Thursday, October 28, 2021

26 - and Still Standing

Among the many events of world-historical significance associated with this date - Constantine's victory at the Milvian Bridge (312), the Dedication of the Statue of Liberty (1886), Mussolini's March on Rome (1922), the election of Pope Saint John XXIII (1958), and the Declaration Nostra Aetate (1965) - the world will little note nor long remember my ordination 26 years ago on October 28, 1995. But I always do!

Because of the pandemic, my 25th anniversary Mass last year had only modest attendance. But, thanks to the same pandemic, it was live streamed and so lives forever at:

It was a beautiful celebration, a simple but fitting capstone to 25 years of priestly life and ministry in Toronto, New York, and Knoxville. Obviously, there will be no such elegant and solemn celebration this year! Nor, for that matter ever again, since I am no longer a parish priest. All the more reason to revisit and savor that happy celebration of 25 years, of what I described at the time as:

an amazingly grace-filled path, punctuated by thousands of Masses - daily Masses, Sunday Masses, school Masses, Spanish Masses, Italian Masses, Wedding Masses, Funeral Masses - an amazingly grace-filled path from Toronto, Canada, to New York, NY, to Knoxville, Tennessee: singing Christmas carols on Bloor Street and blessing Saint Anthony’s Bread, living through the soul-searing sadness of 9/11 and the welcome comfort of weekly breakfasts with parishioners at the Flame, the spiritual uplift of pilgrimages to famous shrines and a summer spent studying at Windsor Castle, the challenge of walking for miles in the pre-dawn dark at World Youth Day and the adventure of saint-school in Rome, and, then, finally, back to this beautiful and historic Knoxville church, and the amazing adventure of chairing meetings, paying bills, replacing a boiler, restoring the church ceiling and climbing the scaffolding to touch a century-old ceiling painting, blogging and e-mailing and eventually even live-streaming, teaching and learning, preaching, praying for the sick, baptizing babies, burying the dead, caring for the cemetery, then ending up in a global pandemic that has challenged and stretched all of us in ways we had hardly ever expected.

And now add to that the new challenge of living out the rest of one's priesthood within the limitations (and increasing infirmities) that come with age. Every day is always a gift. All that much more so is every added day a gift once one has achieved the famously allotted sum of 70 years.  Like Pope Saint John XXIII in his 70s, "I cannot forget the wealth of graces and mercies which Jesus has lavished so generously upon me, contrary to all my deserts." (1952). “On the one hand I tremble at the approach of my last hour; on the other hand I trust in you and only look one day ahead” (1953).

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