I was ordained a priest on this day sixty years ago, and on this anniversary I want to look back on my active years, but first let me say something about my five years of retirement. They began with me musing on the words of Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Feeling that the opposite of that would be true, I have been using this keyboard to examine my life. I first wrote a five hundred page memoir I called One Happy Old Priest, Now I am three hundred pages into what I might call A Happy Old Priest’s Take on Christianity.
But, back to the active years God gave me. They fell into three spans. First, over in Korea at the end of their war I was pastor of Yang Yang County where we had no electricity. In my middle years I taught on three different levels. For the last third, I was pastor in Florida, blessed with an active parish council.
At the beginning of my sixty years the Church was a boot camp. As seminarians we studied in a Latin we halfway understood. As priests we never gave weekday homilies. It was just Latin Masses with our backs to the people. We didn’t do weddings with Protestants in our churches, and we’d sin by attending their churches.
Two open-minded statements from Vatican II helped us leave that grimness behind. “The Declaration on Religious Liberty” stated, “The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.”
Even finer were the opening sentences of the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.” “The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts.”