Marinating in the Priesthood

Every 15th day of the month reminds me just how much God’s power and grace can be poured out in one single moment. 

Of course, God’s power and grace is always greater than what could ever be expressed, experienced, or revealed to mortal man, but on Saturday, April 15th, 2023, at 10:30am, this mortal man, Andrew Fritz, was configured to Christ as an ordained priest within the Congregation of Holy Cross: anointed with the Oil of Chrism, through the Laying on of Hands, and with the explicit directive to “receive the oblation of God’s holy people to be offered to God, understand what I do, imitate what I celebrate, and to conform my life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.” 

I do not think anyone can really prepare beforehand for all that that one single moment reveals of the ever-infinite grace and power of God. We do our best. Years of discernment and formation help. Prayer and attentiveness to the voice of Christ the Good Shepherd is essential. But I guess that is why, even after we do all of those things and offer the best of what we have to the Lord God, we still must live our lives as religious and priests: to understand more the mystery contained in our vocation and in our vows to conform ourselves radically to Jesus Christ. 

Neither can we completely and fully understand the grace and power of Christ that the people of God experience in and through our presence. Very recently, I received a call to go to Abrazo West Hospital near St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Goodyear, Arizona, to visit a man who was actively dying. I arrived in the ICU and was in the room, looking around for the family. The nurse came in to say that the family told her that “the priest could go ahead with the prayers.” So I kissed my stole, brought out the Oil of the Sick, and anointed this man, laid my hands on his head, and commended his soul to the Lord God, asking him to forgive all his sins, to release him from all punishments in this life and in the life to come, and for the Saints and Angels to come to his aid and welcome him into everlasting paradise. 

Every Tuesday and Saturday, I sit down in the Confessional and await person after person, each coming in feeling so sorry, beaten-down, broken, ashamed, lonely, or sad. And in the span of what seems to me like a matter of minutes, they then walk out, having received the grace that only a priest can give through Christ: “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Families eagerly wait with joy and expectation to hear the words of a priest baptizing their newborn into Christ’s death and Resurrection in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

I have also been with a man caring for his wife of nearly 50 years as she neared the end of her earthly life, offering her the sacred meal of the Eucharist: the same Eucharist she had always received throughout her lifetime, and which I offer every day at the altar. One moment among many in which Christ himself had given himself to her in his Body and Blood — yet now for perhaps the last time. 

So every 15th day of the month reminds me to thank God for my vocation and to do so with ever greater fidelity to receiving the oblation of God’s holy people, understanding what it is I do as a priest, imitating the mysteries I celebrate with Christ’s Church, and conforming my life to Jesus Christ in laying down a little more of my life for my flock than I did yesterday. It is like a good recipe for marinating my priesthood. The past few months have thrown together all sorts of sacramental experiences into the marinade of my soul, let’s say: visits to the sick, late-night calls to the emergency room for Last Rites, confessions, baptisms, Masses, marriages, and funerals. 

Hopefully, one day in the future the fruit of such experiences can be evident in the same way that a good steak is evident: by the time and marinade in which it must first sit and absorb. To give evidence of Christ who desires us to know, love, and serve, and conform ourselves to him, I must first invest in this “marinating” time of God’s grace and power. 

For me, that means the people of God get “poured out” into the chalice, placed on the paten, and raised up to the Father, in and through and with Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. In the process, my life bears witness to the mystery of Christ’s presence living within me, through a single moment in which I say the words only a priest can say. And God’s grace and power supply in abundance. 

Today, the 15th of September, we in Holy Cross turn to our Patroness and Mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, to teach us in the same way she taught her son Jesus how to give of ourselves completely to those to whom God has sent us — especially how we can offer meager moments so as to allow God to transform our “Yes” with the grace and power of Christ. It could be our own family, our current job, work, or studies. It could be friends who depend on us right now. It could be a neighbor or relative with whom the Lord is inviting us to finally engage after a particularly difficult season of life. 

Whatever the circumstance may be, your fidelity to the “Yes” you utter today may be the single moment that enables you to conform yourself more deeply to Christ, to understand the mystery you celebrate with the Church in the Eucharist, and to lay down your life for your friends and enemies. Our Blessed Lord himself told us there is no greater measure of love than doing exactly that. You might even find the Lord God pouring out grace in abundance today to carry out that mission.

Published on September 15, 2023

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