When I began writing a weekly column for my parishioners a number of years ago, I wanted to express what I was thinking and illustrate what was going on in my life. Priests and priesthood can be somewhat mysterious to many people. If people are regular in their Mass attendance, they might actually encounter their parish priest each week. If they are more sporadic in going to Mass, then they might not see—let alone get to know—their pastor. Then there are those Christmas and Easter Catholics . . . .
Questions like “What does a priest do all week?” demonstrate to me that sometimes people have no clue concerning what a priest’s life may entail.
Let me give you my schedule from yesterday while it is still fresh in my mind. I was up around 5 AM spending time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in my rectory chapel. I celebrated daily Mass (with a homily) at 8:30 AM. Then I was off to Hammonton to celebrate a Mass of Christian Burial (with another completely different homily) for a former student. She was only 36 years old. I prayed the rosary in the car on the way there. Following the Mass, I went to the cemetery for the interment. On the way back to the rectory, I received a message that there were a few Flyers tickets available from the Knights of Columbus for a game that night, if I wanted to go with them. After making a few calls, I was scheduled to pick up a few seminarians (who happened to be on spring break) and take them to the game that evening. I picked up the seminarians, drove to Philly, watched the game, took them out to get something to eat afterward, and got back to the rectory at 2 AM. I knew that I had the morning Mass the following day at 8:30 AM.
This past weekend saw me celebrating Mass four times (once in Spanish with two different homilies to prepare), speaking at all the weekend Masses (six in total) about our capital campaign, making two Communion Calls with the Anointing of the Sick, hearing the confession of someone by request, a wedding appointment, and an appointment with someone wanting to be a godparent. Then there was the time that I needed to spend in preparation of the homilies, contemplating what to write for a bulletin article such as this, and trying to maintain the semblance of a prayer-life through it all.
I know that my life is not unlike many of my brother priests. I also realize that priests are not the only people who are busy each day. (I give credit to those mothers and fathers who have to provide for their families, sometimes working more than one job while going to school, etc.) My point, however, is that most priests have far from a boring or monotonous life. My favorite line that I use is: Every day is a new adventure. Will I be called to the hospital? Who will want to schedule an appointment? And for what reason? Will someone request the Anointing of the Sick or to go to confession? Wedding? Funeral? Baptisms? Teach in school? The possibilities each day are endless.
With all of this being said, if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I now know, I would not even hesitate. Priesthood is a gift, a blessing greater than I could ever have imagined. Why is there a vocation shortage? Why do more young people not say “yes” to the call? I know that the answer is very complicated today.
However, I am so glad—more than I can express here in words—that God invited me to be His priest. I am forever grateful.
Fr. Ed Namiotka