In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
Catholic priests have made headlines over the past few years in none too flattering a manner. It seems the only priests who appear in the news are those caught in shameful acts. We don’t hear much about the high percentage of priests who do not fall into this category. For the most part, their lives are not dramatic and do not command headlines. We know little about them.
Some years ago, I attended the fiftieth anniversary jubilee celebration of my uncle’s priesthood. Although I had an idea what kind of person he is, many of the details of his life remained quietly unnoticed, at least to me.
I always knew him as a man of peace. Yet he fought for our country in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. He seldom discussed his war experiences and, when he did, never talked about the terror and desperation of war.
When he returned from military service, he brought with him a toy Scottie dog which remained my constant companion for years and always reminded me of him. His disposition was very much like my grandfather’s. Father Richard has been compassionate, generous and humble, qualities noted by those who came to know him during the course of his priesthood. He never sought or found fame, wealth or power. One speaker said he gave much to others and took little. Unless you know him personally, it would be easy to pass him by without notice.
Priests view their vocations as a call to service from God rather than a choice they make. In his case, it was not as dramatic as being knocked off a horse as the bible story describes happening to St. Paul. Richard described his call as a whisper from God, an almost imperceptible voice which he was not even sure was meant for him.
As he told his story, I thought of Francis Thompson’s poem, The Hound of Heaven, where he describes God as pursuing him. He also wrote of his fear that in following God, he would be left with nothing else in his life.
Accepting a call to the priesthood might seem like being wrenched from your family and from the community. Yet many of Richard’s family members and those whom he had come to know over the years celebrated with him, shared how he had touched their lives and told of how he had become a treasure to them.
Of all the things said of Richard at his Jubilee, I remember most the quote from Mark Twain, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” His kindness has been evident in his dealings with everyone he has met throughout his life. Surely this trait is why God called Richard to His service and has given him as a special gift to all who have come to know him. Congratulations, Uncle Dick.
- Think of the kindest person you know.
- Thank God for his or her presence in your life.
- Encourage those who are kind to you by thanking them.
- Think how you could be a little kinder to those who annoy you.
- When someone is kind to you, find a way to pass it on to someone else who needs a touch of kindness.