The Gift of Friendship
We were very blessed last weekend to celebrate the ordination of Fr. Michael Holmquist. The Diocese of Colorado Springs is in great need of more good and holy priests, and we are grateful for him.
The ordination took place on the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, who came not to be the Messiah but to point the way to the Messiah. Bishop Sheridan did a fantastic job of pointing that out in his homily. He tied it in very accurately to the life of the priest. Like John the Baptist, priests need to remember that we are not the Messiah but are called to help others find and develop a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus. This is a very important point because priests, at times, do tend to struggle with a little bit of a Messiah complex!
For priests to minister effectively, a friendship with Jesus is essential. It must be, in fact, at the core of one’s spiritual life. Friendship with Jesus is realized in prayer, in spiritual reading, in the Sacraments, and most profoundly in the Mass. But friendship with Jesus is also realized in relationships with other people. Priests, especially diocesan priests, need friends, both clerical and lay.
Pope Francis gave a wonderful reflection on this last week in Rome. Addressing lay men and women from Serra International, (I am blessed to be the local Serra Chaplain) the pope said we become friends only if “our encounter with another person is more than something outward or formal.” True friendship involves “sharing in the life of another person, an experience of compassion, a relationship that involves giving ourselves for others.”
This quote really speaks to me. I have a lot of people with whom I interact on a daily basis, but as the pope referenced, many of these relationships, while pleasant, are rather formal. Finding that deeper level of friendship is very difficult, especially in the midst of the busy schedules of so many. Cultivating deeper friendships with others requires time and effort. Frankly in our culture of self importance and constant schedules, it’s an effort that few are willing to make.
But we have to make time. Diocesan priests should not live in isolation. We are not hermits. Yet so many priests have a difficult time making time for others, and especially making time for one another. Thank you to those of you who take the time to get to know your priests. On behalf of my brothers, I thank you. Your friendship nourishes us. Today and every day, I give thanks for those who are friends to me. It’s essential to effective ministry and authentic friendship with Jesus. Leading others to the Lord is impossible without it.