Congratulations!

A big congrats! goes out to seminarian David Endres for his successful completion and defense of his Doctoral Dissertation at the Catholic University of America: Under the Cross and the Flag: The Catholic Students’ Mission Crusade and the American Quest to Christianize the World.

He earned marks “with distinction” for his work as well.

Dr. Endres is in his second year of theology at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminiary in Cincinnati, and attended a youth mission trip with me over the summer to Harlan County, Kentucky. He is an excellent young man and is to be congratulated for his efforts.

Way to go, Dave!

Obedience

Since I mentioned that the other topic addressed was obedience, I best say something about it.

The second promise that a priest makes upon his ordination is that of obedience to his bishop, and his successors. Interestingly, while we make the promise of celibacy, for the sake of the Kingdom, standing; we make this promise while kneeling before the bishop, with our hands held between his. When he asks: “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” The answer is not: “Ummm, maybe?” “I DO!” is the response, with the bishops conclusion: “May the Lord. who has begun the good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.”

So, why have this promise of obedience? What fruit does in bear in the life of the priest? To me, it is a gift of humility, knowing that what we stand for and who we are is actually much bigger than just me, one lowly priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. It is a reminder that when I wear the blacks, I am representing 2,000 years of history and tradition, and that I am as much a servant to this as any member of the Church; I am not the owner of the Liturgy, the Church is. I am not free to change the readings at will, to make up my own Eucharistic Prayer. As a good griend says, “It’s simple, do the red and say the black.” With the discipline of obedience and the virtue of humility, the priest is able to minister to God’s people, whom He has placed under the priest’s care. If the priest is preaching his own interpretation, his own version of the Gospel, he is short changing the people he is supposed to be leading, and he is short changing the Gospel he has been charged to preach when he was ordained a deacon.

A story that happened in my life may help illustrate the point. Living at the Cathedral, my office is a few blocks away in Downtown Cincinnati. I like to walk when possible, as there is a nice little park on Eighth Street that is pleasant to stroll through. Wearing clerics, I tend to get hit up for cash fairly regularly by the homeless, which isn’t really a problem as I give them a card for Catholic Charities or something like that. One day, I was unusually frustrated by something in the office, and a fellow stopped me as I was walking:

Him: “Hey, are you a priest?”
Me: “Yes, hence the black.” (I told you I was frustrated, hence the snippiness.)
Him: “Can I ask you for a favor?”
Me: “Sorry, no cash.”
Him: “I don’t need any cash, can you send an email to my parents?”
Me: (abashed) Huh?
Him: “I’m in a bit of trouble, and I am going to jail for not paying child support. I haven’t seen my parents in a long time, could you just send an email to them to say you met me, that I am doing ok and that I love them?”
Me: “Sure, I can do that.”

With that, he wrote down their email address, we said a prayer, and I continued my way home.

I am always a little embarrassed when I tell that, as I was really a doofus in my interaction with him, but I am also very much humbled. Why did he stop me and invite me into a very personal section of his life? Because I’m a good listener? I don’t think so. Simply because of what I was wearing and what it represented.

Obedience and a simplicity of life can allow the priest to be that other worldly sign, a sign of something different, something more. It is never for his own sake, but always for the sake of the Gospel. I think it more of us priests can embrace that, and I have to just as much as any other priest, we would have a new flourishing of the Church.

Christ is our savior, we don’t need another. We need good, holy men who can be transparent enough to lead others to Him.