May 21, 2014
By Father William Muench
My own anniversary of ordination as a priest is May 16. I remember the day of my ordination almost perfectly. I remember all the little things that happened that day. This year on my anniversary, I thought back on my own ministry as a priest. Each of my early assignments and my first pastors formed me as a priest and pastor.
Spring is filled with many anniversaries and jubilees for priests. Many of us, priests, were ordained during these Springtime months. So, all of these priests will be celebrating their priestly anniversaries and they will be joining me in remembering their lives and ministry and offer prayers of gratitude to the Lord.
I suspect the question that will occupy most of us is simply, “Why did I stay.” I know their answer will begin with trust and faith in the Lord – a strong confidence in the Catholic Church and a unique dedication to the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
Looking back on those early years, I thank God for the many mentors who truly influenced my life. They were my pastors during those early and formative years who became more than my teachers – they were my friends. Now all of us priests have been given a new mentor – whether young or old – our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. He has come to us as a gift from the Holy Spirit. His great advice is so good that it does touch us all – young and old. We are all benefiting.
Let me show you what I mean. Recently, Pope Francis ordained several new priests. In his homily he shared with them some advice about the celebration of the sacraments. He said, “By Baptism you will add new faithful to be the People of God; with the sacraments of penance, you will forgive sins in the name of Christ, and the Church. And here I want to pause to ask you, for the love of Jesus Christ, never tire of being merciful! Please!
Have that capacity for forgiveness that the Lord had. He who comes not to condemn but to forgive! Have mercy, great mercy.”
On a different day, a recent Sunday that was dedicated to “A World Day of Prayer for Vocations,” Pope Francis commented on the Gospel reading – the parable of the Good Shepherd. He said, “The Good Shepherd parable exemplifies the type of relationship Jesus had with his disciples, a relationship based on kindness, love, mutual understanding and the promise of an incomparable gift. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Every day for a priest – not just on an anniversary day – is a day filled with life, the life that the Lord gives transforming a priest’s ministry into a time to bring life, the life of Our Savior, to all those in his parish. The task for all priests as ministers of the Lord is to live well and to demonstrate to all how must we all should appreciate and enjoy the gifts that the Lord gave us and how we must use this life as well as we can.
Today I attended Mass while here on a vacation in New Mexico; the Mass was on the feast of St. Matthias. The deacon of the parish gave the homily at Mass and it was terrific. He held up St. Matthias as a model – but also a model for priests and deacons. As you may remember St. Matthias was the one chosen to fill out the twelve apostles that had been broken by Judas’ demise. Matthias’ life was suddenly changed. He was chosen in a special way. Each priest often reflects on the fact that he was chosen in a very special way – chosen to become a priest of the Lord. Matthias’ faith and trust is an example for each priest.