He showed up at the appointed time (and we showed up 15 minutes before the appointed time) dressed in "regular" clothes. Khakis and a blue shirt.
The boys, in turn, posed the questions provided in the book...
What was meaningful to him about the Sacrament of Holy Orders? First, he clarified that it wasn't a past tense kind of thing, that he continues to live the sacrament. But then he spoke about the day of his ordination, all those many years ago. About being prostrate on the floor of the church during the Litany of the Saints while the entire Church (those present, those in Heaven, the whole Mystical Body) prays for you! The tender affection of Imposition of Hands, first by the Bishop and then by every priest in attendance. The Sign of Peace, a fraternal greeting by every priest present. And finally, saying the words of Consecration for the very first time.
Why does he feel called to be a priest? He doesn't, he said. He trusts that God has called him, but he doesn't feel it. He trusts because of "the data"; because everything in his life points to the fact that it works. Does he get tired or frustrated? Sometimes. But over all, he is happy and fulfilled in his life as a priest.
How does he help the Church as a priest? The Church helps him, he says. Yes, he baptizes, confirms, absolves, anoints, witnesses marriages, counsels, teaches, feeds with the Eucharist. But the Church helps him to become a better man of God. It is not a job, but a life. We point others to Christ, in a mutual kind of way.
How has Holy Orders helped you to grow in and witness Christ's love to others? He is able to bring to people what others can not. People open their souls to him as a minister of the Lord's mercy. (And he has the gift of forgetting what people tell him in that sacrament) He is part of people's lives at privileged times (weddings, funerals, deaths, reconciliation). 'With all due respect, would you go to confession to your mom?? But you come to me.'
How does the Sacrament of Holy Orders help you live out your Christian commitment to our community? Holy Orders takes what began at Baptism (the priesthood of Christ that we are all part of) and fulfills that grace. He feeds us so we can go out and feed others. He shared with us the prayer that he prays each and every time that he elevates the Host at the consecration: Help me to love You ever deeper, and through the intercession of Your Mother (and mine), create in me a clean heart and a steadfast Spirit. And after Communion, he prays, Lord, take my hands, my feet, my heart, my mind...
After the required questions were out of the way, and because he didn't seem in a hurry to go, we asked others. Those questions you've always wanted to ask a priest....
Is Anointing of the Sick a 'straight shot to heaven'? Sometimes. There is an Apostolic Blessing that is given when death is imminent that pardons/absolves all remaining temporal punishment (what Purgatory does). His mother recently passed away, after lingering for about a month. He said that she received that Blessing three times. I surely hope that's available to me when it's my time to go!
When priests go on vacation, do they sit in the pews like regular people? Most of the time, yes, and he related a couple of experiences he has had while on vacation.
Why was Jesus, who had no original sin, baptized? In solidarity with us. Jesus took on our sins and failures. The innocent, standing in for the guilty; the Suffering Servant.
If you're in a hotel room on a Sunday, can you say your own Mass? Can and have! Do you say it out loud or in your head? In a quiet voice. No homily? Just a quiet time to reflect after the readings. How long does it take? About 15 minutes, depending on how much quiet time after the readings. The dialogues with the people (Peace be with you, etc) are skipped. What do you wear? An alb and a stole.
I had told him it would take about 30 minutes, but he stuck with us for more than an hour, sharing some of what makes up his life. We are so blessed to have him. Often, in our Rosary group, we pray for our priests - those from the past, the present, and the future. Thank you God, for our priests. Keep them close to you.