A Priest Life

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing." -St. Paul

Big birthday

For ya’lls birthday, what if we go to the park? You can bring the boat you’ve been working on, and we can sit at a picnic table while the kids play.

It was my sister’s idea for a birthday party for myself and her husband to celebrate our “big birthday.”

At the park the weather was perfect. The kids played in the grass, and we sat in lounge chairs enjoying the company of family and friends. I soaked in the joy of a birthday celebration sitting in the evening sun.

My thoughts turned to the future as I watched the shadows disappear.

Lord, what is man that you care for him, mortal man, that you keep him in mind; man, who is merely a breath, whose life fades like a passing shadow? –Psalm 144

I know that the sun will set in my own life and in the lives of those I love quickly. Celebrating birthdays in the park today, though, I had an insight into the joy of eternal life. We were there in the park because we loved.

Looking forward to eternal life, I hope to share that same joy of celebrating the real “big birthday”: rejoicing that the boat of the Church brought us to the park of eternal life where the sun never sets, the grass is always green, and love never fades.

Bring us home to You at the sunset of our life, that we may celebrate with You our real

big birthday.

Smart hen who fed the others

See that hen right there? She’s really smart. She flies up to the bird feeder and knocks it so that the seeds spill out for the other ducks.

I was sitting on a back patio with a parishioner I had gone to visit. The house overlooks a small lake, and we were watching the mallards in her yard.

Sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t taken me yet. But, I know He has a plan and I know I’m still here for a reason.

It’s a sentiment the elderly feel often. I was there to listen and bring her the grace of anointing.

We talked about her past and how she raised her children. She told me the story of her husband and their 54+ years of marriage.

I don’t feel like I can do much anymore. But really, I just want to love God however He wants me to. I offer all of my pains up, and I know I’m here to pray for my family, my children, and the world. And I know prayer works.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw flashing wings. When I looked over, the mallard hen crashed into the feeder. Bird seed scattered on the ground, and the other ducks ran over to eat.

And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path… –Luke 8:5

I had gone to minister to her. But as You always do, You shared something with me. She taught me about prayer, perseverance, and trust. Today, I thank You for the

smart hen who fed the others.

 

Lifts my spirit

Father, that’s the last one.

Our campus minister had come into the makeshift confessional to let me know that we were finished. We took down the signs and picked up the chairs.

With the help of more than a dozen priests over two days, the entire high school had a chance to experience Your mercy.

Walking into the commons, the students were happy.  One teacher had noticed:

It’s like we have to pull them down from the clouds before they float away.

Leaving the high school, I returned to the parish to lead the Way of the Cross with the middle school. With each station, we reflected on the climb to Calvary. Prayer, reverence, focus.

In the sacristy the server put down the processional cross and stretched his arms.

“The Cross is heavy,” he said.

“So are sins,” I thought to myself.

Help me to see that sin weighs me down, while Your mercy

lifts my spirit.

Tastes like heaven

I visited the 2nd grade religious-ed classroom today to answer their questions about heaven.

“Who are the saints?”

People in heaven!

Great! Can you name any saints?

Mary!

Joseph!

Michael Jackson!

The teacher and I chuckled. “Hmm…I think we need to work on that!”

Another hand shot up:

Is there food in heaven?

“What do you think?” I asked them.

Of course! I bet God loves pizza!

Somehow I don’t think that’s what You meant in John 6:35.

However, they did understand the importance of their first Eucharist coming up in a few months. They all had the same question:

What’s it taste like?

I paused for a moment to think. “It tastes just like bread or wine,” I started to say. But I realized there was a much more important lesson. It really

tastes like heaven.

 

Careen into grace

I’m enjoying my reading of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I came across these lines tonight:

There was something awful and revolting in the memory of what had been bought at this fearful price of shame. Shame at their spiritual nakedness crushed her and infected him. –Part II, Chapter 11.

The allusion to Genesis is clear. She is not in a situation where she “felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). Instead, her conscience echoes back to the Fall:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel. –Genesis 3:15

Anna feels alone and full of shame. Like Eve, she said “yes” when she shouldn’t have.

Today we celebrate a different “yes.” On this feast of the Annunciation, we remember the “yes” that repairs shame and crushes the iniquity that infects Anna Karenina. Teach me to trust in You so that I may 

careen into grace.

I have called You, friend

I usually try to guess the caller when my phone rings.

Tonight, I expected it to be one of my sisters. I was wrong. The name and the picture delighted me! It was a call from a close friend I hadn’t spoken to in a long while.

I was just calling to say hello.

I realized that those aren’t words I hear often. Worse still, they aren’t words I say often enough, either. We talked for a little over fifteen minutes, and there was a smile on my face after we hung up.

My mind turned to You a few minutes later.

I have called you friends. –John 15:5

Reconnecting with a close friend caused me much joy. I understand just a little more how excited You are when we pray.

Today, I’m thankful for the reminder that any day isn’t complete unless

I have called You, friend.

Let’s go pray

She was screaming because we wouldn’t let her drink from her cup without a lid on it.

Everyone in the pizzeria looked at our table. Her mom and dad tried to calm her down and teach her that we didn’t want her to spill. She wouldn’t hear of it.

Two-year-olds often know exactly what they want, and they won’t let anyone change their minds.

Until you invite them to the game room so they forget about their drink.

My plan worked! Three words made it all go away:

Let’s go play!

Sometimes I wonder if that’s how You operate. We get fixated on something that isn’t a good idea, but You have the words that solve every problem:

let’s go pray!

The Priestie Boys

I had just walked into the sacristy.

One of our altar servers was putting on his alb as I walked passed him.

“Fr. Jeff!!” he said. “You need to start a band with some priests.”

“Yeah?”

I wasn’t prepared for what came next:

Yes!! You have to call it:

The Priestie Boys

Živjeli!

She loved. She prayed. She worked.

Now it was our turn.

The shovels were purchased for the occasion. The family stood around the grave as they lowered her casket into the ground.

We loved.

We passed around a phone so everyone could read Pope Francis’ tweet:

Jesus is our hope.  Nothing – not even evil or death – is able to separate us from the saving power of his love. –@Pontifex

We prayed.

Everyone took a turn breaking in the shovels.

We worked.

When Paw-Paw died, they toasted to his life.

Dad pulled out a brown paper bag. I could see the black top.

He had saved the bottle for 23 years.

Cups were passed around. The time had come.

We were standing around her grave. We honored her love. We honored her prayer. We honored her work.

With arms reaching into the sky, we gave tribute to Melia Starkovich:

živjeli!

 

Run for help

Today I helped the priests at another Catholic elementary school hear confessions.

I could see them praying in the pew as they examined their consciences. Smiles were on their faces, and they were not afraid. But one detail in particular made me smile.

They had trouble walking towards me. Instead, they ran to me when it was their turn. I know how he felt:

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. -Luke 15:20

When I am in need of mercy, teach me to trust in You. May I always see you waiting for me and

Run for help.