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March 2, 2016

Fr Joe, as he was affectionately known, passed away on March 2 at 4:30 pm. We honor his memory by sharing his thoughts about what it meant to him to have served the Lord as a priest for over 50 years.

Priesthood: After Fifty Years

by Rev. Joseph McCloskey, S.J.

Thirty years ago I wrote about priesthood after twenty years. The first sentence was "You are a priest forever!" Now I know that is true. Fifty years seems forever. What I then called a dream has become over the years a reality. There is so much before and after that I find it hard to know where to begin.

Knowing all so many better people for the Lord to have called made it hard to accept priesthood for myself. As the years went by special people became ordinary and the ordinary people became special. What is so special about being a priest is how God uses your ordinariness for his work. In the ordinary, the special of the Lord becomes visible. The only limit on God's love is our acceptance of it. I invite the Lord into my life when I use my favorite aspiration, "Lord, make up the difference," to ask him to cover up the difference between what I did and what I could have done or even should have done.

I realize that all the love of God is in the moment now. Only the now touches the eternal now of God. John said it again and again. God is love. Each moment of life in its "newness" has the fullness of the love of God. God is not capable of loving less. The only limit on God's love is our acceptance. The fifty years of my priesthood today were made possible by the Hidden Life Graces. The faces on those graces are all of yours.

One of the big fifty year moments of my life was the "50 years a Jesuit" celebration. Walter Burckhardt was the preacher and I said to myself as I listened to him that I could like the guy Walter was describing. It was really the first time I liked the person I was becoming. Walter was able to take the different events of my Jesuit life and weave them into the three points of a good sermon. It was the first time I saw my life through another's words.

Walter was able to take the hidden moments of my life and make them into the story of how God takes our littleness and makes something important of it. All those little moments of my life came together and continue to come together as the "Priesthood of Joe." The prayer that I said before more than a half a million people at the march for the young becomes the richness of all the hidden moments of life when we let God speak through who we are for each other. The Hidden life Grace takes all the boredom out of life as each moment takes on the possibility of a march for life.

A thousand years is lived in each moment when we walk in the shoes of Christ, the Priest. Forever is the priesthood of Christ that flows out of each hidden moment of life lived in his shoes. The hidden life grace, the insignificant becoming significant, reveals the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Each moment of life in its nowness touches the eternal nowness of the God who calls himself "The I am God." The love of God includes the cross of Christ.

The third point I would make in the story of the "Priesthood of Joe" is the love of the Cross of Christ. I realize that whom God loves he purifies. Graces are gifts of God. We do not deserve our graces. We are fully alive when we are able to see each moment of our lives in the love of God. There is no bypass of the cross of Christ if we want the Resurrection. That includes even the Cross moments of our lives. How well we accept our crosses of life is itself a grace. The love of Christ brings us to the willingness to share his love and hopefully to see his love in all the crosses of life, even dying.

The Resurrection is the victory won. How we live his victory is seen in the joy of our lives. My Spiritual Director defines joy as "happiness on tip toes." In the joy of the Resurrection we can walk gently and lovingly in these graces of our lives.

Fifty years of priesthood have brought me to the happiness of loving the work that I have a chance to do. I can live with never being satisfied with doing enough. It is easier at 80 years of age to let Christ make up the difference. There is incredible joy in being able to stand in for Christ by priesthood. I now pray the Lord make up the difference between what I have said and what he would say through my words. I give it all to him. I rejoice that I have all of you to share with. I realize that my family is all of you.