Mary and the Priest

IMG_0941It is often said that behind every great man, there always is a great woman. This certainly has come true in Jesus and our Blessed Lady. Just like a mother is always crucial for the kind of person a child becomes, Mary is vital for the kind of priest a man becomes. As we continue to reflect on a “Year with Mary, our Mother” as a Diocese that Bishop Tobin, it is fitting to ask: what can she teach priests?

She teaches the newly ordained priest that trusting in God’s plan is rational. Mary clearly did not know the ins and outs of what she gave her fiat to, yet in hindsight, who would say she had made a mistake? She put her hands in God’s hands and simply let Him lead her. As a result of that choice, she is referred to today as the “highest honor of our race, the Mediatrix, and Co-Redemptoris of our salvation.” No small feats! In just the same way, if the newly ordained priest embraces his ministry with deep devotion, intense love, and unwavering trust, he has nothing to fear; God may accomplish unutterable feats through him. Deep down, everyone has a natural desire to accomplish something magnificent, and extraordinary with his life. Our Blessed Lady shows us that this is possible when we accept God’s plan and follow it intensely.

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Mary teaches the priest how to be a father to her children. We learn from her how to accompany, serve, know and love the children she already knows and loves. Just as biological fathers learn how best to treat their children from their wives, Mary teaches the priest how to minister to people as their spiritual father. It is beautiful to observe how Mary dealt with Jesus when she found Jesus in the temple; she did not scold him; rather she said: “Son, why have you treated us this way” (Luke 2:48)? Her gentleness, motherly kindness, patience, and tolerance toward Jesus must have been a teaching moment for Joseph. We men don’t handle things that way. So, in dealing with the foibles and scruples of daily ministry, her abiding presence, “feminine touch”, inner sweetness are necessary if we are to be as fatherly, caring, gentle, and uplifting as possible in every situation. She teaches us that unassuming authority, asking questions, attentive listening go a long way. It is no surprise that the best and most effective priests around have a deep devotion to her.

 

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She is the avatar of the beatitudes and a model for all priests striving to become “pastors of the Beatitudes”. As “the handmaid of the Lord”, she accepted to live only as God saw fit. The priest needs that in order to jettison every part of his ministry to God’s will. She stood beside Jesus not only in his hours of successes, but also in the hour of seeming defeat. The priest needs that grace to stand with all in festive moments as well as in trying times. As the immaculate virgin mother who kept her purity before, during, and after giving birth, the priest needs her burning charity in order not to waver in chastity. She embraced her vocation with clarity of purpose; the priest needs this model when the path of priestly ministry becomes steep. In Mary’s exemplary life, the priest finds everything he needs to be all for all. Oh! How I want her beside me in every person I meet, every soul I touch, every Mass I celebrate, and every homily I give!

Advice for Life

As you come to the end of your pilgrimage as a seminarian, do you have any wisdom, or advice to impart to anyone trying to figure out their way in life?

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One of the most precious gifts I have learned during my time in seminary is the ability to remain silent before the Lord. Through it, my vocation grew exponentially stronger. Through it, I grew in confidence that I was travelling the right path. Through it, I truly get to know the Lord and grow in friendship with him. Through silence, I was able to hear the voice of the Lord resounding in the cathedral of my heart confirming in numerous occasions my vocation.

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Silence before the Lord is the foundation of our spiritual house. Deep down, the human person is wired for God. If he focuses on everything, but forgets God, he is restless; if he prioritizes God, everything else falls into place. Personally, I am at my best when I spend times in silence before the Lord; I am restless when I neglect to do so. Once I learn to prioritize silence, nothing seems to be insurmountable. I always feel like I can scale down any walls and break through any barrier when I strengthen my drooping knees before the Lord in silence (cf. Ps. 18:29). So, if we make silence before the Lord the bulwark of our lives, no spiritual earthquake can shake our house. Silence builds us up to face the inevitable misfortunes of life. when our peace and leisure is the Lord, we can live confidently and fearlessly.

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Silence is golden. Before the age of phone GPS, if you are lost driving, to find the right direction, you would need to turn off the radio, ask everyone to be silence, gather yourself. Then clarity is found. Do you ever wonder why? It is because it is in the classroom of silence that life’s puzzles are solved. Moreover, even nature teaches us the importance of silence. Trees, flowers, and plants flourish in the silence of the night. Is it not very telling that it is not in a palace or in the city that the King of kings was born, but in the silence of the night? Consciously or unconsciously, everyone longs for God, but he cannot be found in the noise of the iPhone, in the cacophony of Twitter, or in the confusion of Snapshot. God is the friend of silence. God does not speak in noise (cf. 1 Kgs 19:1-12). Being bombarded with noise in the car, in the market, the street, our bedroom, and even while jogging will not help our cause.

