We recently celebrated the funerals of two of our actively assigned priests – Father Paul Schwermer, assigned to the parishes in Flushing and Montrose, and Father Lawrence Delaney, chaplain of our retreat house in DeWitt. This is rather unusual that a priest dies while in an assignment. The two funerals were thus occasions for deep sadness and for the participation of many clergy and many of the lay faithful who were being served by these fine men and priests.
Just after these events, we ordained three new priests for service in our diocese. These three will join a presbyterate (the term for the entire body of priests in our diocese) which has never ceased to impress me in the seven years of my service to this diocese. We do not all agree on everything. However, it is truly amazing how this band of brothers cares for each other and gets along with one another. Believe me, this does not happen everywhere.
The priesthood really exists for only one reason, to continue the eternal sacrifice of the Mass handed on to us by the Son of God – that sacrifice which he offered to his Heavenly Father during the Last Supper and on the cross on Good Friday. We are a privileged people who are able to worship the Father with this same sacrifice of Jesus Christ and, what is more, who are then able to share the fruits of that sacrifice, the body and blood of Jesus. Such a sacrifice needs a priest. Jesus, the eternal High Priest, designated his Apostles and their successors to maintain that priesthood in the Church for service to his Church.
No one, of course, takes this ministry on himself. Rather, being called by God to this vocation and having that vocation confirmed by the Church, the priest sees that this ministry is not of his own doing but is rather entirely the grace of God. We priests know this because we know we are not worthy of this office. I am a sinner. My brother priests are all sinners. We are tempted as are all others and we fall, we fail. For me, I know that this experience has helped me be a better “forgiver” when I am faced with another sinner. I have experienced the deep and generous mercy and forgiveness of God.
Yet, we only engage in this ministry because God has called us to it. To live our lives out of a calling from God is what ultimately gives meaning and purpose to our lives. This is even more the case with all those called to be baptized, for each of us is summoned to a life of holiness which will end in eternal life with God in heaven. Nothing in life can be more meaningful. Most of us experience the great calling of a life of service in the Sacrament of Marriage, where pouring out our lives for our spouse and children is a daily sacrifice which mirrors the very love God has for his people. Others are called to a life of service to the Church as a consecrated woman or man who tries to live in perfect imitation of Jesus Christ himself, all for the purpose of being a light to the rest of us on how we should live our lives.
This past month, my parents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. They have lived the life to which God called them, and through the daily trials and joys have been found worthy of many blessings.
Let us help one another, let us help our children to be attentive to God’s will in our lives, for in hearing God’s will and then doing it, we will find the happiness we all seek.