Priests of Jesus

This week that just passed, I had the privilege of giving the Spring retreat to the bishop and priests of the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese. It was surreal.

Tallahassee is where I had a life-changing encounter with Christ in 1987, and, after dabbling with Evangelical Protestantism for a time, the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More become my ‘home’ where I rediscovered my Catholic faith in a whole new way.

Tallahassee is where I met my wife in 1988, where I fell in love with her in 1994, proposed to her, married her, and where all our children were born. It’s also where I forged some of the most important friendships of my life. And some of the priests at that retreat were an intimate part of all of those stories, from the very beginning. Patti and I have such love for many of these men, and they have shown the same love toward me and my family over these years.

Tallahassee is forever our true spiritual home.

Hence, with all that in mind, you can imagine what an experience those retreat days were for me! I could never do justice in words to the overflowing amazement and gratitude deep within me each day as these men sat and listened to me speak. To ME! Ridiculous.

And then there was this — 35 years after seeking guidance in my freshly Jesus-bewildered state back in 1987, the very priest who helped me sort out my cognitive dissonance sat right there, in front of me, listening to me deliver the retreat conferences.

The absolute and utterly absurd wonder of Providence.

Often when I teach, give retreats or public lectures on the faith, I have very distinctive and sometimes forceful internal experiences of God’s grace at work through me both as I prepare and as I deliver my material. And most times, that awareness is very specific to the event.

Whenever I finish up a gig, I always open my journal and try to give that unique “through me” grace a descriptive name to better grasp what it is I think God is using me for. Who knows if I’m ever on target? And as years pass on, I become more aware that the greater part of divine action and its meaning is forever infinitely beyond my reach.

But this time, my sense of grace was starkly vivid and forceful. From start to finish. I didn’t need time to reflect on its name, I just knew. It was Mark 10:21: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Oh how the Lord loves his brother-priests! Loves his friends (Jn. 15:15) whom he calls to share intimately in his work of washing the feet of his People.

As I spoke to these priests, I knew, he loved them. Some nights I couldn’t even sleep because of it, in a good way.

At the very end of the retreat, the Bishop asked all of his brother priests to join in blessing me. I knelt down in the midst of them and Bishop led them in the prayer of blessing. It was indescribable. I was overflowing, and my long drive home seemed effortless.

Thank you, our priests! What gifts you give us when you allow the Master to love you well, and then let him love us through you.

On the third day of the retreat, I decided to show them a video clip from The Chosen. Though I did not mention to them the intuition I have described here, this scene ably captured for me the texture and color of the love I felt in me at work toward them.
So I share it here.

Pray for your priests, bearers of heaven’s Treasures in earthen vessels. And be grateful.

Click here to view the clip.

6 comments on “Priests of Jesus

  1. LP says:

    Father Tom, what an honour, blessing and privilege for you AND those who attended the retreat. I thought of the Last Supper and the communion of Jesus with his apostles, a sharing, a union, an eternal and sacred bond… I feel so blessed to read of your heaven-sent experience in your Sacred Zion.

    Next Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, we will pray for our priests and give funds for priestly training. How much we rely on their ministry, and how often we take it for granted. I have taken your last line and added to our parish newsletter, as always giving you full credit. Those words need to be shared and prayed with. Thank you.

    • LP, I am always grateful for your heartfelt and beautiful comments, and your willingness to not only read here but share things you find useful with others. God bless you abundantly this holy Easter season

  2. Jennifer says:

    How Jesus is working through you, loving through you, answering your prayers in ways you never could have imagined. Praise God! What a beautiful homecoming and outpouring of graces. Incredible to be tending to those pastors who first tended to you.

    Thanking God for our priests. As I read this, the priests who have been seminal in my life have paraded through my mind’s eye and I am grateful for this prompting to hold each of them in prayer this day.

  3. Pat Beckett says:

    Ih Tom, how i remember those days. I can imagine your feelings and so many priests began their ministry there with Monsignor Kerr as pastor. Many beautiful memories. Where we too began our spiritual journey after a Marriage Encounter weekend in 1979.

    • 79 was the year that Patti got involved with Monsignor Kerr and father Pete Wood At St. Thomas more. Incredible! Y’all have such a beautiful and deep history in that area and I loved by many of these priests. Especially the saint of good shepherd! 🙂

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