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Silence opens doors. It is in silence that life’s deepest secret is revealed. It is in silence that we understand what God is trying to convey to us. It is in silence that our restless hearts find. Silence is the key to live life with passion and purpose.

So, my advice to anyone who wants to treasure life in its fullest magnitude is to learn to cultivate silence on a regular basis. For Catholics, the Blessed Sacrament is the ideal locus of silence because the Lord, which heaven and earth cannot contain, is sacramentally present there waiting to overpower us with his love. However, if that’s not possible, any atmosphere conducive to silence will do.

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What is the concrete benefit of silence? A number of things: confrontation with one’s own self, seeing one’s dark side, a deep realization of one’s dependency upon God, the surfacing of the neglectful questions of life, an ordering of the priorities of one’s life, a simplification, a getting back to basics, a sense of meaning and purpose in life. It means any and all of these things. So, grace yourself with silence before the Lord; you will not regret it.

 

Fr. Brice’s Ordination on June 3, 2017

As I am still in the cloud enjoying my moment of glory before real life, let me share with you. what i think of my ordination.IMG_1510.jpg

The ordination was like my “Tabor Moment.” Jesus took three of the disciples and went up a high mountain; there, he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and conversed with him (cf. Mt 17:1-3). That was the closest experience they had of the beatific vision while on earth. Jesus allowed them to taste, though briefly, the contemplation of eternal joy so that when the cross happens, they might not falter in their faith (cf. Luke 12:32). Without a doubt, last weekend was not far from the experience of Tabor. It was a little foretaste of what it means to respond generously to God’s call. He allowed me to see the future joy that ministering well might bring, and the unceasing prayer, generous support, untold gratitude, and beautiful kindness we have in the Church community. Many laughed, cried, and savored the weekend with me to the brim; they have promised to pray for me; I blessed them; they congratulated me. Such a holy weekend is not easily forgotten. Such an experience propels me forward to serve selflessly, give myself willingly, and embrace my ministry wholeheartedly because I have the support of the people of God. So, in challenging times, tough days, this is a moment I will remember as I minister and spread the gospel of joy in every corner of the Diocese of Providence.

Furthermore, the people of God get it. I have been assigned to many parishes throughout our time in seminary. Consequently, I have met, befriended, and touched many. They have seen me grow, mature, and persevere year in year out. They know I will be their priests. They count on me to be their companion, guide, solace, minister of salvation, and dispenser of grace and blessing from the cradle to the grave. As soon as a person entered this world, they expect the priest to be available to impart on him/her supernatural life through baptism. The priest accompanies the dead to their resting place in the grave with rites and prayers of immortal hope. When they are suffering, they know the priest is there. When going gets tough in the journey, the priest strengthens them with the grace of the sacraments.

IMG_1455.jpgWhen they fall away from grace, they are reconciled with God in the sacrament of penance through the hands of the priest. Called to found a family, the priest is there to receive and bless this unitive and procreative love. The priest stands by them in the best and worst periods of their lives—new life, fears, doubts, concerns, sadness, troubles, or celebrations. He coaches them about how to win the race and fix their eyes fixed on Jesus, the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings (Gaudium Spes 45). Most importantly, behind the scene, in supplications, fasting, penances, study, hours on his knees, he prepares himself daily to live up to the lofty promises he made at ordination before God and his people. So, Out of gratitude and love the faithful come out in droves to celebrate and welcome the new priests as a way to tell them: “welcome them to our lives. We are glad you are here. Show us the way.” That’s what the ordination meant to me.

 

Why Spend Time Scripture Daily?

How do we discover who God is, what his plan is for us, and what he wants us to do? Why did the saints devour the word of God? Perhaps they found in them like Therese of Lisieux “a hidden, pure, and genuine manna.” Thus, it became part of their daily routine. It instructed their mind, shaped their desires, and informed their decisions. Mary pondered the word of God to the point it became enfleshed in her (cf. Luke 2:19). Here are a few basic reasons why we should be prayerful and reflect on the word of God daily.

