Today is June 30th and the Memorial of the First Roman Martyrs. While this memorial is an optional memorial, for the last seven years, it has held a particular significance for me. Before I get into why this memorial is personally significant to me, let say a few words about the First Roman Martyrs.
In 64 AD, much of the city of Rome burned in a fire. The emperor blamed the Christians and had many of them killed. These Christians became the First Roman Martyrs. The evidence now shows that the emperor actually had part of his own palace set on fire to make room to build a much bigger palace. It was when that fire got out of control that much of the city burned. The Christians became a scapegoat for the emperor. Those Christians could have abandoned their faith or gone into exile. They did not. They had fast to their faith, our faith. For this they were executed. They are an incredible example of faith for us.
Now, as why this memorial is personally significant to me, seven years ago today I was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester. I remember when the date for the ordination was given to me I went and looked at the liturgical calendar and I wondered what significance lied in the date being the Memorial of the First Roman Martyrs. To add to this, after I was ordained, I felt that every time I turned around I was celebrating daily Mass for various martyrs.
When I was ordained, I pledged my life in service to God. In promising to remain celibate, I was freely given up married life as a sacrifice to be more available to the people I serve. The martyrs literally gave their lives for Christ. I try to live priesthood in service and giving of myself for others.
It hasn’t always been easy. For instance I don’t like change but seven years have brought a lot of change. I have served in two different parishes with four different pastors before coming to Immaculate as my third assignment and becoming pastor myself. I knew the first year at Immaculate would be a time of transition for me in getting to know the parish and in becoming a pastor. Well, I’ve just completed my second year as pastor, and I think I can say the second year was more challenging than the first. The Pastoral Associate and Principal both retired so we hired new people in these positions. That’s been a challenge but they are both doing a great job. We also got a new bishop. In January, our Finance Director departed and we have been looking for a new one ever since. We manage here because of a dedicated staff and some great volunteers who all retired with backgrounds in business. Last month our Cemetery Caretaker resigned and we just hired a new person there. So far so good.
There have been other changes with a new secretary and changes at the school. Collections are down. I work hard to minister and proclaim the Truth. Without a doubt, it hasn’t been easy. I thank the staff and volunteers who have all been a vital part of life at Immaculate. (I used to try to blog at least once a week but except for posting my Sunday homilies I haven’t even close to it with all that has been going on.)
In the midst of this, I have to admit finding time to pray hasn’t been easy. Even when I do pray, it can be hard to pray well. Yet, the one thing I can say for certain is that God has been present and a vital part of my life, ministry, and parish. How do I know this? Because there is no way things could be going as well as there are if God wasn’t helping out. Thanks be to God.