Friday, Sept. 18, 2009

To God is the glory

By Msgr. Michael Swalina
In this year of the priest, I have been very edified by my brothers who have written articles in The Mirror already, extolling the wondrous blessings and privileges accorded us who minister to the faithful in the Church. I can only say that I agree with each and everything that they have expressed and that I, like them, am thankful for my vocation. I cannot think of anything I would rather be than a priest in the service of Christ Jesus and his Church.
That having been said, however, I want to tell everyone that not every day in the service of the Church is necessarily glamorous or miraculous. Priests are human beings, and like all human beings, we have our good days and our bad days. What is more, we priests live with mystery. Not only are we called to engage the mystery who is God, the greatest gift we can give to the people whom we serve is the sharing of our relationship with this mysterious Being with them. But priests also live with mystery in our service, for our ministry is above all spiritual, and the results of it are therefore often unseen.
Although some people now and then will let us know that we have helped them, the greater good which we have hoped to do we will only learn when we enter eternity.
I have always related to the description of the pastor in Mark Helprin’s piece, “Leaving the Church.”
“In the operations of caring for his flock, Fr. Trelew tried to avoid the photographer’s fallacy. Only rarely did tragedy face them. There were complaints and sorrows but not much passionate loss. He had to accept that. It was a small population and not a battlefield he was truly needed once in a great while; but he refused to buy the illusion that when they came to him aching from life in the world he was doing great service. In that way, when he did great service, he felt he could vault over mountains. In other words, he was a “lean man.”
I have tried over the years to be a “lean man.” When someone compliments me on the words of a sermon offered, I tell the person that if the words had any effect it was not due to me but to the Holy Spirit who works within the heart and can make even inadequate words serve His purpose.
This is the joy and the wonder of the priesthood. We are fragile and flawed human beings who nonetheless speak the Word and minister Him to others. But to God alone be the glory!
He is all good and ever true to His promises. I will forever be grateful that He has provided me, in leaving father, mother, sisters, brothers, and property, many more mothers, sisters, and brothers in his service these past 39 years.
I want all of you to know how much I love you and how I will cherish you forever.
Msgr. Michael Swalina is pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Lebanon.
The next “Year For Priest” reflection will be by Fr. David Dohogne.
Copyright © 2009 The Mirror
YEAR FOR PRIESTS--Pope Benedict XVI has established a year for priests in an effort to encourage “spiritual perfection” in priests. The pope opened the special year with a vespers service at the Vatican June 19, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day for the sanctification of priests. (CNS graphic/Emily Thompson)
Msgr. Michael Swalina
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