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Faith, Family and Fatherhood
by James Hahn
I hope that this letter finds you doing well during this season of grace and mercy. Last night while we were driving back to the parish you asked me what, in my opinion, a priest should be focused on. You wanted to know what a parishioner, a husband, a father like me, looks for in a priest ministering to his family and parish. Of course this gave me much to think about and pray over. I realize that your vocation, like mine, is often very difficult. I also realize that your vocation, like mine, doesn’t come with an instruction manual and seminary can only prepare you for so much. I am in no way an expert but I will tell you what I, as a father, trying to raise my children in the faith, think the focus of the priest should be and why.
The first focus should be on prayer. I remember reading in John Paul II’s letter on the rosary that “the Christian should above all be distinguished by the art of prayer.” This really stuck with me. If you are to give Christ to others you must know Christ better than most. If you are going to act “in persona Christi” you must spend a great deal of time at the feet of the Master. This life of prayer will naturally overflow into the lives of your parishioners. You yourself have mentioned other priests who you admire because of their prayer life. We admire you because of your prayer life and you inspire us to pray more. When your primary focus is on prayer you become more like Christ. When you become more like Christ you inspire us to become more like Christ. Therefore, prayer must be the primary focus of your priestly ministry.
The second focus should be on the liturgy which would include the sacraments. As the “primary educator” of my children especially in the faith, I can’t ask for a better catechesis than proper, beautiful, inspiring liturgy. When you provide the parish with a beautiful Mass you enable us to be “caught up” to God. We find that we can really “lift them [our hearts] up to the Lord.” Through the liturgy and the sacraments we are able to experience the love of God in a tangible way. When you celebrate these events in a beautiful, reverent, holy way, you inspire in us the desire to participate more fully in the life of the Church and the sacraments. Proper celebrations of the liturgy enable us to love God more fully. Therefore, the liturgy must be the secondary focus of your priestly ministry.
The third and final focus should be Christian service. You cannot even imagine the amount of good that you do simply by helping with the Knights of Columbus fish fry or similar social event. When the parishioners see you frying fish, cleaning tables, and taking out trash, they are truly edified. Your lived example of service and involvement in the community show us how to serve one another. By getting your “hands dirty” you show us that, like Christ, you have come to serve and we are inspired to do the same. In other words, we don’t feel like we are always serving you, if you know what I mean. These small acts of service, they need not be all the time, also help promote vocations by showing young men that the priest is a real man, not just of words, but action as well. So, I would suggest that the third focus of your priestly ministry be on service.
As I look back over this letter I can’t help but laugh a little. My insights are neither deep nor profound. They are simply another way of saying that you and I must know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this life in so that we can be happy with Him forever in the next. You can help us know Him better by knowing Him yourself through prayer. You can help us love Him better by loving Him yourself through the liturgy. You can help us serve Him better by showing us how to serve.
Father, thank you for answering God’s call to the priesthood. You are in our prayers always. Keep praying hard and God will see to completion the good work He has begun in you!
God Bless You!
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