I have found in my years as a priest that I am rarely alone when I travel. While I certainly experience the nearness of God and the Blessed Mother, here I’m talking about something other than spiritual companionship. There is always someone who greets me with a “Hi, Father!” or, if they are Catholic (and see the chain of my pectoral cross) “Hi, Bishop!” That’s quite comforting for me in these days when it seems that there is much antipathy for the Church and Her ministers.
A short time ago, I was out to dinner with some of the Franciscan seminarians from my Province and their priest Director. A good friend of mine noticed us and sent over a bottle of wine for us to enjoy. Often I encounter people in the Diocese—people whom I have never formally met—just stop by to say: “Hello” or ask for prayers. They tell me a little about their lives and what their prayer intentions might be. Sometimes we stop and pray right then and there.
Recently, on my Confirmation tour, I was having breakfast in a restaurant and a man came up, asked if I was a priest, and asked if I would mind answering some questions. I responded positively and invited him to join me. He proceeded to ask questions of such depth and wisdom that I was analyzing my answers just to make sure I was not getting in “too deep.” We had a good discussion concerning prayer and the formation of a good spiritual life. It was clear that he was well read and was interested in the Catholic point of view even though I don’t believe he was Catholic himself. We talked about saints—some of my favorites, St. Francis, St. Ignatius, St. Teresa of Avila, and several others. He enjoyed a peanut butter and banana sandwich with some granola and I had some French toast strips with bacon. I had to laugh at the ascetical “style” of our breakfasts.
I never know how God is going to manifest Himself in my life on any given day; I guess none of us ever does. People recognize a Roman collar and figure they can talk to a priest about almost anything at any time. It is important for all of us to take each opportunity to speak about our Faith and our own spiritual lives. One never knows when one may be called upon to speak simply and from the heart about our hope in Jesus Christ and our faith in His presence in our lives.
Many times, we are far too cautious about avoiding any discussions about religion or faith; but sometimes the “right situation” just presents itself and the Spirit of God may be calling on us to witness.
I continue to urge you to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Be an informed and educated Catholic. Take time—MAKE time—to pray. Stay in contact with Christ. You don’t have to talk like a scholar or some academic when asked about your faith. You just need to talk like a believer—from your heart. Leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit.
We are still filled with Easter joy and enthusiasm and we are moving closer to the activation of that joy through the Gifts of Pentecost. I like to read the Epistles of Saint Peter. They give the Church so much hope and always remind us of our firm belief in Jesus Christ. Simply consider:
…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence… (1 Pt. 3:15)
I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.