Tuesday, October 28, 2014

19 Years

This particular day, brothers and sisters, is a serious warning to me to think very carefully about the burden I carry. Even if I have to think about the weight of it day and night, still this anniversary somehow or other thrusts it on my consciousness in such a way that I am absolutely unable to avoid reflecting on it. And the more the years increase, or rather decrease, and bring me nearer to my last day, which of course is undoubtedly going to come some time or other, the sharper my thoughts become, and ever more full of needles, about what sort of account I can give for you to the Lord our God.

Thus spoke Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) introducing his sermon on the occasion of his anniversary of ordination as bishop (Sermon 339, tr. Edmund Hill, p. 388). Augustine was, of course, a bishop. His responsibilities and burdens as bishop far exceeded my much more modest ones. Still, the sentiments he expressed speak similarly to me on this 19th anniversary of my own priestly ordination.

Looking back at my ordination on a windy autumn Saturday afternoon at Saint Peter's Church in Toronto, Canada, I am amazed at how full these years have been. It is beyond my capacity to try to enumerate all the people and events that have significantly filled these years. The best I can do is to try to remember them all in a global sort of way during my retreat this week with the bishop and priests of the Knoxville Diocese and especially at Mass on this my anniversary day. 

“By virtue of ordination,” Servant of God Isaac Hecker wrote, “the priest becomes a conductor of God’s grace for the people.” 

What a joy and privilege that is! What a joy and privilege it has been for me these 19 years!

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