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"God became poor. ... God made Himself dependent, in need of human love, He put Himself in the position of asking for human love - our love." These words of Pope Benedict XVI in his Midnight Mass homily are a firm reminder that if God has done these things, then so must we. Like all the rest, we priests are called to make ourselves dependent, to recognize our need for human love and to ask for it in a way that coincides with our call to celibacy.
So I spent a few days at the National Catholic Youth Conference this past weekend. There were around 23,000 young Catholics gathered together to celebrate their faith, which made the closing Mass at Lucas Oil Stadium an amazing experience.
On Saturday afternoon, I was walking through the convention center and a seminarian asked if I would hear confessions for a little while. A little while turned into an hour and a half and at a certain point I had to stand up and stretch my legs. I walked out into the hallway for a break only to see a mob of sinners: a mob of hundreds, waiting in line for confession. It was a beautiful sight! I was told that nearly 6,000 people took advantage of the Sacrament that day.
I happened to be thumbing through my hot-off-the-press Roman Missal today and I came across this Collect (opening prayer) for Priests with the care of souls:
O God, who have willed that I preside over your family not by any merit of mine but out of the abundance of your untold grace alone, grant that I may carry out worthily the ministry of the priestly office and, under your governance in all things, may direct the people entrusted to my care.
A week ago in the Office of Readings St. Gregory the Great really rattled my cage in his request for prayers for priests: "Pray for us (priests) so that we may have the strength to work on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, and that after we have accepted the office of preaching, our silence may not condemn us before the just judge."
This cry for prayers resonated within my own begging of late. Maybe it's dangerous to reveal the content of my personal prayer life in cyberspace, but I have discovered within myself over the past several months a desire to be a better father. It is interesting to me that when I was in seminary this was the thing that I thought I would miss the most: to have a wife and children. But in my 6+ years of priesthood, I have come to see that being a father is more than just being called by that name, but it is a way of living and a way of tending to the needs of others.
About every 3 or 4 months I have to be reminded in a kind and charitable way that I have seriously neglected my blog. It's not that nothing of significance is happening, but quite the opposite. So much is happening that it's hard to make the time to post it.
The article below appeared in the June 17, 2011 issue of The Message. To view more Message articles go to www.themessageonline.org.
By Fr. Alex Zenthoefer
As the Church launches us out of the season of Easter, with the burning scent of Pentecost still fresh in the air, what does it mean for us today? The resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit are for us in Southern Indiana today, as much as they were for the Apostles in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.
I have to admit that I am a sucker for super hero movies. It's really not my fault...I am a product of a childhood loaded with G.I. Joe, Transformers, Superman, Space Ghost and the oft-forgotten Captain Caveman.
After taking in Thor and X-Men First Class in the past few weeks, I have come to realize just how much the "super" mentality has pervaded my generation. As I told our graduating Seniors at our Baccalaureate Mass a few weeks ago, at a certain point every super hero movie says to us, "You are not enough." No matter how smart we are or how talented we might be, unless we have a magic hammer or a mutant gene, we are not enough.
The next few days are some of the most beautiful in the Church year. As I think of the past five and half years of priesthood, I can see a little of each of these days reflected in the ministry I have been a part of.
Tonight, on Holy Thursday, we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. Through the liturgy these gifts are placed within the context of the washing of the feet. It's a reminder that these gifts are mean to be used for the service of others. It brings back vivid memories of placing the Eucharist in hands, some wrinkled and some scuffed and some fresh, but all waiting to receive the presence of Christ. I think of mouths wide open waiting for Him to "come under their roof", hungering for hope and salvation. It is to the poor in spirit and in flesh that I have had the privilege of bringing the gift of God.
Recently, the Pope was speaking about Lent and he said that it is a time "to abandon the old man who is in us and clothe ourselves in Christ." It's an interesting image...nothing against old men, but the Holy Father seems to be suggesting that there is within us something that refuses to move, something stubborn and stuck in its ways. And Lent is a time to wake this guy up.
Bartimaeus showed up in the gospel today. He is a blind man, sitting by the side of the road, begging. That's what he does...he begs. There's really no telling how long he's been there (a few hours, a month, years) or how much success he's been having, but when Jesus appears something happens. He begs even more, with greater intensity.