success stories

Scripture And Liturgy in the Lives of Priests

Taken From: Grace Under Pressure:
What Gives Life To American Priests
National Catholic Education Association, Washington, DC

"I just can't image the past 30 years of my life without the nourishment of Scripture," said George from the East. "I just couldn't imagine what it would be like because it's been just so constantly enriching. You never go back to Scripture that you don't find something and learn something if you keep working at it. Talk about something that's been sustaining, and that really supports you and makes you stay alive! To have to deal with the Word of God every day and for a large community on Sunday draws so much out of you!"

But George also draws on other sources for spiritual nourishment. "I've rediscovered some of the traditional spiritual classics. I had neglected those for a long time, but there's some wonderful stuff in those things. We had a really interesting session a couple of weeks ago with women on Julianna of Norwich, who is a very interesting woman. We have an incredible and rich tradition of spirituality and of great books. You don't even begin to tap into it. It takes a little bit of work to get at it, but I found a lot of riches there."

Jack, 54, a Midwestern pastor, talked about asking God for the gift of preaching the Word effectively when he was made pastor. "I just love to preach now. I didn't always. But it seems like it's really not a chore anymore. It's a joy and even when I seem to be coming up dry for five days of the week, on Saturday something seems to come together, maybe that didn't even pertain to what I was reading or looking at. There is message there that seems to be the right message, if I can just package it right. I have a real sense of that gift being given over and over again."

Some priests stressed the importance of the liturgy in their lives. Peter, 53, a Southern priest said, "I think the first thing that gives me life is involvement in liturgy, beginning with the high point of Easter vigil. It's something that I build up to and something that I draw a lot of experience, a lot of happiness, a lot of celebration out of. But I think it extends to the rest of the year."

Gene from the Midwest said, "Liturgy is becoming more and more important to me. I think in my early years in priesthood I would preside and do things and it was okay. But as time has gone on, that whole sense of life and sacrament gets closer and closer. Ministry and sacrament need to go together for me. There are times when I am presiding in my parish I have been there almost nine years, it's a weekend responsibility that I just start to well up. Part of it is the fact that I look out there and I know almost all of them. Somehow I am there presiding in prayer with them. When I look out during the responsorial psalm and I see parishioners with their eyes closed singing the verse, that just touches me because they are praying, and somehow I am a part of it. I am helping make that happen and praying with them."

Phil made a similar comment. "The Eucharist has given my life a certain focus and definition and summation that I need," he said. "When I am sitting up there looking out, I am able to see all the marriages, baptisms, broken promises, divorces, single parents and all those that have lost jobs and all those that have found jobs and, somehow either directly or indirectly, I have been there with them. I count how many of them I know. I sit there during Mass and that is quite a challenge because there are sometimes 800 or 900 people there. How many do I know and what do I know them for? I know a lot. And I am grateful for that. That means a lot to me. Sometimes, when I am in between Eucharists, I get weepy and I can't wait to get to my next one."