My posting today is a reflection of a most personal nature; today is an important day for me altogether and one which I plan to celebrate. It is the birthday of three good people in my life (for respect of their privacy I won’t mention them by name) but each of them has contributed in a big way to helping me love more as a person. They are without a doubt people I love, and perhaps one of the most fundamental parts of priestly formation for me was to learn how to love in life. This is why I didn’t enter seminary until I was almost 35: for I needed to learn how to love and be loved! This is something that has also become a fundamental quality I look for in the men whom I discern with and who I see a vocation to priesthood in. If we don’t desire love; both to give and receive it, and have a sense of how to love others and be in relationship with God and with others – we aren’t ready for formation and to live a celibate vocation. There are MANY people out there who think that priests and religious sisters and brothers are somehow deficient in their ability to love intimately another person and I would assert to the contrary; a celibate vocation requires a more radical sense of intimacy and love to be lived out daily. To be able to love and forgo the beautiful gift of physical intimacy requires a deeper ability to have and desire intimacy to offer our celibacy in love for serving others as our Lord Jesus did.
The other reason I waited until I was 35, was that I was going on 32 when I was received a Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 2003. That was April 19. It was one of the most powerful and glorious events and I celebrated it on Saturday night, but the date itself was today. I spoke about that event in my posting on Saturday but I commemorate the day today as well. I have been a Catholic Christian fourteen years today.
The other event significant in my own life was the election of Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI on this day in 2005. As a neophyte, and someone moved in many ways to encounter Christ through St. John Paul II, I remember how the events of his final days of life were for me. I remember about the wonder I had as a new Catholic watching the election of the new pope. I remember taking the day as I was able to praying for our Church and for the new pope and the many new directions the Holy Father had for us as a Church. I remember one thing that struck me when Pope Benedict emerged and spoke for the first time. He talked about his own insecurities, trepidations and sense of unworthiness. This had a deep impact on me as I was months away from seminary and preparing for my seminary interviews and giving up my career as a bus driver. His fear at the office he was elected to serve, the highest and it seemed (to me perhaps) he was so qualified to hold; he could not find pride in this and was humbled by the election. As so many of us do, I have struggled with pride in my life and the only way I have ever overcome pride (or the Lord has more appropriately) is through humility. I have been humbled so often in life, and while it hurts when I am, it has been worth it! Having been humbled, I seem to find it a little easier the older I get to have a more humble opinion of myself. Not a low opinion, a humble one. And please God, I will continue to.
Friends, take the days you have like mine today; we all have them and commemorate the anniversaries and events of your life. Days like this are a reminder of what it means to be human and as men and women of faith they are important because they give us a sense of importance for the faith traditions and feast days we celebrate, reflecting more deeply on the Mystery of God.