“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
These words are from the introduction to Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. This is an essential truth that we all have to realize and live by, but for me I have realized it more and more since being in seminary formation. In any vocation—whether it be to the priesthood, religious life, or married or single life—we are not encountering any idea or dream of the world or of ourselves. We are encountering the God who is love. When Our Lord called the apostles, their initial response was to get up and follow him. However, after they lived with him, ate with him, his way of life became their way of life. They no longer lived for themselves, they lived for the Master. This is the call of all of us through our baptism, and in a special way the priest is called to be even more configured to this “event”, this “person” by becoming an alter Christus—another Christ.
This is something which has been pressed upon me as I have now completed my first year of priestly formation and have been involved in summer parish ministry at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. Bishop Provost has assigned all diocesan seminarians to minister in parishes for the summer. This is a very unique opportunity for us in that this is the first year that college seminarians are assigned to parishes. Therefore I am very thrilled to be where I am. It has been an enlightening pastoral experience. I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of wonderful people in a variety of ministries. This parish is proof that for a parish to be vibrant and alive, the life of the people must be centered on Sunday worship. For twenty centuries this has been the unbroken Tradition of the Church. As Catholics, participation in Sunday Mass is the primary responsibility for us from which all others flow from. As the Second Vatican Council taught us, the Eucharist truly is the “source and summit of the Christian life”. In what more direct way can we encounter Christ? The answer is that there is no more direct way. On the night before his passion, he himself gave us this gift and commanded his apostles to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The life of the Christian must lead to this encounter with the Lord and then flow from it. We flow from the Mass by bringing Christ to our neighbors and to those most in need.
The Church teaches us that this is not just an individual action reserved only for our own merit. I see this manifested in the people of the community where I serve. There are people who give of themselves and their time to serve the parish and the community in various ways. They use the gifts and talents that God has given them for the good of the Church. When he commissioned the apostles at the birth of the infant Church, Jesus did not tell them that this was only for their benefit. He told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). This brings me to my final point. As members of the Church, we partake of the sacraments together; we live out our Christian vocation with others. This is the mission of the Church; this is the mission of Serra, a mission of faith that is meant to have a positive effect in the life of the Church and the world. In his recent encyclical on Christian Hope, our Holy Father writes, “This real life, towards which we try to reach out again and again, is linked to a lived union with a ‘people,’ and for each individual it can only be attained within this ‘we.’ It presupposes that we escape from the prison of our ‘I,’ because only in the openness of this universal subject does our gaze open out to the source of joy, to love itself—to God.” (Spe Salvi 14).
Let us look at our Mother Mary and learn from her, for her gaze is always fixed on her Son. May she help us to live out our vocations and accept God’s will in our lives just as she did.