It’s a beautiful sight to see — hundreds of priests, happy and relaxed, laughing and just enjoying their time together. It is beautiful to see. And it can get pretty loud, too!
I had this wonderful experience Monday at the Cathedral, when the priests of the archdiocese gathered for our annual Presbyteral Day.
More than 600 of our priests joined us for this afternoon of casual fellowship and conversation, prayer and reflection.
For me, it was a happy day. A day to really celebrate our brotherhood and friendship as priests. As priests, we are not following the Lord by ourselves. Together with our brother priests, we are following Jesus in our ministries and serving the faithful — using all our gifts, all our different personalities, different ways of thinking and seeing things.
And throughout our time together, I saw so many signs of priestly joy!
The vocation of the priesthood is a calling to joy. Priestly joy doesn’t mean that priests don’t have challenges or experience setbacks and sufferings. Being a priest is a rich and demanding life that takes all the strength and commitment we can offer to God and to our people. And that’s what brings us joy.
The priesthood is a way of joy because we are walking with Jesus and walking with God’s people. We find our joy in the love that we know in our hearts and in sharing that love with our people.
Pope Francis has told us that priestly joy is a missionary joy.
“Priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy,” he says. “Our anointing is meant for anointing God’s holy and faithful people: for baptizing and confirming them, healing and sanctifying them, blessing, comforting and evangelizing them.”
This is a beautiful expression of what it means to be a priest. Because our ministry is so entwined with the lives of our people.
Our priests are a great gift and blessing in our lives! I hope all of you are in the habit of praying every day for our priests. It means so much. They deserve our prayers of gratitude and our expressions of support.
It’s not easy to become the “ideal” priest. But we are blessed to have so many good priests who are striving to grow in holiness and spending their lives in the service of the family of God here in Los Angeles. We are blessed to have so many living with simplicity of life and a missionary lifestyle. Striving to grow deeper in their devotion and personal relationship of prayer with our Lord.
When I pray for our priests in my daily prayers, I often think of those beautiful words that Saint Paul spoke to his churches, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
That’s a priest talking. Sometimes we forget that Saint Paul and the other apostles were priests before all else.
So we need to thank our priests for all that they give to us every day — teaching our children, caring for the sick and dying, reaching out to the needy, nourishing and healing us with the sacraments, and showing us all the mercy and love of Christ.
This month, for the first time, we are celebrating the feasts of our recently canonized popes — Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II.
We will celebrate Saint John XXIII’s feast this weekend, on Oct. 11, chosen because it is the anniversary of the day he opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962. Saint John Paul II’s feast is Oct. 22, the anniversary of the start of his pontificate.
Both of these new saints were good priests — pastors and servant-leaders who showed us by their teachings and their example how to find happiness and joy in opening our hearts to the will of God and the Holy Spirit.
So this week let’s keep praying for one another. Let’s keep praying for our priests and finding ways to show our gratitude by supporting them in their ministry.
And please keep Pope Francis and the bishops of the Synod on the Family in your prayers. The synod is about to enter its second and final week.
Let us pray that together with the Holy Spirit, the Church will find new ways to proclaim the Gospel of the family in our times. That our world may see the great gift of the family as a school of love and caring and humanity.
And let us entrust all our families to the maternal love of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Archbishop Gomez is the author of “Men of Brave Heart: The Virtue of Courage in the Priestly Life” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2009) and “Hombres de corazón valiente: La virtud de la fortaleza en la vida sacerdotal” (Spanish Edition).