25 Years a Priest
“These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft. When we have used them without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward God has promised: “What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). RB 4:75-78
(Jubileumstag). Today at the Monastery, there is a celebration of the multiple years of ministry of priests and religious both here in the monastery, and in the local Diocese of Augsburg. It is a yearly event celebrated at the Monastery. Here we see the many years of service to God, the Church and Humanity. (10/15/25/50 and beyond). For me this year, I also celebrate 25 years Ordained as a Priest. It is a time of deep reflection for me on the meaning and purpose of all of our vocations, from parent, to professional, from president, to street sweeper. After Compline last night the Bells of the Monastery Church rang a joyful peal for 15 minutes in honor of those who have been faithful their entire life in seeking not the way of perfection, but the way of Conversion (Conversatio Morum).
“The point of a Benedictine spirituality is not to make life unusual, not to make life strange or foreign or rigid or mysterious. The purpose of Benedictine spirituality is to make life significant and sacred and full of meaning.” Joan Chittister
I have seen so many changes in the church during my 25 years as a priest. Changes I never would have guessed when I was ordained in the Diocese of Minnesota in 1991, as one of the First out, and openly gay priests in a committed relationship. But after that came other changes; the first Woman Bishop(s) in the Episcopal Church, new liturgical texts and Saints days, the First openly Gay Bishop also in a committed relationship, and in recent years, marriage equality in both the USA, and in the Episcopal Church with a change of it’s marriage canons. There were also big upsets; continued church scandals with sexual abuse by priests and religious, the spread of religious radicalism in all Abrahamic religions (Xty, Judaism, Islam), and a huge drop in church attendance and participation in organized religion, especially by those 45 and under (the new ‘nones’=no interest and ‘dones’=lost all interest)
“The answer is simple: “conversion” is more important to the mind of Benedict than captivity to a system, and, in fact, a spiritual system is often a mask for conversion, an avoidance of conversion. Conversion requires us to grow and to change. Systems too easily lock us into yesterday’s virtues.” JC
Perhaps the first lesson all of us should learn in life is that change is real and inevitable. None of us should be locked into a party, system, doctrine, idea, that does not allow for change, growth, and development. Someone posted this week on social media, ‘the Republican Party is no more’, and I wanted to see instead, ‘the Republican party is evolving.’ Yes, we are constantly evolving!
“These are the Benedictine practices of asceticism: the Ten Commandments and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy (RB 4:1–21); the elements of community life (RB 4:22—33); and a commitment to personal maturity (RB 4:34—62).” JC
How do we ‘grow’? How do we constantly renew ourselves and become converted? There are ‘monastic practices’ that would suite us all towards this life process. We must reach out to others beyond our own ego and self centeredness. We must live into some kind of community, be it family, or neighborhood, or church, or society. We must remain connected to other human beings, and we must develop, grow and change.
“Benedictine spirituality, in other words, is a spirituality of cosmic connectedness. Time, land, people, things are all to be held in reverent hands, all to be seen as vehicles of the Holy.” JC
Perhaps this ‘connectedness’ has been the greatest joy of my 25 years of Ministry and Service in the church. The many ways that a priest is privy into the most sacred and intimate moments of human life; birth, death, sacred covenants with each other and God, also those moments of contrition, forgiveness, despair and delight. We as priests get to walk with other human beings in these sacred moments that are only once lived.
“Benedictine spirituality says that we cannot make ourselves our only life agenda. Monastic spirituality softens us. Benedictine spirituality, in other words, says we must learn to live in the midst of the human struggle with quiet souls and open hearts. For the Benedictine, life in community is the great human asceticism.”
Easy? Hard? Impossible? Life is all three.
There are moments when we glide along in life and lose track of all time. There are other moments of deep despair and angst, because life has not given us what we think we need or deserve, or has taken away that which is precious to us. There are moments in life when we literally just have to let go and let God, as we know we are not in full charge of our destiny.
Open Hearts and Quiet Souls, are the key to conversion and contentment.
“Benedictine spirituality is based on the simple acknowledgment that God will come to life before us and be reborn in us in unexpected ways day after day throughout our entire lives… Response is the essence of Benedictine spirituality.” JC
I have done my best to Respond, each day of these 25 years to the call I felt deep in my being since early childhood. Thankfully, not one day is the same, every day is new and unexpected. My tools of the Spiritual Craft have been at times humor, other times prayer, many times reflection, other times seeking advise. Each of us needs to have our own toolbox to face life’s many challenges and invitations.
PIC: This is a pic of todays Jubileumstag, the Jubilee Anniversary of many years of service. If it were in an Episcopal Cathedral, there would be men and women, gay and straight, black and white, rich and poor. The fullness of our diverse church. At the end of the Liturgy we sang my favorite German Hymns, ‘Now Thank We all our God’, (Nunc Danket) and ‘Holy God We praise thy Name’ (Grosser Gott).
And so it is…Thank You God! and We Praise you and we Adore you!
Ad Gloriam Dei. Vincentosb