Homily: “That’s What I’m For”

The following is the text from Fr. Drew Clary, C.S.C.’s homily on April 23, 2024, the second anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He presided at Mass at Siegfried Hall at the University of Notre Dame, where he currently serves as priest in residence, in addition to his role as the U.S. Province’s Associate Director of Vocations.


It was a little uncomfortable for me to offer this Mass today – for my second anniversary of ordination. I remember being at a Mass as I drove through St. Louis in seminary, and the presider offered the Mass for his anniversary, and I thought, “Sheesh, that’s selfish.” But as I’ve grown into the priesthood over these past two years, I have grown in my appreciation for the gift that the priesthood is for me, for the Church, and hopefully for others. Plus, I’m now in the vocations office, so I’m supposed to talk about vocations!

My first year of priesthood was very much marked by learning how to do things – when to open and close my arms, genuflect at Mass. Basically every time I was asked to do something for the first time – baptize and anoint someone in danger of death in a hospital, anoint a 90-year old woman in her home, have spiritual counseling conversations with friends or with strangers, field random questions from friends or strangers, prepare a couple for a wedding, hear confessions of the parishioners and of my students in the school, obviously say Mass – doing each of those for the first time was an adventure.

This second year has been marked by new things, too — but mostly stemming from the fact that my second year of priesthood started with a change in assignment. And, unlike my assignment to the parish I had been at, it was an assignment that I had not really asked for or expected. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved being in Siegfried and even my work in the Vocations Office, but it was still kind of surprising to be asked to do something that was very much not what I had asked for.

Perhaps this is the context that has provided the growth point that I think came to dominate this, my second year of ordination. I find myself, after someone thanks me for doing something priestly, responding with, “You’re welcome. That’s literally what I’m for.” I think I’ve come to really see my role as an ordained minister of the Church as what that literally means – I’m ordered in a supernatural way, on the level of my soul, to do what I do or to be a priest. And that is an incredible gift. It is freeing – I don’t really have to worry too much about it, in terms of big-picture things. What I really mean is that it removes a fair amount of the questioning on big-picture things. Yes, I need to decide how best to be present to the dorm and how best to identify and walk with young men discerning religious life and priesthood, but at the end of the day, my purpose is not those things – it is providing God’s divine life to his people through his sacraments and hopefully reflecting a bit of the divine life indirectly through my presence and actions.

A few questions I’ve gotten in the past month or two have really driven this home: A couple weeks ago, leaving Siggy [Siegfried] Mass, someone asked me if I ever get tired of saying Mass. About a month ago, a non-Notre Dame student commented to me that “it must really suck to have to live in a college dorm.” Even on Sunday night at the post-Mass social, someone pointed out that it was kind of unfair for me to have a day job and then come to Siegfried and have more work to do.

My reaction to all three of these interactions was first confusion. It just isn’t the way that I think about my life or my ordained ministry. Because these things aren’t negotiations between “work” and “life” or between “what I have to do” and “what I want to do.” Because this is what I’m ordered to, it is both what I have to do and what I want to do. I’m not saying that to be trite or because it’s what I’m supposed to say; I’m saying it because God has given me at least a seed of the desire to serve in this way, and his grace has helped that desire to grow. And in growing, the hope is that my desire and his will become more and more indistinguishable.

This is, I think, ultimately what vocation is about. A vocation is the calling that God places in your life, in your heart, that starts as a kind of inchoate desire. As you grow up and become more and more aware of the habits or patterns of your desires, they work together to help you take each successive step along your vocational path. It’s not always linear – or at least, not linear from our initial perspective. But ultimately, paying attention to these desires and movements of your heart and of God’s work in your life brings you to a place of taking bigger or deeper steps — and as those are confirmatory, perhaps even to making a lifetime commitment of religious vows, ordination, or marriage.

The goal for any of us in our discipleship is to get to the point where our desires are perfectly conformed with the will of God. We are only able to do that in this life through Jesus’ life, which he shares with us and invites us to participate in. I certainly have more work to do along that path. But the fruit of this second year of priesthood has shown me not just that I’ve made progress and that the ordained ministry is the life in which God wants me to grow in this conformity; this year has also revealed to me the great joy and fulfillment that comes from trusting in God and trying to live the vocation he calls us to. 

It is a joy and fulfillment that overcomes any bad days, any insecurities, any doubts, and any sin. It is a joy and fulfillment that moves one to return to the Lord to give thanks in prayer and at Mass. It is a joy and fulfillment that he desires for each and every one of you.

Published on April 30, 2024

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