Well, now, THAT’s not what I expected, at all. Last Sunday I mentioned to you who were at the Masses I celebrated that Cardinal Wuerl has assigned me and you a Parochial Vicar – for two months. Father Christopher Seith, ordained Priest last Saturday, will assist here, where he spent the summer two short years ago as a seminarian, until mid-September, when he will return to Rome, the North American College, and the important work of finishing his graduate degree in theology.
Everyone who remembers him is excited to hear this. We enjoyed him then, and he enjoyed being here. When I saw him Saturday shortly after we had both been informed of this big news, we both just laughed. In a way it is almost as if he never left! He knows where in the kitchen the cereal is, and what drawer in the sacristy holds what he needs. He knows a lot of names, and can even find his way out of Woodmoor without a map. It is almost too smooth a transition for him.
For me, it means I get to take summer vacation for a change! I am scrambling around, trying to figure out what I can do to take advantage of this opportunity. Since I do not need to introduce or instruct him, I have no problem running off and sharing the joy of parish work and parish Masses with him, to introduce him to his new identity in Christ.
This weekend in particular is a great time to reflect on what we receive in Father Seith. He has been studying in Rome for four years, and has grown acquainted with the successors of Saint Peter, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. He has been in their presence often and recently. He brings to our relationship with the Supreme Pontiff a liveliness and personal insight that we could not otherwise enjoy or expect.
As you know, I spent a great deal of time in Rome shortly before coming here as Pastor, and was often in the presence of Popes Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. However, that was almost nine (9!) years ago now and I confess the connection is fading. My only conversations with our current Holy Father were long ago, brief, and before he enjoyed the graces and responsibilities of the Petrine Office.
So in a rare year when the great Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul falls on a Sunday, we rejoice to establish a new and personal connection with the Saint Peter of our day, and the church that was founded and formed by Peter with the help of Paul, and nourished not only by their witness and their wisdom, but by their very blood. Father Seith comes to us directly from the presence of Peter, with not only his words, but also his voice, alive in his heart.
Father Seith arrives here in less than two weeks, on 9 July. He will be excited to be here again, and delighted to learn from you what it is that you expect from a priest. You are good teachers; your time with him is short, so do not hesitate to reveal to him, as only you can, what it is that God has entrusted to him in his priesthood.