I am writing my bulletin article today, November 11th.
It is Veteran’s Day and I am remembering all those individuals, men and women, who gave of themselves for the freedoms and democracy of our nation and nations throughout the world. May God’s eternal blessing be upon them.
Today is also an important date for me. Thirty nine years ago on a blustery evening I was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Matthew Clark. It was a moment in my life I will never forget and will always be grateful for that I could humbly say “yes, here I am.”
As many are aware, the American Bishops have asked us to focus on the Eucharist. We are in the time of what they have called a “Eucharistic Revival.” The theme is “Christ Always With Us.”
I cannot explain my experience totally, but I do not remember any moment throughout my life, from being a young child to this moment being a “young” person where I did not believe Christ was not with me.
I realize that is not the situation for everyone and I am humbly blessed to believe as I do.
What is it that I have had this sense that the Lord is totally present to me? Honestly, my life has not been perfect or without crosses and trials. I am like any other child of God and brother (sister) of Jesus.
My family was not overtly religious, but certainly faithful and passed on to me their beliefs, struggles and questions about our Christian identity as Roman Catholics. As I remember, dad always was faithful to attending mass. Mom, on the other hand, had times she stepped aside from worship. She never abandoned prayer, but she had personal trials that even I never heard the whole story. And, I understand that. Some things are between ourselves and the Lord privately.
As a young individual I was always drawn to the Lord. I went to parochial school (Holy Ghost), prayed in ways only a little kid might. I went to Churchville Chili High School and was still drawn to my parish for worship and attended mass with my high school friends. Imagine, we planned on going to mass with one another! It was a great time in my life. College came and still I was drawn to my prayer, church and wanting to be present. I was involved in various activities and ministries. Why was this a movement in my life that I wanted to be present to church and God? I know now it was the Holy Spirit within me and me being just humble enough to respond to where the Lord was calling me and desiring I expect would follow. “Yes, here I am.”
The eucharist is so profound in my life. I knew that and remember clearly my “First, but not last, Holy Communion.” Why did I have that sense? I remember the night of my Confirmation (Fourth Grade!) and feeling like this is a “wow” moment of commitment to the Lord. Why did I have this sense? I remember wanting to be present to my faith community and worship with them and be fed at the table of the Lord. I can honestly say that I was fed with the Bread of Life that made my days and weeks manageable. Again, life wasn’t always perfect, far from it, but I knew He was with me. Wow.
And then came the moment I took a deep breath after much prayer, discernment, talking to various individuals and sitting in my bentwood rocker in my bedroom. The Holy Spirit was really tugging at my heart, soul and person. I made the plunge and said to the Lord, “Yes, here I am.” I remember it today as clearly as that night of affirmation. I felt such a relief off my shoulders that I was willing to say yes to Him.
Then, on November 11, 1983, I was gifted to become a priest. “Yes, here I am.”
I am so honored to celebrate mass with all of you. We, together, call upon the Lord God to bless the gifts of bread and wine. We together acknowledge that indeed “Christ is Always with us”.
And that is not the end of my story. It has been great, it has been painful. It has so, so many joys, and it has had so, so many sorrows. BUT, I have been blessed. I know it. I don’t flaunt it. But I have been blessed because, I believe I have been present to my friend Jesus and for 67 years allowed myself to be nourished by Himself in His gift of the Eucharist.
And you who are reading this, might I share, we have miracles all around us! Jesus is with you and me and there is nothing better than nourishing us in His presence than joining one another at mass!
So, this is my humble thought as I thank the good Lord for all of you this day.
Love and Blessings,