O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.
I am now one month back in active ministry. I cannot explain the depth of joy I feel when I am doing the Lord's work as a Catholic Priest. I still struggle with Church "issues" and personalities within the presbyterate. I have tried to mend any broken relationships with my brothers. Some have accepted my attempts at reconciliation. Some have not. I doubt that I will ever attain any remarkable level of sanctity. I hope to attain Heaven as the Blessed Mother, the Saints and many fine Catholic people continue to pray to Jesus for me. With the above disclaimers, I want to share something that "happened" to me and in me this past year.
Because I had been barred from Sacramental ministry for a year (until this October, 2009) I was totally lost. I felt that my world had fallen apart. My purpose here is not to defend myself or to cast blame. Our Good Lord knows enough blaming has already been cast. But my world had fallen apart:
I lost the right to function as a priest.
My salary was removed. I had to live off my retirement and loans.
I felt like I lost my reason for being.
Shamefully, I thought God had abandoned me (because I deserved it).
It was like a divorce and unemployment and homelessness all at once.
As a result, my faith was plummeting and I began a descent into depression that left me numb. The world seemed to be a grey and cold place. Life and nature seemed to mock my loneliness and despair. I was just barely hanging on to sanity and life itself because I had the responsibility of caring for my grandmother in her declining years. Indeed, I had entertained the thought that once she died I myself would stop living. I was not willing to define that term, but I was "open" to any solution. You can read between the lines.
There was one ray, one golden ray of light. I continued to pray the Rosary. It was the one portal of access to our Lord Jesus that was still open to me. I would pray the Rosary without consolation, but with the knowledge that Mary was holding my hand even as I was struggling to run away from God's Church. I would pray without intentions or pleas. I would mouth the words, hoping that they could be used for someone who needed the prayers for healing or salvation.
Our Lady would quiet my mind as a mother consoles her child when he/she is ill. For that short period of time I would be free from the torment of my exile. I can't say I felt peace or hope. What I felt was... companionship. She would listen to my Aves and remind me through the mysteries of the ever present Presence of Christ. She would remind me of the salvific nature of suffering. She would remind me of the mercy of God, especially when I was sure of His anger. And She would remind me of the eventual reward is ours when we persevere. She Who persevered is now Queen of Heaven.
Then, though I was not worthy, She sent a few very special people to pray for me and befriend me. And somehow, despite myself, the months passed and I persevered one moment at a time. And Glory to God, I did not loose my faith. I did not take my life. I did not leave the Church. I did not break my priestly vows. All this was due to that one impoverished daily attempt to "say" the Rosary.
Thank you Blessed Mother. Thank you, Jesus for Your Divine Mercy. Thank You, Holy Spirit for placing within my heart the inclination to reach for the Rosary. Thank You, Heavenly Father for your patience and for purifying my Priesthood.
The Rosary saved my life so God could restore my life and bless it abundantly.