By Father Corey Close
As Thanksgiving approaches, my sister-in-law suggested that I should write on the top 10 things, in no particular order, that I am thankful for as a newly ordained priest. Here is my list!
• Hearing confessions has definitely been one of the highlights of the past few months. It has been truly moving to hear people’s stories and confession of sins, people who come from all walks of life. I loved the sacrament from the “other side of the screen,” as it were, but I really have come to love it from this side as well and always look forward to it whether as a penitent or as a confessor. I always learn something new about myself and grow closer to God.
• Conferring the Eucharist has also been a life-changing experience. To say the prayers of the Mass, to feel them in your body and your spirit, and to be the instrument through whom God makes bread and wine into his body and blood is an inexpressible feeling. I have always loved to receive the Eucharist; now that it is me saying the Mass, it is difficult to describe the joy I feel.
• Praying with and for the people of God, specifically in the Liturgy of the Hours, has been moving as well. I used to pray Liturgy of the Hours in a more “individualistic’ sense,” even when I prayed it in a group. Now, as a priest, even though I usually pray by myself, I feel more aware of the needs of the Church.
My personal prayer has also been transformed by my ordination. It is difficult to put into words, but I suppose it is in many ways similar to the relationship between a man and a woman the day before and the day after they get married. The way I relate to the Lord now has changed in a most profound way.
• I’ve always loved to teach, and being able to do so as a priest has been remarkable. I’ve had the privilege of helping out kids as well as adults, and it has been a great joy for me to be able to pass on the faith to others in the role of a teacher, as Christ taught.
• Working for the Lord, while stressful at times, certainly makes the list. From the little things to the bigger things, it is tremendously comforting to know who you are doing the work for. You really have the best boss anyone could ask for.
• Priestly fraternity has been another thing I am very thankful for. Everyone knows what it is like to share your struggles with a good co-worker, and in many ways priestly fraternity is no different. It has given me insight and a deeper respect for priests than I had even in the seminary, and it has given me the support I’ve needed in these early months as a priest.
• Another blessing has been the way people interact with me. From parishioners who really do see me as “Father” and want my aid, to regular “bystanders” who don’t quite know how to deal with me once they’ve learned I’m a priest, it has been great fun seeing how people relate to the vocation of the priesthood.
• Being a priest in my family has been another great blessing. It is truly rewarding to be able to say Mass at home and be that presence of the priesthood in my own house.
• Blessing people after Mass has been another great privilege. I’ve been to many different parishes over the course of this summer and fall. It is a humbling feeling when people come up for a blessing after Mass.
• Finally, the support of the people of God makes my top 10 list; without them, it would be difficult for me to live out my vocation. The love, the support, the care and the concern that so many great lay people have for priests is very moving, especially after all the Church has been through the past few decades.
So thank you, all who have helped me, thank you all who have prayed for me, and thank you all who have supported me and will support me in my priesthood. You will certainly be blessed! Happy Thanksgiving!
(Fr. Corey Close was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Davenport in June. He expects to complete a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America during the 2012-13 academic year.)