This flower is surviving the chill of mid winter near the cathedral wall.
Last night someone asked me why I do what do. They asked me why I was a priest. I was tired and aware that my answer meant a lot to this person in this moment and I needed to search my soul fast for an answer that was one of integrity and truth. It was not a question I had been asked for a few months, nor one I had pondered often. The choice felt forced at times.
I could have woven a stunning speech on the mystery of the sacraments but that just made me snicker to ponder. I could have waxed poetic about magic hands or transcendence or God’s mysterious callings – all of which I subscribe to as an act of obedience even if my assurances of absolute truth sputter like a television signal in an American typhoon. I could have changed the subject and begun some academic lecture about ontology but I am unqualified for that; and though they would never known the difference, I would still have to live with myself when I remembered it in the morning while staring at my face as I shaved and then I would feel sick and then miss my breakfast and – well, I love breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the day – so who wants to miss their McDonald’s Sausage and Egg Breakfast Biscuit just for an unnecessary lie when there seem to be so many necessary ones in the church today?
So I summoned up my courage, said a quick prayer and assumed that when I opened my mouth, God would either lend a hand or have to put up with the results of not doing so. My experience is that God will sigh, shrug and help – rather than being, yet again, unnecessarily embarrassed when there are so many necessary embarrassments in the church for God. My wager paid off and what emerged felt true, kind and seemed to improve on the silence.
The sign outside my farmhouse door, which sets the stage for friend’s experience in my home, sets the stage and says “Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it Kind? Does it improve on the Silence?”
My answer was true. It was kind. It improved on the silence, if only a little.
I said “People are scared. People are hurt. People are confused. Many are lost. I am a priest because we need kind priests who love the marvelous, fragile, strong, resilient, hopeful people of God. And most days, I can be one of those helpers. Jesus is a shepherd. I can manage being a sheepdog. Most days.”
Our greatest failure, it seems to me, is our failure to see how fragile and how strong we are.