Even as I pulled up the parish driveway earlier this evening for mass, I already began to wonder what was up.
Firstly, there was this HUGE banner (no, make that small billboard) with a man’s face plastered all over it, and the words: “Welcome, Fr. —-! From your parishioners.” The face and name unfamiliar to me, I thought, “Must be some convention or something, with this big shot special guest speaker-priest.” And it looked like a convention, too–with about triple the usual number of Thursday mass attendees (all of us 40 minutes early), and all of them in their Lector’s uniforms, and church organization shirts…what was going on?
Then this man in a “One in Faith and Service” shirt started gathering the people seated on the pews. “Let’s all go to the front steps to meet Father as he comes up for mass! He’s on his way right now!” And easily around 30-40 people are up on their feet, walking towards the main entrance of the church.
Oh, now I get it. We have a new parish priest. And this being his first mass here, all the church organizations were here to greet and welcome him.
Well, that’s nice 🙂
And as I barely catch a glimpse of a figure in white vestments walking towards the church, I hear the eruption of enthusiastic applause and…a marching band. Yup, a cymbals-clashing, trombone-hooting, snare-drumming marching band.
I have no words.
My parish, apparently, is the welcoming committee to end all welcoming committees.
After getting over the initial shock of hearing a band play to welcome a new parish priest, (and I’m sure Father had to get over his own shock as well), I decided that I appreciated the gesture. Let me rephrase that–it wasn’t just a gesture of welcoming, but the overall attitude of acceptance, of embracing this new, essential member of our family.
All the fanfare could have meant any one or all of the following:
It must have been hard to leave the parish you’ve been ministering to for the past 6 years.
It must be daunting to replace such a well-loved parish priest (who spearheaded the building of the church, the formation center, the crematorium as well as the adoration chapel).
Living away from your family must be a continuing sacrifice for you.
Is it ever hard at all to go, to stay, to leave, to obey?
And with all these frightening possibilities, I felt the whole parish greeting this new parish priest with warmth, with genuine affection, and even this early on, with gratitude–
Thank you for being our shepherd.
After a solemnly moving mass, Father gave a simple introduction to his person. At the end of his short speech, he summed up what he planned to do for the next 6 years of assignment in our parish in one sentence: “I am here to bring you closer to Jesus.”
If the band was there as a gesture of embrace, then I would be first to say, “Let the band play on!”
Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption here on earth…What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods…Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest and they will end by worshiping the beasts there..The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you. – St. Jean-Marie Vianney
Even if you and I may have a thing or two to say about this priest and that priest who, in our opinion, is less than ideal for the job, the fact remains that a supernatural grace has been bestowed upon them, imprinted on their heart and soul, never to be defiled nor removed, even in cases of discharge from the ministry (see CCC #1583). Rightly so, because indeed, what a great gift we have been given! A pastor, a shepherd, guiding us who are lost, feeding us who are hungry, and absolving us who have sinned.
A priest–whoever he may be–is always another Christ. – St. Josemaría Escrivá
As I made my way to the parking lot after mass, I heard the band strike up another round of brassy tunes. And then suddenly, jolting me yet again…