Several years ago, when I was the Vocations Director for the Diocese of Bridgeport, I came across a talk that Mother Teresa of Calcutta gave back in 1993. In it, she told the story of an old man that her sisters discovered and pulled out of a gutter. He was in very bad shape. They brought him to their home for the dying, where they bathed him, dressed his sores, and gave him clean clothes to wear. They fed him and provided him a bed with clean sheets. After several days of silently receiving care from the sisters, he finally spoke. He told them that he was a Catholic, but that for most of his adult life he had not practiced the faith. The suffering he had experienced in the street made him angry and bitter towards God. Then he told them: “you have brought God back into my life. Now, please go bring Father.” The sisters understood that the man wanted to see a priest. The priest came, heard the man’s confession after 60 years away from the sacrament, gave him absolution, anointed him, and then the man received Communion. A few days later, he passed away.
After recounting the story about the man, Mother Teresa said: “Without the priest, there is no Jesus. Without the priest, there is no absolution for sins. Without the priest, there is no Eucharist.” She was speaking of the gift that the priesthood is to us. The Lord Jesus entered the world to redeem and restore all of Creation to Himself. Part of His plan was the institution of the ministerial priesthood, which would participate in His loving work of service to the Church in a unique way. Through the priest, the members of the Church receive Christ’s forgiveness and healing in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Through the priest, the members of the Church are united and nourished with the living Body and Blood of Our Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist. These sacraments empower the lay members of the Church to fulfill their evangelical role as full participants in God’s redemption of the world through their lives of holiness lived in the world. Priests are a great gift to us. We need priests. But, you might ask, where do priests come from? Believe it or not, they come from places like the Parish of St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel! The priests who serve the Church in our Diocese are supposed to come from the parishes of our Diocese, including our own.
This Thursday (Sept 9), Fr. Chris Ford, who currently ministers as the Diocesan Coordinator of Vocations, will come to our parish to lead a special Holy Hour for Vocations. From 7-8pm at the Church of St. Cecilia, he will lead us in Eucharistic Adoration and give us some words to reflect upon as we pray together for holy vocations to priesthood among the young men of our parish, but also holy vocations to consecrated life among our young women. Vocations to priesthood and consecrated life are a sign of a parish’s vitality, a sign that the faith is alive among its members. I hope many of you will join us on Thursday night, when we will gather before Our Lord in the Eucharist and ask Him to bless our parish family with priests and religious sisters who will lovingly give their lives to the work of bringing God into the lives of those they encounter, and bringing many people back to life with God.