I received this little reflection by Fr. Solanus Maria Benfatti, CFR in an email several years back, before I was even a priest myself. It gave me much to reflect upon then and it strikes me even more now that I can relate to it firsthand. This vocation is a beautiful one and I thank God for it each day that I too have been called to have a 'front row seat' to the powerful hand of God at work in the hearts of His beloved children.
For sure, Pope Benedict's recent comment to the priests of Poland registers with me: "The greatness of Christ's priesthood can make us tremble." To feel very small, hugely humbled by the thing is a common experience for me. Very common. And yet, I frequently forget that I am a priest of only four months. Sometimes it almost seems that I've been doing this forever.At times I listen to myself in the confessional and I wonder whom this person is that is speaking, and just how he knows the things he thinks and says. I want to ask him from where he has come, because it seems as if from nowhere, like Melchisedech. I'm glad this man from nowhere has come along, because he sure is good for me. They say the priesthood is for others, but it's hard for one's faith not to be changed by the faith of others. Front row seats are hard to beat. The first time someone thirty years your senior lavishes gratitude on you for lifting a burden they've carried for years the same number; The first telephone call of thanksgiving you get from someone who had been an anonymous penitent in a far away place, now changed forever; The first time someone grabs you on the subway and says, "I realized I would never make it in time for confessions at such-and-such church and so I prayed to find a priest"; right then you know that you were made for this, and that your own salvation somehow depends on it. Fulton Sheen once called a book Those Mysterious Priests. I understand the title now. Because it is indeed a mystery, a very strange thing, the priesthood. That I am a priest is an additional mystery, though. It's at once foreign and familiar. It's everything I thought it would be and nothing I could have ever known. It's something to shrink from, but what I could never do without. And it's me. A mysterious me.