By Fr. Mike Boutin -- June 29, 2009
Eighteen years ago this month, I was kneeling before the Archbishop of Boston, my mind racing in a thousand directions. It was June 22, 1991, a hot, humid summer day, and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross was filled to capacity with family and friends gathered to celebrate the ordination to the priesthood of me and my classmates for service to the Church of Boston. The Bishop opened the Roman Pontifical, which contains the Ordination Rite for Priests, and asked us a series of questions:
"Are you resolved, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of the priesthood in the presbyteral order as a conscientious fellow worker with the bishops in caring for the Lord's flock?"
"...Are you resolved to celebrate the mysteries of Christ faithfully and religiously as the Church has handed them down to us for the glory of God and the sanctification of God's people?"
"...Are you resolved to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and explaining the Catholic faith?"
"...Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of his people, and to unite yourself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a perfect sacrifice?"
I gulped as my life seemed to pass before me...and then came the question I still think is the most difficult of all of them:
"...Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?"
With the sweatiest palms I think I have ever had, and with trembling in my voice, I replied, in unison with all my classmates: "I do."
The Archbishop continued: "May God who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment."
"I do"....the same words couples have used to wed themselves one to the other for centuries. "In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." Now I was wed to Christ, to Christ's Church, to God's people....in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for all the days of my life...
May God who began this good work in me bring it to fulfillment, indeed....
On June 19th of this year, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, three days before my eighteenth anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated the Year for Priests http://www.usccb.org/yearforpriests/ to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, the patron saint of parish priests. To learn more about the Cure of Ars, click here: http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1097
So I've been thinking a lot about those questions that the Archbishop asked us eighteen years ago and about the example from a pastor's heart that St. John Marie Vianney gives us all, and what my experience as a priest has been like these eighteen years. How have I answered those questions in the way I have lived my priesthood? What have I learned? What did I think the priesthood would be like when I was trembling there before the Archbishop in the Cathedral? Any regrets? What about the sexual abuse crisis in Boston? What was it like living through that and continuing to live through it? What is parish life really like? What's it like living with other priests, with pastors, and now, what's it like to be a pastor myself?
Over the course of the next year, I'll share with all of you some of the answers to these questions, give you some insight into my thoughts and experiences, debunk some of the myths of the priesthood, maybe even share with you some of my priestly pet peeves (can you spell "Bridezilla and her mother"?) and hopefully in the midst of all of my rather random musings, help you to experience "A Priest's Life"....