When I first announced to people years ago that I was going to be a priest, many people were very supportive. Their encouragement and prayers eventually brought me to the altar as a priest.
Occasionally, there were a few who thought I was a little crazy. (I will concede that there is some truth to their judgment. To know me is to affirm that insight.)
Yet there is one comment that haunts me to this day. It was from two people whom I thought I knew pretty well. I was really taken back by what they said: “You don’t want to do that. It’s such a lonely life. You don’t want to be a priest.”
Such a lonely life? After all these years, were they right?
I think there are moments in all of our lives when we feel somewhat alone. I think it’s inevitable. From past experience even married couples I know have told me that they can be in the same house, same room, even the same bed, and still feel very much alone at times.
Didn’t even Jesus experience a feeling of being alone as his apostles slept when He asked them to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane? (Mt. 26: 36-46, Mk. 14: 32-42, or Lk. 22: 39-46) What about Jesus’ cry from the cross: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15: 34b) These words (apparently quoted from Psalm 22:2) seem to reflect utter isolation and abandonment. Talk about being alone!
What about me? Although I sometimes feel alone, I can’t really say that my life is lonely.
My life, most days, is surrounded by people. There are those I see at Mass every day, the children at school and in religious education, and those in parish organizations, committees, and ministries.
My day is also blessed by an awareness of the presence of God mysteriously working in and through my life. This has been a gift from my youngest days.
What I truly treasure beyond everything else, however, is a profound sense of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Faith tells me Jesus is here, right here, every day on the altar and in the tabernacle. I love to spend quiet time in His presence. The more I spend time with Him, the more I hunger for Him. It’s a special time with the One I love and was ordained to serve. I was ordained to be an instrument of Jesus’ presence in the world. I believe that spending time with Him transforms me more and more into a priest in His image.
Am I lonely?
As long as I have Jesus with me, I am never really alone or lonely.
Spend some extended time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament and see what I mean!
Fr. Ed Namiotka