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At Christmas, I get to see in a short season all of the things that make being a priest such a wonderful life.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - It never ceases to amaze me how many people offer their condolences to me during the Christmas season. Oh, they really don't realize what they're saying, but the sympathy comes across nonetheless.

Constant invitations to dinner and expressions of sorrow that I might be alone at Christmas and invitations to come spend Christmas with their kids, "since Kids are what Christmas is all about" are all very kind and thoughtful. People presume that because I am a celibate, it must be a most difficult season for me.

Actually, the "alone thing" is hardly a problem. With communities at two parishes, a monastery, plus the joys and sorrows of a rather raucous family, a little of the "alone thing" would be an interesting change!

I wish that there were a way to share the beauty and the joy of being a priest at Christmas with folks. At Christmas, I get to see in a short season all of the things that make being a priest such a wonderful life.

Who else is invited to be a real part of families, of their very lives, on so regular a basis as a priest? Not just at Christmas, but around the hospital bed of a dying son, daughter or parent, at the baptism of a new baby, the life-changing events of adult conversion or marriage?

I have held in my arms children who were to be aborted, but whose parents chose life because of the Lord's word in me. Without a family at Christmas? I have a family that spans events, ages, and parishes. Alone at Christmas? Never!

How do I get across to people - not the ones who invite me to dinner, of course - but to those whose only knowledge of the priesthood is what they see in the anti-religion media, that there is a much broader experience of celibate living, such as celebrating the liturgy three times with three separate communities on Christmas Eve night? Such as listening to associates joyfully tell the stories of their Christmas Eve experiences and telling my own. Such as watching the excitement of a new deacon describing his Christmas and knowing that I had some small part in letting it come to be.

How could I ever get across the unique beauty that fills and surrounds my life as a priest at the Christmas season?

Someone might hand me cash and say, "Father, see to it that this gets to someone who needs it." As I hand it over to someone who does, I wonder if there IS any other vocation that so frequently gets to experience the joy of seeing a face light up at unexpected grace, or receive the tears of that person, saddened at the need to accept it? Is there any other vocation so blessed? All year long I end up acting like the guy in "The Millionaire," giving money to those whose needs are known only by me.

When the Christmas season comes along. I play the part for weeks! At Christmas I swell with pride (the good kind,. boasting in the Lord and all that) to see my parish family begging food for the poor, driving into the roughest parts of town with toys, clothes and food to feed a family for weeks, all for members of our extended family, the poor. I watch teen-agers pack, sort and beg for the needy, host and serve a dinner for the homeless with HIV, come out in droves for a funeral of one of their own, sing in choirs, decorate churches, and rough-house in the commons area as they wait to drive their little brothers and sisters home from piano practice. I wonder how many other adults can speak with the same optimism and pride as I can of the "next generation"? I see it all year long, I experience it at Christmas.

Now, I realize that this life is not all one wild, mad fling after another. All those Christmas Masses can leave one right smart tired. I realize that handling the holy so often can dull one's sense of wonder at the holy that we handle, and that a priestís spiritual life can become filled with work worries, and projects. I know that not all rectories are happy places as mine is, and; that the temptations to celibate chastity are legion (as are those in the sacrament of marriage).

But I can't help but think that part of the problem lies with us priests. Perhaps it is time to take the title "Father" a little more seriously again. We are allowing cynicism, the great heresy of our day, to mold our perceptions. Too often we fall into line with the 'Me generation's' idea of the good - whatever feels that way.

Still, I donít think that my experiences of this life are all that unusual, and I do think that the choice for joy is ours. A wise man of 22 years once told me, "Suffering is inevitable but misery IS a choice." At Christmas, I find the wonder of being a priest, and yes, a celibate one at that, to be a beauty more easily seen that at other times, but the beauty is always there.

No, I don't have the pleasures of Christmas that some others have, with their spouses and children, but I do have some awesome wonders, subtle at times, but just as meaningful and just as rich. I am more grateful to this God, crazy enough to call me to a fulfilling and sometimes challenging life, at Christmas. I don't think I favor a married clergy any more. We'd get more priests, maybe, but we'd lose something that cannot be replaced.

So keep asking me for dinner, and sympathize about my life's call. Call all you'd like.But come look at the presents under my tree and let me tell you how loved I feel and how big my family is getting. If God was any better to me, I don't think I could stand it!

*****

Monsignor Michael McCarron is Pastor of St. Stephen Martyr Roman Catholic Church in Chesapeake, Va.

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Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.

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1 - 1 of 1 Comments

  1. Holly
    5 years ago

    Now this is more like it. This is what its all about speaking from a laywoman's viewpoint.
    This what the 90 year old priest from New York City was talking about but didnt elaborate but inferred on Father Groeschel's Sunday Night Live. (Who cares what you believe if you get a chance watch it sometime your choice but be careful you might walk away with some wisdom or something. I warned you all-with humor of course.)
    Anyway as a women sometimes its hard for us to understand this difference in men but once its explained it need not be spoken of again so that the miracle and mystery become one.
    This is what the world would like to get rid of and I for one think that these men can do it but not alone.
    They need the guidance, wisdom and love of Jesus Christ their brother and Mary their Mother to get them through this.
    I say its supernatural, mystery and a miracle all in one but that me Im no theologian.
    These priests are given to us with love so take note of this article and be proud in God's way they are part of your family all year round.
    Love everywhere to all my brothers and sisters around the world-you know who you are.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with love in hearts the Lord will provide for us even in these difficult times.
    After all were all blessed because we have brothers and sisters all over the world who can say this?
    A giant extended family--lovely!

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