When I was young, I remember the Lenten practices that were observed in the family like fasting and abstinence, more prayers, reading the bible and confession. Much of this was due to our parish priest who was good in catechising us about Church practices and doctrines. He belonged to the religious Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was without an assistant priest but really did his ministry very well. I saw him as a zealous pastor who was busy guiding and working with the people in the parish of St. Joseph.
St Joseph’s parish is located on an island in the Philippines and is composed of more than 15 villages. We were blessed to have such a parish priest: he was so active, did catechesis and implemented many initiatives, liturgy upon liturgy. His schedule in a month ensured that he visited and celebrated Mass in each village on the island. People knew him and he knew them.
On the big occasions and feasts of the Church, the priest was able to gather people from all the villages – that made us feel united at each Church celebration. As he was so active in his ministry, we too were inspired to actively participate in many Church activities. The Church was always full at any Sunday Masses – even at the everyday Masses, many people were present, some praying and offering their morning praise. I remember hearing them chanting the psalms and canticles and I can still recall the tune of it because my parents were part of that group of worshippers. The Church gained a lot of volunteers in all different kinds of ministry. The parish priest’s pastoral approach was so effective that many people were drawn to the Church. Today, as was the case then, we need to pray not only for active and zealous priests but also holy priests who are approachable, provide guidance to the people, and give spiritual instruction.
In the next few days, Holy Week will be upon us – it is one of the busiest times in the Church. In the Philippines, Holy Week occurs during the summer. In St Joseph’s parish, this would be the time when the people working outside the island would come back home to the island. Part of their holiday time would be spent attending the various Holy Week celebrations. Aside from Christmas, this period also provided the occasion for reunions, gatherings, meeting old friends and families who were being united in the banquet of the Lord because they would never fail, disregard or forget to visit the Church and attend the Masses.
Recalling these past experiences gives me joy, especially during the holy busy days of Holy Week which are intensely dedicated for the Lord. I thank God for that parish priest’s love, commitment, and dedication to his ministry – he did so much for St Joseph’s parish. He was always busy doing the Lord’s business. Even with the parish’s imperfections, its many ups and downs, I know that our parish priest always aimed for the better for all God’s people.
The following is an excerpt from Fr Michel Quoist’s The Priest: A Prayer On A Sunday Night:
Here I am Lord,
Here is my body,
Grant that I may be
big enough to reach the world,
Strong enough to carry it.
Pure enough to embrace it
without wanting to keep it.
Grant that I may be a meeting-place,
but a temporary one,
A road that does not end in itself,
because everything to be gathered there,
everything human, must be led to You.
Read the full text at turnbacktogod.com/the-priest-a-prayer-on-a-sunday-night