I’ve meet and heard about all types of us guys over those years. There are those who want to build a moat around themselves complete with drawbridge in the kingdom they call their parish. There are those who attend every offered conference in the hopes of gaining something, I guess, but I also guess it’s time away from the parish. I’ve only met one who was able to serve at almost every of the 250 parishes in our diocese. I think he gave up a suitcase and just went from one to the next and asked where the washing machine is kept. There are those who I like to say, “take a shower with french cuffs on,” for they are plotting their next upward position as though priesthood is a Chess game when they think of themselves as knights when they are only pawns. There are also those who are firmly planted and focused on parish or ministry needs. The last group are the names that I cherish the most because they are most priestly to me.
Parishioners are as varied as Starbucks coffee choices. A 90 year old came to me and said, “At my age, I guess I should be coming to church. What do I need to do?” I replied, “Come to church.” I haven’t seen her since so I guess she’s waiting to be 180 and then repeat her question to the next generation of me. (I guess I could have rented a red carpet for her.) Another had a bad confession experience with one of mine and hasn’t been to church in over 70 years. There are countless good stories of priests and Catholic folks and they are the most enriching for me but the weird ones seem to simmer. At one parish I kidded the pastor saying, “We could have four people here tonight at 7:00 p.m. telling them we need to check all the rectory light bulbs.” (He didn’t laugh. Volunteers are wonderful people when committed to the Church and not escaping their homes.)
Is singing “We’ve Only Just Begun” at a wedding the worst thing that can happen to our centuries old institution? Will a brick from St. Peter’s Basilica break during that wedding ceremony? Will my monsignor ship be denied me by the those who grant it? I’ve had good Catholic folks who told me after Mass that I missed a word or two in the prayers. Do we now do it all over again? Did Jesus miss our offering that day and found a more worthy Catholic parish and priest?
Father Buoy ought to be my new name as I continue this charade of “persona Christi.” For we are all “persons of Christ” in our respective and humble walks of life. Unfortunately other priests believe themselves to be “Christ, the “of” just got in the way, I guess. (“Oh, how those small words get in the way…”)
A buoy is strongly buoying in the deep Catholic waters that are deeper than any of us could ever swim. Throughout one’s priestly ministry there are many rowboats that approach this stationary but safe buoy. One boat approaches me and I see that their oars are tattered and beaten down and unable to proceed forward. “Let’s see what we can do about these oars of yours,” I hope I would say. Another boat hits me with water leaking badly. There is little I can do but place my gum in the hole until powers greater than me intercede for them. Another rowboat approaches telling me that they are “testing the waters” to see what it feels like, what the flow is like. I welcome them and invite them to keep rowing. When I least expect it yet another boat floats toward me because their oars were lost years ago and there’s a ton of stories about how that happened with no solution to be had. I scratch my head and act as though I have the answer when their ton is too much for me to carry. Some priests would give them his oars but then he wouldn’t have any. So what good is that?
Father Buoy, that’s me; ebbing and flowing through this mysterious but real reality we call the priesthood. “Person of Christ?”
Mothers are the “person of Christ,” with more balls in the air than Michael Jordan could handle, laborers are the “person of Christ,” in their dedication and in finding purpose in their work, those who struggle with any struggle are the “person of Christ” hoping some oars are somewhere waiting for them, the unemployed father of four who isn’t counted among the unemployed is the “person of Christ” but still has hope. You guessed it. My list is endless in the joys and difficulties we all handle as best we can in life using Christ as the person we hope to be.
I got my title through oil placed on my hands during a glorious ceremony attended by many. You’ve earned your title, “Person of Christ” through life. Unfortunately, I’m the one who gets the credit.