Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a priest. Growing up in a Catholic Family, it was not a choice whether or not we attended Church; regardless of our age, we went to Church as a family. I remember in third grade at St. Mary Catholic School in Orange, Texas being asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. My response: THE POPE! HA! I doubt that will ever happen -- well, it won't happen at all.
I took many courses in Seminary; all THEOlogy courses, i.e., STUDIES OF GOD! Never once did I take a course in BUSINESS, PSYCHOLOGY, ACCOUNTING, PLUMBING, MAINTENANCE, EVENT PLANNING, FUNDRAISING, or EDUCATIONAL MANAGEMENT/EDUCATION. However, for the past five years I have served as Pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church in Richmond, Kentucky. Never in my life have I felt called to be a "Pastor" of a parish. This may sound odd, especially for a Diocesan Priest, but I have always felt that my strongest gifts lie in Preaching and Presiding, not administrating and fixing of which much of my time is consumed.
And so, when Bishop Gainer asked me to serve as Pastor of St. Mark, I couldn't figure out what I had done to upset the Bishop so -- especially when I had just handled a majority of aspects with his Episcopal Ordination and Installation, assisted him and his family during their transition from Allentown to Lexington and tried to introduce him to a variety of people in Kentucky and the Southern Hospitality, for which we are known.
However, I decided to give it a try! I remember my first homily with my new parish family: I literally was shaking behind the pulpit as my voice trembled. I can recall sharing these words: "If I succeed as your Pastor, GOD is with me. And should I fail at being your Pastor, GOD is with me."
God IS always with US -- but what we must challenge ourselves is to answer the question: are WE always united with GOD? Even in our most difficult times, we must always remember that GOD never abandons his own -- even when we are down and out.
For the past weeks, I have been dealing with issue after issue that come with being a Pastor of a Parish that is growing, struggling and trying to do the work of GOD. It is frustrating at times, when the "two steps forward" seem to be followed by "eight steps back."
Whether you a Protestant Pastor, a Jewish Rabbi, Catholic Priest or an Administrator of a Corporation, you understand the frustrations that I am speaking and writing of. If you are a PARENT, you probably deal with this more than I.
The important aspect to realize, especially when one struggles, is that no one is alone. That someone, somewhere, recognizes your difficulties and is able to at least offer some insight, some comfort, some words of advice or yes, even a good kick in the butt.
Today, I have decided to do just that: to ASK, to SEEK and to KNOCK at 2513 Fairway Drive in Orange, Texas. That's right; today I did something that I haven't really done in a long time: I took time for ME, for JIMMY! Through the great friendships that I have built with those in the airline industry, I got myself a buddy pass and flew down to Texas for the evening, to be with my 80-year-old mom. To seek out her love, her care, to listen to her words and to receive her maternal correction and "peace of mind" for which she is famously known.
The greatest lesson I learned this past week is that as Pastor, I am not perfect, nor am I God -- but that I am called by God to do only one thing well and that is to do my best in imitating the ONE who God put before each of us: JESUS. And when I slip and fall, when I get others upset and when I make decisions that are not pleasing to others, to realize that in the end it is not about me, but something much larger.
Well, I would continue, but I am sure you know what time it is.....JIMMY TIME? Nope, actually it’s time for me to take my MOM out to LUNCH and remind her how special she is to have put up with a son like me!