Today’s reflection is based on my homily given at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.
We have a slogan which we use on our vocation posters & brochures in the Archdiocese of Toronto, “Ordinary Men and Extraordinary Mission”. It’s not original, and I can’t or wouldn’t lay claim to it, but it’s the truth and it applies to men discerning diocesan priesthood, but to all of us as Christians – Disciples of Jesus Christ. We are ordinary people with a mission that is extraordinary; beyond the ordinary. Our Christian vocation is to live an extraordinary life in Jesus Christ. We are given supernatural abilities to do that. Love to the end, forgiveness beyond what seems reasonable, radical hope in life eternal that allows us to make extraordinary sacrifices and surrender in a truly extraordinary way. When our Lord Himself said to St. Peter; you are the rock upon which I will build my church; surely Peter saw himself as we so often see ourselves, ordinary and not exceptional, capable perhaps but not able to do extraordinary things on our own. But we are not on our own. God is with us when we simply say yes to the mission given to us by Christ, to be committed Catholic Christians in the world and live for something beyond ourselves. And God can do truly amazing things. I’m sure that we all have examples and moments of grace in our lives that we know this to be true; I know I do. I spent seven years in seminary and when I entered, I came from about 20 years of working in the world with great sense of trepidation in my own heart about the daunting studies I faced there. Academic formation is important to the vocation of priesthood, we usually finish our Master’s studies in seminary. I had a crisis moment early on where I had to make the decision to leave and go back to my old way of life or trust the Lord. As you can imagine, I trusted although it was hard because if I had stopped to think about it, I was still the same guy who struggled with studies. I simply let go and let God and grace take over; if the Lord wanted a priest in me, He needed to give me what I didn’t see in myself. And he did. I still worked and struggled, but because I trusted God and relied on grace over myself – He led me to something extraordinary. It was towards the end of seminary that I came to know more about the story of St. Jean Vianney whom we celebrate at Mass today. St. Jean was himself not a gifted student, and failed at the seminary. As the patron saint of parish priests I think we all give thanks that he trusted God enough to persevere and to allow the Lord to transform him in his weaknesses. He’s an example to us all. He embodies this idea of an ordinary man with an extraordinary mission. He may be celebrated by us priests as our patron, but he offers us all his prayers today as a saint. In his sainthood, he lived out fully, extraordinarily and wonderfully his vocation as a Christian; the vocation we all have been given. The vocation we continue on discerning today and each day. May we be blessed by the Lord this day as we take the Eucharist out into the world today and live our lives in an extraordinary way.