November 20, 2013
By Father William Muench
I am writing this today from Combermere, Ontario, visiting my friends at Madonna House. This has always been a very special community for me. The foundress of Madonna, Catherine de Hueck Doherty, has a deep appreciation for priests – and so priests have always been an integral part of this community.
I remember how she would react when greeting a priest: she would kneel right down and ask for his blessing. A bit dramatic I will admit – but such was her respect and appreciation for priests. I always felt that I should be seeking her blessing.
Catherine wrote many essays about the ordained priesthood and often spoke about the priesthood. They tell the story that on one occasion, Eddie, her husband, received a letter asking, “Just what is a priest?” As he was thinking about his answer, he sought some advice from Catherine.
The story goes on to say that Catherine immediately took up paper and pencil and wrote a rather well remembered poem – almost a prayer – about priesthood. I want to share just a bit of this with you.
“The heart of a priest is pen, like Christ’s; for the whole world to walk through…
The heart of a priest is a vessel of compassion, the heart of a priest is a chalice of love…
A priest is a man who has crucified himself – so that he too may be lifted up and draw all things to Christ.”
I am appreciative that God invited me into his priesthood. Often, someone will ask me to explain how I ended up becoming a priest and, I must admit, I really can’t remember any specific moment when my life was turned around and I suddenly knew I should be a priest. I just always knew that it is has always been who I am.
I continue to look forward to each opportunity to celebrate Mass, to preach a homily, to teach about being Jesus, to celebrate the sacraments of the Church – especially going to the sick or dying.
I have often meditated upon Catherine’s poem about priesthood – I really can’t believe I have yet to match up. I do know many priests and Bishops who do. I am most grateful that I have been touched by such great priests. I am most grateful for all of my brothers in the priesthood here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
So, today, I want to offer my congratulations and gratitude to our Bishop – Bishop Terry LaValley. He has accepted this office with dedication and determination. He brings enthusiasm to all that he does. He challenges us all – people and priests – to use our gifts and abilities to make our diocese alive in the Spirit. He wants to make the Church of the North Country a very special, alive family for the People of God.
I want to also offer my appreciation to all of my brothers in the priesthood here in this diocese – the young and the old. I believe we have been blessed with wonderful priests and we pray that there will soon be more.
I am truly impressed with our younger priests – they are gifted and truly dedicated to the people of our diocese, especially to those in need.
So – listen – please join me in thanking the priests of your parish – let them know how grateful you are for their ministry.