Man Reading BibleDo you want to understand who you are? Do you want to know your own story even before you live it? Do you want to see the human race in his beauty and ugliness and foibles, at his best and worst, acting like an angel today and behaving like a beast tomorrow? Then read scripture. There you will meet David — a man to whom God gives everything — pleasure, power, honor and wealth, yet he took a poor man’s wife and murdered him (2 Sam. 11-12:1-14). There you will learn the story of the Israelites — taken out of Egypt by God’s strong arm. Yet during 40 days without Moses to remind them of the word of God, they turned to idols (Ex. 32-34). There you will see what happens when people abuse their God-given power in the story of Naboth, Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21). There you can meditate on the consequences of associating with those who cultivate no fear of God (1 Kings 11), discover the towering power of an unwavering faith in Susanna (Dan. 13), and ponder the depths of God’s mercy in the story of the prodigal son and the woman caught in adultery (Luke 15: 11-32; John 8:1-11). Scripture is our personal story. In it, we find ourselves.

modern-philosophy-by-rpc-2-638Would you like a complete guide for the 3 fundamental relationships that form the basis of life — God, neighbor, and ourselves? Look no further than the Bible. It provides the wisest and most prudent way to act with the wealthy when you are poor, with the young when you are old, and with authorities when you are a subject. What should we look for in a spouse? What is the regiment for a blessed and fruitful marriage? We only have to read the Books of Sirach and Proverbs to find out. Who am I? What am I afraid of? What should one do to attain eternal bliss? Only scripture tells us. How does one win friends and influence people to the right course of actions? That’s in scripture too. It is no doubt that the Bible is a library. Everything is in there. Read it in family, and among friends; treasure it; memorize it. That’s the recipe for a happy life.

Photo 5We forget easily. Interestingly, one of the most common phrases in the book of Deuteronomy is, “Remember O Israel, do not forget.” The human mind is darkened as a result of Original sin; our ability to remember God’s word is a perpetual struggle, and our desire to submit to it is weakened (cf. Rom. 7: 18-19). The remedy against this is to turn it into a habit. Constantly going back to scripture, analyzing it, mediating on it and contemplating allows it to sink in and become part of the very fabric of our inner being. Once it becomes ingrained in us, it starts becoming part of our thoughts, words, actions, habits and character. Character is our destiny; our destiny is heaven. Scripture tells us how to get there and the Church empowers us through the sacraments to help us on our journey.

WAKE UP FROM YOUR SLUMBER

Kierkegaard, the Danish Philosopher, argues that Christianity as we know it today barely relates itself to the message that Jesus preached in the New Testament. Christians are not striving to come closer to the Christianity of the New Testament, he further maintains. I am no Christian apologetic, but I find it necessary to analyze the veracity of Kierkegaard’s claim.

imagesHe maintains that Luther had written 95 theses to show Christianity’s wretchedness, but today only one is necessary— honestly. When we juxtapose the way we are living the Christian life with the one preached in the New Testament, they almost have nothing in common. Official Christianity does not even dare to make clear the requirement of Jesus’ teachings in the new testament because that would bring to light how far removed the two are. We, Christians, live and love in the ordinary human way and so fail to live the extraordinary life that Christianity requires of us. Diognetus had written a letter to Christian in the third century. in it, he remarked that although are similar to other men by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, they are distinct by the way they lived. This is no longer true unfortunately. and the consequent is dire.

To illustrate his point, he gives an example. A Christian teacher is paid several thousand dollars as his wages. If we suppress the Christian criterion and assume the ordinary ‘human criterion’, which encourages that a person should have his wages for his work in order to live a respectable life with his family and maintain a perfect life’s standard, then that’s great. However, as soon as the idea of Christian poverty is asserted, several thousand is too high a salary. Christianity requires that when our most basic needs are met, the rest be given to the poor. One can live best the Christian requirement only in poverty (of spirit). It is dishonesty to call ourselves Christian when we so miserably fail to live the Christian requirement. We are dishonest about doing what Jesus requires. We give them our own interpretation according to our own expediency; nevertheless, the way we live is so far removed from the Sermon on the Mount’s requirements. “I will not participate… in what is called Christianity”, Kierkegaard says. even Pope Francis shockingly said that, “God would not be Christian if he comes back today”— loosely interpreted, christianity has become too pharisaical. We need to go back to the the beginning seriously. iStock_000031437424_Double

