Yesterday, the Feast of Saint Nicholas, saw nearly forty of our priests along with Bishop Brandt step aside from the normal activities of the day to spend an afternoon in prayer and reflection. This Advent Day of Reflection was given by a dynamic preacher, nationally and internationally known speaker Father Larry Richards of the Diocese of Erie, and was held at the Bishop William G. Connare Center, our diocesan Retreat facility. It was a great opportunity as priests to pause and reflect.
Much of what Father Larry Richards presented was an encouragement to look at our ministry as priests from the starting point of Jesus' ministry - at his baptism by John. Father Richards pointed out that in one of the gospel accounts, when John had baptized Jesus, the Spirit came upon him and the Father spoke and said "You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased." At our baptism the Father says the same thing - "you are my beloved ... I am well pleased". With that in mind, we begin our journey and enter into the ministry entrusted to us to share the Good News. Unworthy though we are, caught up in the failure that sin makes present, we are affirmed with the reality that "We are his beloved" ... "We are the beloved disciple" ... and he rejoices in us.
As priests, the gift of Orders begins our public ministry. If we embark upon that ministry with those words of the Father echoing in our minds and hearts, then we begin on a solid and sure footing. Then, when the inevitable challenge confronts us, we find the strength to transform it into something redemptive. And when we find success and experience fulfillment, for they, too, will come, we know where our blessings come from. It was a helpful message.
We began the day with Mid-Day Prayer, a conference followed by a break, then to chapel for Eucharistic Adoration, an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (with gratitude to monks from Saint Vincent Archabbey who served as confessors), a wrap up session, Evening Prayer and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. We closed the day with a social and a good meal prepared by the staff of the Bishop Connare Center.
It was refreshing, I was blessed, and Advent and ministry take on a clearer focus.