion, caring, loving, empathy, and a giving nature. They knew I did not sit in judgment of them, and that I did not preach by words, that I preached in my actions, and my deeds.
It is easy for one to lose sight of what inspired them initially into their vocation nowadays. So much is going on in this world, and it affects each and every one of us in so many ways. There is a steady decline in morals, a turning away from organized religion, and an increase in crime, and war, and its associated death. One could say to be a Priest in these times is very challenging and difficult. To me it is a challenge, but not a difficult one. I love that I can be here to help someone find their faith once again. To encourage and support those who feel that everyone has abandoned them, or that God does not hear them.
Now, for me to sit here, and say that it has been an easy journey, well, that would be very untrue! It has been anything but an easy journey to this point. However, with faith, and family, and friends, and a most wonderful Church family, and most importantly, a loving and gracious God, I have managed to overcome many obstacles in my life. They become mere speed bumps, something to slow down upon approaching, give it a tap of faith to get over it, and watch it fade in the rear view as I continue on down the path set before me by God.
I often times reflect upon my last two years and I think to myself, wow, would I have changed anything in that time, and I just remember that it is because of all that has happened in the past, which has shaped us into who we are now. So no, I would not change the past, and I chose to focus on the present.
I look at the Church, our fellow clergy, our future clergy, our mission, our goals, our ministry, and I thank God for every moment I can be part of it. To be able to spread that love, that faith, that beautiful message, that is reward enough. It is just as much about all of that, as it is about humility as well.
We must always remember that being a Priest, or a Deacon, or a Bishop, or an Archbishop, is always about being a servant. Not just to God, but to our fellow man(woman), to our Church, to those in need, to the world, and yes as a Franciscan to all living things, great and small!
Philippians 2:3-11 – Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
These last two years the thing I am most proud of is that I never once thought of being a Priest as any more different than being a servant. To me the two are synonymous. One cannot be without the other. Two halves that equal one whole. Does that make me any less of a person? Not at all, as a matter of fact, it makes me more of a person. It is in humility that we learn to persevere, that we learn true empathy, and love, and compassion.
Over the last month, I was challenged in many ways, ways that made me reflect upon my future as a Priest, my standing with the Church, my standing with society, and my standing in general. I felt I was being punished for my sins, past and present. I truly felt that God was putting me in my place!
My faith was challenged, my strength was challenged and by that I mean spiritually and mentally. I was dealt crippling blows to my familial life, my Church life, my business life, and very harshly to my love life. To say I was in pain would be an understatement. Week after week passed, and as the time went by, I began to see some things more clearly.
I saw that no matter what this earthly life may throw at you, some things will get you through it. First and foremost, was my faith in God. Realizing that sometimes, it is better to let go and let God! Second, was my family, and yes it is true, blood is thicker than water. Third was my Church, and how supportive and caring they were. I could not be happier to belong to such a wonderful and loving Church as the IOCC. Bringing up the rear are my friends, and it is true that you can truly count your real friends on one hand.
I had moments where I did not think that I would make it out to the other side, but I did. I had moments where I questioned whether or not I was worthy to belong to the Clergy of the IOCC. That was resolved through my conversations with the Church, through my Bishop, Bishop Beckett. For that I am grateful. I was forgiven my sins!
Shall we talk about sin? I know, Priests cannot sin, we are too holy! Sure, and I just hit Bigfoot on the way to the lake to see the Loch Ness Monster! Priests are as fallible as any other person, and to think otherwise is downright foolish.
To err is human, to forgive is divine. Oh what a wonderful saying! We as Priests must be first to acknowledge our imperfections, and to seek penance for our errors, so that we can be spiritually healed, otherwise, we lack the credibility, the standing to be able to give penance to those who seek it from our mediation. How hypocritical to think that we can help someone else to seek out forgiveness for their sins, all the while denying our own transgressions?
I hope that I can grow from all that has transpired and learn from it. Nothing in life is easy. Of that I am very sure. For me the best part of life is the challenges it throws at us. The best part of being a priest is to overcome not only the challenges that come our way, but to help others overcome theirs as well.
I look forward to so many more years of serving God, of serving you all, and of making the very best of my small piece of this world. I look forward to touching someone’s life, in whatever way I can that helps them. That is what we are here for, to be humble servants.
This picture reminds me so much of what it is to be a priest. It wraps all of this together! I hope you see the message in the picture, and then you will realize too what it means to me!
With that, I leave you all with this prayer! One that also means a lot to me, and comes from the late, and great Father Mychal Judge, OFM of whom my ministry was named for:
Lord, take me where
you want me to go;
Let me meet who
you want me to meet;
Tell me what
you want me to say, and
Keep me out of your way.
Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M., Chaplain, New York Fire Department; Copyright © 2001 Holy Name Province