Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My First Anniversary

On Sunday, July 21st, I celebrated my first anniversary of priestly ordination. Obviously, such an occasion brings opportunity for much reflection and thanksgiving. As is often the case on a priest's first anniversary, it occurred on a Sunday, and so it was special to spend the day with the people whom I serve, celebrating four Masses over the weekend at I.C. My parents, Robert and Evelyn, also joined me for a few hours and it was great to see and spend some time with them.

When asked if I have any advice on my first anniversary, I'm not sure that I do. It's been a year of many wonderful blessings, as well as a few challenges. I find myself recalling and praying again a prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas that I put on the back of my ordination holy card: Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, perseverance in faithfully waiting for you, and a confidence of finally embracing you. 

Sometimes folks ask me if priesthood is what I expected it to be, and I have to say yes, because my expectations were pretty straightforward. I expected to work hard and to be of service in all kinds of ways that I would not have imagined nor have felt prepared for in advance. And that has proved to be true! What I had not expected, and what I am very grateful for, is that the meaning and fulfillment that I have found in that service is greater than I could have imagined it would be, as is the outpouring of kindness and love from the faithful. As such, I'm very grateful for what God has given me this first year and what he has allowed me to give to others, despite my own faults and shortcomings. Please pray that I may be of faithful service for many more years to come!

Here are pictures of some of the highlights from my first year as a priest. It's not an exhaustive list, by any means.

The 2012 Class of the Pontifical North American College. (May 2012)

The Laying on of Hands during my ordination. (July 21, 2012)

Being vested in the stole and chasuble by Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert, my former pastor and the priest who baptized me.

After the ordination, with the seminarians from my home parish of Christ the King Church 
in Little Rock.

Before my first Mass, with concelebrating priests, at Christ the King. (July 22, 2012)

During my language study in Mexico, I had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. (September 2012)

Visiting the pyramids of Teotihuacan. (October 2012)

Sampling a local Mexican delicacy chapulines, grasshoppers grilled with spices and chili powder. (October 2012)

With my teacher Elvia on the last day of class. (October 2012)

The family at Thanksgiving (minus my brother, who's taking the picture).

Celebrating the wedding Mass of some dear friends in Baltimore. (December 2012)

Celebrating my first Easter Vigil, in Spanish nonetheless. (March 2013)

Celebrating with my brother his graduation from philosophy studies. (May 2012)

With my parents on my first anniversary.

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has chosen this week as Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, with this year's theme being "Pro-Woman, Pro-Man, Pro-Child: Natural Family Planning." This annual effort is a chance for Catholics (and all persons) to consider the positive benefits of NFP in comparison to the harmful effects of many contraceptives.

For those unfamiliar, the Catholic Church teaches that couples should plan their families naturally, whether they are seeking to achieve pregnancy or avoid it for the present. Artificial means of family planning, whether contraception or IVF, are morally wrong because they disrupt the natural and essential (and divinely given) bond between sexual intercourse and the possibility of new life. And that's not even to mention the extremely damaging side effects that many chemical and hormonal contraceptives can have on a woman's body and on the environment in general. Many persons from varying religions are finding that NFP is a safe, green, and extremely effective way of achieving or avoiding pregnancy. There are various methods and various groups which teach them, but the point of all of them is to observe and track the natural indicators of a woman's fertility. With advances in modern science, it's far removed from the old "rhythm method" -- and indeed, if practiced correctly, NFP is as effective if not more so than the most effective contraception. And perhaps best of all, many married couples are finding that the increased communication and (short) periods of abstinence that NFP entails strengthen their relationship, increase mutual cooperation, and enhance their own love for each other.

For more information, check out the USCCB's website for the week. There you can find some good articles, testimonials from couples who use NFP and their reasons why, as well as more on the reasons for the Church's teaching on family planning. If you're interested in learning NFP, check out this website. And if you want to learn more about why contraception is harmful, go here and here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

And We're Back!

It's been two and a half years since I let this blog lapse, and obviously a lot has happened in the meantime. Recently, our parish's Communications Director approached me and said, "Listen, we're thinking about having the pastor and you keep a blog..." And I said, "Hey, I know a little about those..."

So, rather than create something completely new, I thought it'd be wise to bring this baby back from the dead. I had to let it lapse for a variety of reasons, mostly time constraints, and for my old readers, much has changed in my personal life. I finished seminary and am now a priest for the Diocese of Little Rock, ordained last summer and currently assigned in Fort Smith, AR. I'm happy to be the parochial vicar (associate pastor) of Immaculate Conception Church as well as the administrator and chaplain of Trinity Junior High School.

For my new friends, note that this blog was originally started to keep friends and family up-to-date on my experiences while living and studying in Rome. Hopefully you'll agree that this brings a nice sense of continuity (albeit delayed and with lacunae) between time past and time present. Old friends can see what I'm up to now, and new friends can see some of what I used to do in seminary. And who knows? Maybe I can even find some time to fill in some of the gaps.

That's it for now. Time will tell what this space is used for, but certainly I welcome (as a high school teacher used to say) any "questions, comments, or cries of anguish." God bless!