6.22.2010

A Priest Groupie

Sunday was a bittersweet day.  Not because it was Fathers' Day (that part of the day actually turned out better than I thought), but rather because it was a day to say good-bye.  Our Priest, who I love, retires tomorrow and Sunday was the last Mass he would celebrate at our parish.  He is from the southern part of WV and will be moving back.

I know now that it's not the Priest that we go to church for, it is to worship God and receive Him through Eucharist, but 2 years ago I was very concerned with who the new Priest at my home parish was when we moved back to Morgantown.  I even put off going to Mass for 3 weeks because I was afraid I wouldn't like the Priest and would 'have' to find a new Parish.

As The Man and I walked into the church on Sunday, my heart was heavy and I was nervous.  I have been through Priest changes before, but I never understood why people cried when a Priest left.  I understand now.  As Father Leon finished his homily, he first apologized if he had in any way failed any of us (yep, the tears were started), but it was what came next that truly touched my heart.  He reminded us, that for any of us who he had ministered to and helped, that it was not really him, but rather God who had helped us.  He couldn't be more right.  I have no doubt in my mind or heart that God placed Father Leon in my life.  It's no secret that my knowledge of Catholicism is still limited, but it is much less limited thanks to Father Leon.  Not only because of what he taught, but the way he taught it.

My friend Kate is a theology grad student and she once said that Father Leon didn't challenge her enough.  I very much see her point, I see how if I was feeling challenged and growing from what Father Leon taught, how someone with a background in Catholicism may not feel challenged by him.  Even The Man has said at times (after I've gone on and on about how a Homily made something clearer) that he didn't really learn anything new.  (The Man went through RCIA 8 years ago.)  Had Father Leon challenged them, I would have been lost.  I very well may have walked away from the Catholic Church to another religion because my (wrong) impressions would have been perpetuated.
This Sunday, we will meet our new Priest and I am looking forward to it.  And I don't think I'd be able to say that if Father Leon had not been a part of my life.  So, while I will resist the urge to become a "Father Leon Groupie" and following him all over the state to where he is filling in, I will forever be grateful for the gift that he is in my life.  It is just one more very clear example to me of how God truly does go before us.  Always.

10 comments:

  1. Here's hoping you get another good one! Last Friday one of our priests said he was taking 3 weeks off, pretty much to decide if he wanted to stay here. Apparently when he came, the parish didn't even receive him. He feels very much unwanted here. I felt sooo ashamed, because I was one of the ones who left because I couldn't understand him (he's from Africa). It wasn't because of where he came from, I wasn't getting anything out of Mass at that parish. The other priest is a whole other issue. (I really think he has some autistic-like characteristics.) Anyway, I have come to really love the African priest this summer through going to daily mass. It stinks to know that he may not stay. :(

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  2. It sounds like you got to honor a spiritual father on Father's Day! :)

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  3. Oh, this is so beautiful! I love when our priests are honored and beloved. Fr. Leon sounds like a gem and a true man of God!

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  4. I almost cried when one of our priests left this Sunday, and I didn't even know the man! (We just moved to this parish.) The best part was when he thanked his parents at the very end. If that doesn't make you hope one of your children have a religious vocation, I don't know what can.

    And CM is right on!

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  5. This is beautiful. I have a "favorite" priest. I couldn't really follow him around because he was moved too far away, but every so often if I am down visiting my Aunt Bea, I might drive 20 miles south of there to attend Mass at his parish. It's such a blessing when a priest touches your heart with his ability to preach the gospel in a way that you understand and cling to.

    We also are losing our priest to retirement. A new priest can be a little nerve-wracking -- at least when you have your children in that parish's school - for the very reason it has been an orthodox parish/school...and you wonder if the new priest will continue to push to stay true to Catholic teaching.

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  6. It's a difficult thing to watch those who touch us and help us grow, leave us. Or to have to leave them. I hope that your next priest can help bridge the next step in your life with regard to Catholicism. :)

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  7. We, too loved Fr. Leon. He was the one who married us and I still compare weekend homily's to the ones that Fr. Leon gave. He was a very easy priest to listen to and also taught me a lot. Glad you were able to be there and celebrate his last mass as the pastor.

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  8. I think God sends what we need. I cried when our last priest left. He helped me through a difficult situation that I found myself in. And I still visit him a couple of times a year. But I also love my new pastor. He started Bible studies for adults and I have learned SO much. He is a wonderful confessor. His homilies are great. His gifts are different than those of our last pastor, but equally valuable. Prayers for the "right" priest for your parish.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this. I hate to shamelessly promote my blog in this fashion but I wrote a post on this subject...kind of...and it's here at this link.

    http://tinyurl.com/2a7ftwd

    Since that time, I have been blessed with a spiritual director who is a Dominican priest and will probably only be in our area for another year. Of course I hope that it will be longer, but realistically, it won't be. It crushes me a little bit, but that is how it should be. The Lord does not want us to get overly attached to his precious servants here on earth...as much as I truly love them all. There are gifts in each part of the process, even the pain that ensues with transition.

    Now, to talk him into using Skype...lol

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  10. To be fair, I always liked Fr. Leon's homilies - I thought he gave really good insights about the readings, etc... When I said they weren't "challenging" I meant that they did not compel me to act! Intellectually, they were very good!

    Fr. Mark's homily on excuse-making - now that was "challenging"!

    I will definitely miss Fr. Leon. He really was a great pastor!

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