Now how right is Kierkegaard? I believe that the Christian life cannot be reduced to a few critiques. They are people who genuinely try to abide by the teaching of Jesus. Christianity However, it would make Christianity and Christians much more respectable in the world if we actually take very seriously Kierkegaard’s critic. Have you seen how lovable and respectable those who take the Christian faith very seriously are? Not only people respect their sacrifice, they are also attracted to their joy and peace. Religious freedom is being challenged everywhere in the world; perhaps if we take Christianity as Kierkegaard advocated it, no one would dare challenge it since our service would be in so much demands. I must admit as a group, we don’t stand out. We are just like everyone else. There is no way to differentiate Christians and the crowd. We go to their theaters, we watch whatever they want us to watch, we learn what they teach us, and we follow their rules even if they violate our conscience. How do you think the early Christians were able to conquer the world and spread the Word so quickly? It was because they accepted to set a standard tailored after the heart of Jesus— a standard that the ordinary world despised. Of course, that caused them to be imprisoned, mistreated, guillotined and killed, but it also put the world on the path to salvation. Due to our radical examples, the world fell to its knees and asked us for help. Our standards gave meaning to life, put life in right order, and helped put life in perspective.

early-massToday, that standard is lost because we’ve gotten too comfortable over the years. the world has re-conquered the low standard in which it was living before Christianity blossomed. They are winning big time and the powerful force that is Christianity is sleeping. Until we wake up, Kierkegaard’s voice will keep on echoing on our cathedrals, churches, chapels, seminaries, schools, and workplaces. Until then, his voice will continue to resound in our deepest conscience that this Christianity is too far removed from the one preached in the Bible.

Spiritual Direction– The Soul’s Remedy

Seeking spiritual direction is a sign of spiritual maturity. It is a sign that one has passed the age of spiritual milk, and ready for solid food (1 Cor. 3:2). Anyone who wants to live their baptism responsibly should make spiritual direction an intrinsic part of their lives. It is the soul’s medicine, and the best way to grow in holiness.

Here are a few reasons to consider spiritual direction:

We need a coach for the race. We are familiar with Olympic champions. They take reaching the top so seriously that they would never consider attempting it without a coach. St. John Paul II related how Jan Tyranowski, a simple clerk and tailor, helped him developed his interior life and thus gave him the tools to find his purpose in life. when he became a University chaplain, John Paul II recalled  how he used to go camping with the students. Through what he learned from Jan, he was able to coach them to unleash the masterpiece they are and how best to comport themselves as a result. we can become the person God wants us to be on our own.

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Anyone who is serious about holiness can relate to the words of St. Augustine in The Confessions: “I longed for the chance to devote myself wholly to you, but …my two wills are in conflict and they rob my soul of all concentration” (VIII, 5:10). This pilgrim journey is a tale of twisting and turning down the road to heaven. We lose momentum at times and need help nudging toward our destiny. Our best help lies in getting someone who knows the way well. As we labor in pain waiting for the fulfillment of our hope and the glorious coming of our savior (Rom. 8:22-23), the best way to ensure we are making progress is to have a spiritual guide to keep us fit.

We all have blind spots. We all have biases. Anyone who has tried to be truly honest with him- or herself knows how difficult that is. None of us sees ourselves as we truly are. Most often we think we are better than we actually are, although sometimes we sell ourselves short. There are times we even lie to ourselves. How do we discover ourselves as we truly are? Sunday homilies are helpful, but clearly insufficient when it comes to specifics. The confessional is not the place to deal with topics that takes great amount of time. Friends are often afraid to offend us. Spiritual directors can put the mirror before us and enable us to face reality. Seeing ourselves as we truly are opens the door to real spiritual growth.

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We are all wounded. GK. Chesterton captures well the reality of our lives in this world this way: “we’re all in one boat, and we’re all seasick.” The reality is we are all cracked and bruised and in need of repair. There are things in our past that hurt so deeply, we don’t even want to talk about them yet those are precisely what we need to talk about. Some things, of which we might not be aware, restrain our interior peace. Unless we allow the soothing touch of Christ to reach into our brokenness, we remain wounded. Only through regular spiritual direction can we recognize these wounds and be to heal.

How do we locate a good spiritual director? The same way we locate a good physician – we ask others. You can start by asking your pastor for recommendations. Pray to the Holy Spirit to lead you to one that fits your needs. Religious houses like seminaries, convents, or priories usually have qualified directors. Try to get a trained spiritual director, if possible. A learned, experienced, and holy priest is the ideal director. Even the saints have complained how difficult it is to find a suitable one, so persevere! In the meantime, get someone.