During Catholic Schools Week, our students at St. Ignatius took some time to write thank-you cards for their priests. It was only a week or so ago that I actually got around to reading them, and I was very moved by their contents.
But one struck me in particular: a young student had written, “Could you please pray to God in heaven and ask Him how my grandfather is doing? I love my grandfather.”
As I near my first anniversary as a priest on June 5, these words reminded me well of the mystery that that I have been inserted into: the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, a privileged meeting of the human and the Divine.
I stress with others – no matter which industry they are entering – that nothing compares to on-the-job learning. I’ve always suspected that the Priesthood is no different, and these suspicions have been confirmed. But perhaps what has surprised me most during my first year is the abundant graces that God has given me daily while that on-the-job learning takes place.
It’s not that God cares for me that’s surprising; He cares for all of us. Rather, it’s that He has chosen us, broken and flawed human beings, to accomplish so great a work as the Priesthood.
In a short year, I have found that so long as we seek to cooperate with Him in our daily lives, He never leaves us wanting for His graces to accomplish this important work. Work which transitions seamlessly between the mundane and the ineffable: from paperwork at the rectory to holding the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord in our hands, all at the service of God’s holy people.
At both parishes I serve – St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring and St. Francis de Sales, Robesonia – the people have been so supportive as I begin my journey as a priest. They have taught me a lot about God and will, no doubt, continue to do so. For this I am so grateful!
My first year has been full of so many blessings: preparing couples for marriage, baptizing children, confirming an adult (not a regular occurrence!), kneeling by the bedside of the dying, offering funeral Masses for deceased souls and the consolation of their loved ones, and daily offering Mass and preaching the Word of God.
It’s also included plunging toilets, returning phone calls, answering emails, and making mistakes. (As a good priest-friend of mine often says, “I made my best mistakes in my first year!”) But these have been blessings as well: if the Priesthood bridges the human and Divine, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it contains heavy doses of both.
I’ve learned a thing or two about being a priest during my first year, but I have a lifetime of learning left. I stand by my advice that, even for priests, nothing compares to on-the-job learning, except one thing: the grace of God given at Ordination. Both are indispensable.
And no matter how close we bring others to God, they will never cease to see us as Christ among them. I hope I never tire of others asking me to pray for their intentions, or even asking me how their grandfather in heaven is doing.
And if you’re reading this and think, “Maybe God is calling me to do the same with my life,” I promise it’s worth it to apply to the seminary and find out. What awaits you on the other side of Ordination is far more than a job. It’s the journey of a lifetime.
By Father Philip Maas, assistant pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring and St. Francis de Sales, Robesonia.