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home : features : people of faith

9/22/2016 9:00:00 AM
SEMINARIAN'S DIARY
Responsibility? Bring it on!
BY ZACHARIAH CHICHESTER


(Editor's note: With this column, Zachariah Chichester joins the writers of the "Seminarian's Diary" column. Mr. Chichester, a native of Massachusetts, is studying for the priesthood for the Albany Diocese at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois.)

In 2009, the band MxPx released a song called "Responsibility." They asked, "Responsibility? What's that?" They immediately followed up with, "Responsibility, not quite yet."

From the second line, we can infer that, even if they don't know the pat definition of responsibility, they have an understanding of it -- and they don't want it.

They know that responsibility will require them to bear a new weight in their lives which, if they commit to bearing it, demands that they change their lives forever. They will have to "grow up" and assume the role of caring for people other than themselves: wives, children, extended family, parents, employees -- the list goes on.

Sometimes, responsibility is thrust upon us, and we accept it grudgingly. But, most often, we are presented with a free choice to which we can answer, "Yes," "No," or, "Just a little, please."

With our answer, we learn the hidden weight of responsibility: living with the decisions we have made. It seems there is a twofold motion of the heart: first, an anticipatory motion before the taking on of responsibility; second, accepting the weight of responsibility in everyday life.

As I begin my third year of theology and look back over my journey, I see these motions in my own heart.

Only three years ago, I said, "Yes, Lord, here I am," like Samuel in the temple. Back then, I had only the smallest glimpse of what priesthood was and what it might be like. For the old me, priesthood was being called to service of God's people, but I didn't know what that concretely meant. It was a calling to sacrifice my life for others, but I did not know the shape or form of what ordinary, daily sacrifice looked like.

It meant giving over loves and hopes and dreams so that everyone I encounter would be my son or daughter, but I didn't know how many tears of sorrow and joy would have to be shed in the giving over and the taking up.

It was leading others into a deeper relationship of love with Jesus Christ, but I didn't know how hard and how easy that would be.

In these ways and others, I had an anticipatory idea of what the weight of responsibility would be when I said, "Yes."

Durning the last three years of ministry, I have visited the sick and dying, served at Masses, preached a little, catechized children, buried the dead, led people in prayer, proclaimed the Word of God, comforted the sorrowful, celebrated with the joyful, participated in the normal behind-the-scenes running of parishes, studied and prayed. By doing so, I have come to taste, see and know in a deeper and more profound way what all these anticipatory ideas look like and feel like when lived out in the life of a priest.

For this reason, the weight of responsibility of being called to be a pastor of souls grows more pressing for me each day. Indeed, the very first question posed to a man on his ordination day is, "Are you resolved, with the Holy Spirit leading, to discharge without fail the office, gift and responsibility of priesthood in the rank of presbyters as tested co-workers of the bishops in pasturing the Lord's flock?" The candidate is to answer, "I am so resolved!"

Having tasted the responsibility of the office -- and unlike MxPx -- I am resolved to bear the weight, because I know that my lasting happiness and that of many people depends on it. And, too, because I know that the responsibility of following God's call is not an overwhelming burden, "My yoke is easy and my burden light."

The Spirit will lead me through times of hardship and times of joy. Responsibility? Bring it on!





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