A priest friend just celebrated the 25th year mark of his ordination, and when I say “celebrated,” I should elaborate: With more work, and no party — not even cake. Or at least, that would be his choice — perhaps his house of active contemplatives insisted upon at least a collective smile. He’s of Ukrainian descent and was of the Byzantine rite exclusively until recently, hence, it rained Hemingways (even when the sun was bright) for most of his life! Trust me, he makes similar dour-jokes at his own expense, or else I absolutely would not.
He is now learning the Roman rite of Mass, for his is a small but slowly-growing house of priests who offer Masses as well as Divine Liturgy in the community around them (along with retreats for priests). He has worked enormously hard in first his monastery as Abbot for many years, and almost as hard since then as an active contemplative these past few years.
He has been through half of hell. That goes without saying, doesn’t it? Who does hell go after harder than priests? The rest of us are small potatoes in comparison. He came close to dying and to losing part of his faith and his marbles. It set its sights on him long before his mop-up list, and then his (now bedrock) Marian devotion.
The “mop-up” list was gained by anyone who was facing death that day, soon (or ultimately) who seemed unlikely to convert his or her heart in time. His priestly intention at the offering was for these, even as Abbot. One can easily imagine hell’s ire at its coming losses. It was fierce — and sustained. Years.
I have made the mop-up list (at my request!), but I have made the other list, too, these dozen years. Somehow, somehow, we will always be friends. Always, as in now and forever and ever, right down to the soul. He gives me certain people to pray for, and even says “we” when speaking of the work of prayer! He was always much too busy for much communication which I always honored, and I understand at least somewhat that the quiet must only increase for a contemplative, but oh my gosh, I miss his hilarity and extremely kind counsel. And his book-writing.
Thankfully, some of these children of his (as I referred to the books) not only still can be found at publishing houses but have even made their way into China, translated by another who is passionate about this priest of God’s Passionate message.
This good priest was once a rock band musician (which now horrifies him), until that day when the scent of Florida’s orange blossoms held the whisper of a much different life.. The Lord works in mysterious ways, indeed!