November 21, 2012
By Father William Muench
I truly love being a priest. I must admit that it wasn’t an easy decision to enter the seminary and then to choose ordination to the priesthood but, somehow, I knew that it was the right thing for me to do.
After all of these years, I still love being a priest. God has blessed me with many great assignments, wonderful experiences for me to work hand in hand with the Lord.
I have found real happiness in the opportunities I have had to serve the Lord and the Church. I have been blessed to know and pastor so many wonderful families, so many wonderful people. I have also been a part of a wonderful family of priests right here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
During these past few weeks as I have worked on this column, I have been immersed in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The Council Fathers prepared and promulgated two documents that concerned the priests.
The Council promulgated these documents in the years that I was just beginning of my priesthood so it is interesting for me to re-read what was written back then. I now have the unique opportunity to realize how this message was part of my life as a priest.
These documents of the Second Vatican Council on priesthood set a high standard for priests – a call to perfection. Like all other Christians, my call to perfection began with Baptism, “the sign and gift of the calling and grace of all Christians.”
Every baptized person through Baptism shares in the priesthood of Jesus and receives the universal call to holiness. Every baptized person then is called to perfection. So, Baptism is that first sacrament that joins us all in our journey toward the Lord as Christians. chosen as special by the Lord. Jesus says,“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 4:48)
The document of the Second Vatican Council is entitled, “The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests.” It reminds and challenges every priest to strive for perfection: “Priests are bound by a special reason to acquire this perfection. They are consecrated to God in a new way in their ordination and are made the living instruments of Christ the eternal priest.”
Personally, there are some days when this challenge to achieve perfection impossible. I wonder how it is possible to really know if I am growing in perfection. I can tell you how many Masses I have offered, how many sacraments I have administrated, how many people I have brought into the Church, how many homilies I have given, how many confessions I have heard. But how do you put a number on the rise to perfection?
The Council tells me that “priests will acquire holiness in their own distinctive way by exercising their functions sincerely and tirelessly in the Spirit of Christ.” The Council points me to recognize that my priestly functions are my road to holiness, perfection and sanctity. So as I look back, my faithfulness to my functions as a priest are my steppingstones on my road to the perfection to which God calls me.
First of all, the Council mentions the Sacred Scriptures. The Bible has always been an important part of my life as a priest. Each time I celebrate Mass the Scriptures present to me the message for the day and give me the basis of the homily that I will present in my homily.
The readings of the Scriptures are always the center – the heart and soul - of my daily meditations. The Bible is bound up with all that I do as a priest and will always be my way to finding God in my life. And so it will be my guide along the road to perfection.
Then there is the celebration of the Holy Mass. At each and every Mass, I remember and celebrate the life, death and resurrection of my Lord and God, Jesus Christ.
Finally, the road to holiness is formed for me as a priest each time I have the opportunity to celebrate the sacraments with the people that are my parish. Each time, I am transformed when I am allowed to baptize a child. I become united with the Lord and also become a part of a young family each time I celebrate a marriage with a loving couple, joining myself with my Lord to bring sacramental grace on this union. Each time I celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, guiding someone as they find forgiveness from the Lord and discover just how much God loves them and each time I stand with a dying person, bringing the Anointing of the Church, the gift of peace as they prepare to meet the Lord, I experience lessons in holiness – my way to perfection.
In so many ways, the people that I minister to are my guides to holiness. So each of us - priests and people - answers our particular call to holiness in our own particular way within the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.