By: Various priests of the Arlington Diocese
At the Mass in celebration of his 40th anniversary to the ordination of the priesthood, Bishop Loverde remarked, “And knowing everything I know, I’d be a priest all over again in a heartbeat. It’s a tremendously fulfilling vocation, and I thank God for calling me.”
His words not only resonate with the clergy, but with all who long to be settled in their vocation – all who seek to follow God’s will.
This week, a few priests from the Diocese of Arlington share some favorite memories of their priesthood:
“I recall a moment in my priesthood when the Gospel became life, in particular the Gospel of Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well. It was a “chance” encounter after a cancelled connecting flight left our group stranded in a hotel on the way back to the diocese from the Dominican Republic. I was saying my rosary by the elevators around 1 a.m. when a young woman came by, and we somehow ended up talking for a long time. In the course of that conversation, it came to light that she was carrying the burden of having aborted her child. I will never forget the depth of her sadness when she uttered those words: “It was Mother’s Day — How messed up is that?” I do not recall what words I found to say in response, but the message was, “Not too messed up for Jesus.” She was raised a Christian but had drifted away from church, so I encouraged her to get connected again with a Christian community, even perhaps her local Catholic parish. I gave her a blessing, and she said that she felt a tingling all the way down to her feet. I know not everyone can directly feel the Holy Spirit, but I trust that He was moving in her soul, bringing the grace of repentance. She went on her way, full of consolation, and I saw that, like the Samaritan, she had left her bucket behind.”
“Priests are privileged to bring Jesus Christ to people at times of great joy, so I have many blessed memories involving Baptisms, First Holy Communions and weddings. However, I also have powerful memories of praying with families as a loved one approached death, not only of preparing the dying for entrance into eternal life through the Last Rites, but also of reassuring all of the promises of the Resurrection. Not only have I witnessed lives transformed when facing the death of someone they love, but the experience also helps to renew my faith in the glory that awaits those who place their trust in Jesus, and how necessary it is to lead lives of joy.”
“After my ordination to the priesthood in 1991, I began my first assignment in Annandale and was blessed to help prepare engaged couples for the Sacrament of Marriage. On the night of the rehearsal dinner, the prospective bride was not feeling very well, but attributed this to pre-wedding nervousness. Her maid of honor suggested she get things checked out, just in case.
It turned out to be appendicitis! Instead of getting married on Saturday morning (as originally planned), the prospective bride was wheeled into surgery. The prospective groom’s brother began making calls to cancel the caterer, hotel and photographer.
“This is a bride’s nightmare: wedding day ruined and in a hospital bed. To add some more pressure, did I mention some of her family was coming from overseas? So I made my offer: did they still want to get married today? And they said: Yes! I obtained permission from the hospital administrator to use the small chapel at 7 p.m. that evening. I then obtained permission for the pastor of St. Ambrose to hold a wedding in his parish boundaries. Then I called the Vicar General and obtained a Dispensation from Place so that the marriage would be valid. And that evening they wheeled in the bride and squeezed her next to her groom (it was WAY past capacity).Since the bride was seated, the groom knelt as they recited the vows. And when he said, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” I knew he knew what he was saying.
“And back to her room the bride went, where she found some of the floral displays that were supposed to be at the reception. And the florist forgot to send a bill. And the hotel returned the non-refundable deposit. And the photographer sent back his deposit. And the travel agent said they had a year to take a trip.
“So on my shelf in my office is a picture of me with the happy couple (IV unit in tow) and the ring boy and flower girl. And I show this photograph to couples when they begin marriage preparation and all they talk about is the wedding to remind them that the wedding is a day, marriage is a lifetime.”
“I savor the moment during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when the bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine become the Blood of Christ and I know that this just happened in my unworthy hands for the sake of the souls that has been entrusted to my care.
“I reverently enjoy the moment of the wedding when the couple leaves the Church to embark upon their new life together as newly married couple and I stay behind at the altar with my bride, the Church, and think back to all we have accomplished since we have been together.
“I find myself grateful for the grace of the priesthood bestowed upon me when I stop at a car accident or when the phone rings in the middle of the night for a parishioner in the hospital who needs Our Lord’s healing and anointing.
“I am filled with an overwhelming sense of God’s infinite patience with me a sinner, when I am called upon to be the source of his merciful love to those in great need of forgiveness while I am ministering the Sacrament of Penance.
“But probably my most favorite memory as a priest above all, is the quiet moment spent with our Lord in Adoration and prayer, when I give Him my heart, my attention, my faults and imperfections… and He in return simply loves me, for that is who He is and what He does and I realize that He has called me to do the same for each person I encounter as His priest.”
“One day at the beginning of the school year, I visited the fourth grade of our parish school. They were studying creation in religion class, so I decided to speak on this topic. I spent a lot of time speaking about how God created the universe from nothing. To help me convey this mystery of creation, I taught them they we have no experience of what “nothing” is – that no matter how we imagine it, we don’t really know because that imaged “thing” is still “something.” A few months later, I received handwritten Christmas cards from this fourth grade class. One of them read: “Dear Father, I always love it when you come to talk with our class. I especially liked it when you came and talked a lot about nothing!”
Thank you to all of our priests for their courage to seek and accept God’s will for their vocation. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the gift of your priesthood!
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