There were a lot of different priests in the rectory this week. Father Magro was here until Wednesday, then the movers came, and he followed his kit to Chevy Chase and set up a new home at Blessed Sacrament. A new guy showed up just afterward, Father Michael Russo, our new parochial vicar pro tempore. Father Ben Petty returned Monday from his ‘victory tour,” visiting friends and family, sharing with them the fruits and joys of his priesthood; he was gone by Tuesday lunch, off to Saint Mary in Landover where he had the next morning’s Mass on the first day of his two-month assignment there until he returns to Rome to finish his degree. Every day, Father Jason Williams went to CUA and returned, assuring me that he had all the work for his canon law summer course under control. And of course, yours truly presided beneficently over the mayhem.
Father Russo, whom you will be getting to know, has been a priest about four weeks, that is, forty years less than Father Magro. He is about that much younger, too. He’s from Massachusetts, not Malta. The book of things he does not know about priesting could fill a library. But if you look carefully you will see what is the same between them. And that is precisely everything - everything a priest is.
There is one priesthood, and it is the priesthood of Jesus Christ. By the sacrament of Holy Orders, He gives a participation in His own priesthood – His identity, His relationship, His saving work – to mortal men. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), and His Holy priesthood is ever the same. He imparts it intact, not in dribs and drabs.
Which means, amazingly, that what you need from a priest, what a priest has that can save you from death and sin, Fr. Russo has to the same degree that Fr. Magro has. I possess, I am for your salvation what Monsignor William Stricker received and was for that same end.
There will be plenty of differences, sure. Unlike Fr. Magro, Fr. Russo may have a funny accent since he is from Boston. But Fr. Russo will not be like some character in a Harry Potter film who just got a new wand and doesn’t know how to use it. He will be able to forgive sins as great and as small, and with the same assurance that the elderly, underground Chinese priest does, to whom people come against that evil government’s wishes, risking their very lives. He is here, he is priest, and he is for you.
There are a lot of different priests in this rectory in general, and this summer in particular. I have recommended people keep the bulletins on their refrigerator because it will be hard to tell the players without the scorecard. I think the variety of priests who have lived and served here over my thirteen years is a great blessing. But I realize it can get confusing sometimes – parochial vicar? student resident? just passing through? – or even distract some from the reality at the heart of it all. Everybody looks for something different or new from each new arrival, and everybody misses one Father Such-and-such, whose homilies or whatever they just loved. But what distinguishes us priests from one another – our voices, our manner, what we emphasize, or how we do things – none of these differences avail one whit. What is the same about us, what we all have in common, what we all teach – the Truth, what has been taught at all times and everywhere – that is what can, will, and must save you.
There were a lot of different priests in the rectory this week. What is different about priests may confuse, or amuse you; what is the same is what will save you. Don’t let the differences distract you from the sameness, the constant. What they – we – all share is the unchanging, unrelenting, undefeatable saving Priesthood of Jesus Christ, here for you.