What I Consider Success in My Priesthood

What I Consider Success in My Priesthood

Recently, I was asked, “If you could name three of your greatest successes as a priest, what would they be?” Here’s my answer …

Leading Souls to the Divine Life

I’ve come to understand that my primary role as a priest is to lead people to encounter and enter the Divine Life. The light of faith in our Church was rapidly dimming, and the way to restore its blaze once again was by, first, restoring the liturgy: “It is in the treatment of the liturgy that the fate of the Faith and of the Church is decided” (Pope Benedict XVI). Pope Benedict’s legacy was in trying to recover the sense of transcendence and beauty of the liturgy.

With the awe-inspiring teachings of Pope Benedict, and our own Bishop Morlino, we set out to restore beauty, reverence and a sense of the transcendence in the liturgy.

Now, we are reaping the harvest of this endeavor. Young people, especially, are coming in droves. We came to understand that while we were trying to “keep it real,” we were failing to offer something that “rang true” to them. They seem to want something the world can never give them – a Holy Father who inspires reverence, a Savior who deserves careful worship, and a Spirit who they long to obey. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality, and they weren’t finding it until now.

This is why I am now more driven, while in fast food stores, supermarkets, restaurants, etc., to lead the conversation to faith. Most of the time, I am speaking with someone who has left their faith years ago. While showing no signs of disappointment and judgment, I start speaking to them about the “heavenly Mass” at my parish. I tell them the Mass is offered “old school.” I use words like “classic” and “retro” and “vintage” (because I know they are sick of the trends and fads of modernity too), and I reassure them they will not be asked to do anything that makes them uncomfortable (e.g., hold hands at the Our Father) … they are left to simply “soak it in and pray.”

I can’t begin to tell you just how positive are the responses. They assure me they can’t wait to come, and they do. I believe we have something truly substantial and authentic to offer them. In this “heavenly setting,” their hardened hearts are made soft and supple, like a sponge. They are laid open to receive what God so desperately wants to give them: The Divine Life. Now, they are driven to seek “the more” of knowing and loving God.

Teaching Hungry Souls

St. Paul wrote, “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). Much is spoken about the lack of catechesis as being the problem today, but little is spoken about a “lack of hunger for catechesis.” It is the secularization of our faith that has led to generations of “unspiritual men.”

Understanding that our first movement is to encounter and enter the Divine Life; to help souls to become “the spiritual man” (see #1), as pastor I have worked very hard to do all I can, primarily through the liturgy, to lead souls to open themselves to the Divine Life.

These souls are now hungering for “the more” of God. They are hungering to know how to love God more, they are hungering to know how they can best please God; they are hungering to know everything God has revealed. This is why I have such a great passion for teaching and, as Bishop Barron says, “Yes! Yes! Yes! to new media!” as the very best way to reach souls with “the more” of God. Together, we are unlocking and opening the treasure chest of our Catholic faith. But, now, souls are actually “hungering” for this.

Being Available to My Parish Family

I believe as pastor (dad) to my parish family, I must make myself as accessible as I can possibly be. Beginning with my 24/7 Confessional, I make sure I am always available for whatever my parish family needs. We have Mass seven days a week. We have Adoration every day. During Covid lockdowns, I was even delivering Sacraments to my parish families’ homes. I get many requests to speak around the country, and I turn down most of them, especially if they are a distance from me, simply because I do not want to be away, in case my parish family needs me. Also, I have worked hard to surround myself with qualified people willing to help with the many details of parish life (building and grounds, etc.) that can bury pastors, so I am more free to minister to the spiritual needs of my parish family.

Leading souls to the Divine Life, teaching hungry souls, and being available to my parish family. These are my three greatest successes as a priest.