There’s never enough, is there?
I have been in touch with the vicar for clergy for the Archdiocese over the past ten days, and he let me know that there is not a new Parochial Vicar in the pipeline for us this year. That will make a third year when I am the only Archdiocesan priest assigned to this parish.
I do not want to shortchange the great contribution to your well-being and to mine given generously and freely by Fathers McDonell and McCabe. They help a lot, not least by being good friends and brothers to me here in the rectory. They provide a lot by offering Mass. hearing confessions, and preaching with a voice different than mine.
But their real work, even as priests, is elsewhere. They are full-time students with demanding programs they must complete and master. Trust me; after the last few weeks of this spring term, I am under no illusions of how all consuming that project is for them both. That leaves me to be the priest of the parish, the only one who is here to spend the time, engage, absorb, offer, and even just show up.
I love being a priest. I love being YOUR priest. But I am flustered and frustrated by my own insufficiency to provide what you need from your priest. Not only am I confined by the limitations of being only one priest for a parish of this size and complexity, but also I am confined by the limits of being this priest, that is, the priest that Jesus has called me into being. That leaves a lot of priesting undone!
Just today I was finishing the assignment of financial aid for families who want help putting their kids through our school. There’s never enough, is there? Mrs. Wood, our principal, keeps the budget squeaky tight; the teachers forgo pay resembling the value of their work, and many, many souls contribute without charge their time, effort, skill, and energy to making our school as excellent and engaging as it is. We give a lot of help to families who, for the long or short term, lack the resources to pay their portion of the cost. But there is never enough. It hurts to fall short.
Last weekend I offered First Holy Communion to seventy-one children. The intense intimacy of that instant, of offering to God everything everybody brings, by raising up bread, and bringing down God, receiving from Him the flesh and blood of His Son; and then turning and offering Him to these children, your children. You should see their concentration, delight, awareness and acceptance! But only I am in that blessed position. This is a gift and marvel of such beauty I can barely describe it.
But like so many of the most splendid gifts and opportunities that come with my vocation, the events and efforts that accompany it leave me depleted. Not one of those people who is energized by encounters, however graced, with others, I require solitude and silence to recharge my personal and spiritual batteries. This holds me back from all the many, many other things I could be doing with and for you. It hurts to fall short.
I had dreams of a delightful young priest coming here to spend his energy and efforts on you, with you, getting to know you, and being formed into a more whole and holy priesthood by your love, and expectations, and example. You are worth it! You deserve it – and some young new priest deserves you. But that’s not going to happen, at least this year.
I will be here to offer you what I have. But there’s never enough, is there? I am sorry to fall short.