A lot has happened since I last had a chance to blog. It's a shame that in my busiest times, with the MOST to share, I often don't have the opportunity to share it with others here. But perhaps it is good to take a moment to recap - even for myself.
Ending My Summer Assignment
The weekend after SEARCH was over was my last weekend in Pikeville where I spent my summer. It was a whirlwind - saying goodbye to the folks who had welcomed me so warmly into their community at the four weekend masses throughout Pike County. I remain very touched by the people and places of Pike County, and pray that one day I might be the kind of priest who can serve healthily and happily in the mountain areas of our diocese.
Vacation With Family
Sunday afternoon after ending the summer assignment I drove to Gatlinburg, TN for four days with my parents and grandmother. That time was well spent. Not only was it good to spend time with them, but it was also good to have a bit of a rest there in Gatlinburg. For those of you familiar with Pigeon Forge entertainment, I was treated to being a part of one of the skits at the "Comedy Barn". That was a real treat - I enjoyed it, I think my family enjoyed it too. (The qualifications they were seeking were (a)over 18, (b) good sense of humor, and (c) don't mind being the center of attention... I guess I was a shoe it.)
Rock the Collar
Each year our diocesan seminarians make a 10 day road trip around the diocese meeting the pastors who serve our Church, getting to know the people and ministries of our diocese, and getting to know one another. 1,100 miles across southern and eastern Kentucky in 10 days is a setting for some real faternal bonding. Everywhere we went, people were so very kind and encouraging. And our two new seminarians who joined us on the trip are incredible young men. I'm honored to be their brother in formation.
Back to School
Two days after returning from Rock the Collar it was time to return to the "Holy Hill" at St. Meinrad. After driving to St. Louis to pick up a man studying here as well, I returned to the Hill last Friday (I guess that makes it a week ago today). I was honored to be a part of the Orientation staff who welcomed almost 40 new men to the seminary community this year. As part of Orientation, I organized two receptions and a formal banquet as part of my service to the community as Banquet Coordinator this year. It's a real pleasure to server the broader community this way, and though it is sometimes extremely physically taxing, it genuinely is a pleasure.
Today was our first day of classes for this semester. It's nice to be back with "the guys" I shared the first year of formation with. It's nice to be back in class. It's nice to be back on the Hill - even with so many changes. I was remarking to someone today that my aversion to change is itself what's typically at issue in my discomfort or lack of excitement about whatever the change itself is. Often, in fact, I like what has been changed, and just have to grow into seeing that through the discomfort of change itself.
Through it all, there are important things I realize more and more I must remember:
* It's not about me. Nope. Narcissism, self-centeredness, believing that I have all the right answers or some keen insight into how things could "best" be done is not only foolhardy, but more importantly it is contradictory to the image of a servant priest. Christ came to serve, not the be served. And if I am to be formed to live and serve in persona Christe I must pray to have every little bit of that inward focus transformed into something else.
* Things aren't always right, just, fair... or what they seem. And mine isn't always to be judging or evaluating those conditions. Bishop Gainer respects the formation offered at St. Meinrad. I love and respect the men entrusted with forming us here - and I love and respect the priests I know who have been formed here. Implicitly, then, my posture toward the entirety of seminary experience ought to be a posture of open-mindedness and trust.
* God is in control. Fr. Wil often said to me this summer, "Alan, don't forget the Holy Spirit is at work in it all." Whether we were talking about liturgy, theology, administration of the Church, or how to make an impossible situation workable for the good of the Church. And I must remember, and rest peacefully in the truth, that God through His Spirit is at the helm of my life, my journey, my formation, and my vocation. I continue to pray that my time here makes me more docile to that reality.
* It's about preaching Christ, and Him crucified. It's about sharing the good news that Christ came to give us life, and that more abundantly. It's about the salvation of souls (mine included). It's about falling in love with the martyr Messiah who laid down His life to rein triumphantly over death for all eternity. It's about so much more than what clutters and fills my mind and gets me all wound up on a daily basis sometimes. All the rest is nothingness.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Order my life to Your will. Nail me to that cross in whatever ways are important so that I may offer my life in service of Your Gospel. Though it burns as in a furnace sometimes, and though I tremble with fear or loathing or discomfort over the silliest of things sometimes... You love me enough to melt away the impurities ever revealing more and more of the precious metal within. Lord, if it be Your will, transform me to Your image, and make me Your priest.