Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Priests II

After the horror of the sexual abuse years, the wanderings in the secular desert, and the virtual complete breakdown of American Church leadership to do anything about it all—though several stalwart bishops tried and still speak out—there are new priests coming into the Church who are truly on fire, and they will help reform the American Catholic Church.

One of them has written about his entrance into the priesthood and here is an excerpt.

“Winter 1989, downtown South Bend, Indiana. The night is snowy and crisp. Inside the bar, already humid and smoky, the guitarist lights his cigarette, takes a long, patient drag and wedges it among the strings in the head of his guitar. As the smoke drifts from his mouth he begins moving his fingers across the fret board, the distortion turned up to eleven. The opening riffs of Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" crackle from the bending strings. Standing next to him, I watch his fingers glide effortlessly across the wood and steel. The toe of my boot taps to the chucky thumping as the bassist, my older brother, and the drummer make their entrances. With my forehead already sweaty from the lights and body heat of the room, I gather the lyrics in my head, press the microphone to my lips and begin navigating through the first verse. The crowd packed tightly into the small place begins pulsing with the beat. I feel the palpable rush from that invisible electricity between band and crowd beginning to fill the room. As the music crescendos to the refrain, I saunter over to my brother's side of the stage area where he is cuing the approaching vocal harmonies. He steps up to his microphone and we belt out, "Ain't talkin' 'bout love".

“Nine years later in the Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, I lie prostrate, my forehead pressed into the cool marble floor. The smell of incense and burning candles mingles with the warm June air imbuing it with a holy fragrance. The tightly packed church, imploring the intercession of the angels and saints of Heaven, chants the litany of the saints for us who are about to be ordained priests. The invisible and peaceful presence of grace fills the church. After the examination the Archbishop, a successor to the apostles, lays his hands on each of our heads and pours the scented chrism on our hands.

“I shake my head a little sheepishly whenever I compare the two scenes in my mind. The black trench coat remains, but the faded jeans, leather boots and concert-T-cut-into-a-tank-top have been traded in for a Roman collar, a shorter haircut and more sensible footwear. I still enjoy rock music, yet now my heart is much more taken by the beautiful simplicity of Gregorian chant and rich texture of Renaissance polyphony. The gig hustling and musical thrill seeking were traded in many years ago for something else, something infinitely better and greater – a pearl of great, great price. I am a Catholic priest.

“In this Year for Priests, I have been asked to share something of my own vocation story explaining why a guy of the so-called Generation X would become a Catholic priest. Why would a man of such a generation freely promise lifelong celibacy, obedience to God through his bishop, daily, committed prayer, and then have his life poured out in (hopefully) loving service; to people most of whom he has never met? To top it all off, he is also supposed to have great joy in doing it all? My response on that June day was simply a small echo of the millions of voices of men who have uttered this same 'Yes' for the past two millennia.”