Think about the priests in your life

Since ordination, on a fairly regular basis someone will ask me if I would like to be a priest if I had the opportunity. 

Well, the answer for me is no. God called me to the vocation of the diaconate, not to any other, and I’m happy being a deacon.

But this coming Sunday is a moment to consider those men who were called to that other vocation — and to thank them for answering the call. Sunday is World Priest Day. 

I have several good friends who are priests. One especially is a relatively young man that I’ve known since he was a teen-ager (boy does that make me feel old). Our paths had crossed so many times over the years but I don’t think I ever knew much about him. I took advantage of his service over the years but never took the time to get to know him. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to learn of his path toward priesthood. I learned about his teen-age years, the call, his discernment and his answer to that call resulting in the beginning of study for the priesthood and ultimately his ordination. He is a clear example of a man living a priestly life in the real world today. He has the ability to challenge us toward Spiritual greatness but is adaptable enough to work within the real world realizing that all of us are at different places in our secular and Spiritual lives. Today he is my Spiritual director and good friend. The student has become the teacher! I thank God for his presence in my life. 

In my current role as a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth, and in my parish and diocesan roles, I have had an opportunity to come to know many priests and to work closely with them. So many of them inspire me. 

In particular, this last summer I had the opportunity to work with two of my priest friends. I love to see them in action at the Christian Leadership Institute. On CLI, the priests serve not only as team group leaders, but as Spiritual directors. One of the priests was a graduate of CLI back in 1990. Spending time with them on CLI over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to view these priests in total ministry. These men are such models of Christ’s love and call to service. They were not only able to, of course, celebrate jubilant Liturgies and prayer services but they also acted as teachers and mentors to the candidates. They mentored the team and me. We prayed early morning vespers together. 

At one moment, they were leading their teams through the obstacle course with great exuberance, and at the next moment they were celebrating Mass. Without missing a beat, they moved from hour to hour, day to day, as a model of priest. The adults and young people of CLI were truly blessed to have these men with us. I’m sure none of us will ever forget their dedication, their homilies, their adaptability and their love. They are true examples of Christ in action for all of us.

It strikes me that their participation in CLI serves as an microcosm of what they do each and every day. In their lives, they are called to be cheerleaders, leaders, Spiritual directors, celebrants of the Sacraments, sons and friends. They are priests 24/7. It isn’t something you just turn off. Our priests live a life of complete dedication and service. They live in the world but need to be other-worldly. They give up what some of us would consider a great life of work, family, money and success. How difficult this seems to most of us. Others might think that a priest has it made. No worries. But just imagine what a day must be like responding to the needs of so many different people with so many different needs and add to that the financial and structural issues of the parish that face them every day. And in most parishes they do it alone. Yet, they do it. They do it for Christ and they do it for us. 

Take a moment to think about priests in your life. I recall growing up with priests as family friends. I observed these men as parish priests, like my first pastor, who reminded me of a quintessential Irish priest that was so much a part of my young faith development. I was lucky enough to have priests as teachers during my 18 years of Catholic education. I’ve been fortunate to work with priests such as the Spiritual directors in the YES! Retreat program and in the Cursillo Movement. I so appreciate the training of the original CLI director, a priest who I always considered a friend and mentor. I have learned so much from these men who have served on the various retreat teams over the years. 

I have had the privilege of seeing my pastor help heal a parish that was hurt and a previous pastor who was such a good friend to our family and who so influenced the Spiritual life of my two daughters — especially during the years that they served at the altar. I will never forget one priest who was there for me when I felt so low and abandoned when I first began working in ministry to youth. He prayed with me and for me. His words healed me. I still remember and reflect on his words that day! And I thank so many of our priests who supported me in my journey to the diaconate in their role as program director, Spiritual director or teacher in the diaconate formation program. 

Now that I have taken the time to think about it, my life has been enriched and guided by these men of God. Every one of them have had an affect on my life and if you think about it, most likely yours, too.

So on this World Priest Day let’s take some time to think about what I took for granted for so long. Young men, if called, I pray and hope you will consider a vocation. I hope the rest of us will encourage and pray for vocations. In the meantime, let your priest know how much you appreciate their vocation. Ask your parish priest what you can do to help. Let’s be grateful to God for their service on our behalf and let’s let them know we appreciate their service. Most of all, let us pray daily for our priests — 

Gracious and loving God, we thank You for the gift of our priests. Through them, we experience Your presence in the Sacraments.

Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for Your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Inspire them with the vision of Your Kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry.

Help them to become instruments of Your Divine grace. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest.

Amen.

Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. DeaconFrankLucca@comcast.net

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