I will never forget the day I was ordained a priest—May 20th, 1995.  I remember walking down the center aisle of Holy Cross Cathedral, and when I was about three-quarters of the way down, bursting into tears.  I was overwhelmed with emotion and an incredible sense of joy.  I could barely see where I was walking.  The import of this moment was beyond anything that had happened in my life up to that moment.  It was truly the culmination of what I had been preparing for all my life.

The thought of the priesthood came to me at about the age of ten, while I was kneeling next to the altar at my home parish, Saint Michael’s in Hudson, NH.  During the Eucharistic prayer, I thought of how cool it would be to do what the priest was doing.  The desire was planted in my heart that day and never left me.  I knew, at some level, that other things would occur before becoming a priest, but there was little doubt where God was leading me.  In high school, I spoke of both being a history teacher and a priest.  I wanted to teach history because of my Dad; I wanted to be a priest because of my God.  During my teenage years, I stopped telling people about my desire to ultimately become a priest, because they would begin to treat me differently and I found that quite annoying.  But the desire was in no way diminished and remained an important part of my prayer life.

When I first started at Boston College my major was history, but in time this changed to computer science.  History remains my favorite subject, but there were better job opportunities in computer programming, something I truly loved to do.  After graduating from college, I worked at Digital as a computer programmer for a little over five years.  It was a great job, but towards the end of my time there, my heart was starting to get restless.  It was now clear to me that God wanted me to move in a different direction.

It all came to a head at Disney World in October of 1989.  On the monorail heading over to Mass at the Polynesian Hotel, a voice popped into my head telling me to return to confession.  It had been about eight years since my last confession.  An argument ensued in my head with this voice, and it would not leave me alone.  So, as I was waiting for Mass to begin, I agreed to speak to the priest and ask him to hear my confession.  If the priest agreed I would do it; otherwise, it would not happen.  The little voice agreed with my arrangement.  After Mass, of course, the priest heard my confession.  It was a wonderful experience, and that night I accepted the Lord’s call to enter the seminary.  There is little doubt in my mind that returning to confession was a big part in my saying ‘yes’ to the Lord.  It made me understand that now was the time the Lord wanted me to act.  The following September I entered the seminary.

Looking back over the last twenty-two years of priesthood, it amazes me how quickly the time has gone by.  It brings to mind a conversation I had with Msgr. John Philbin, the retired pastor, in my first assignment at Saint John the Evangelist in Wellesley. I was speaking about how quickly the first two years of the assignment had gone by.  He told me to wait and see how fast the next fifty years will go—and, so far, he has been right.

When I knelt next to the altar so many years ago, I had no idea what the Lord had in store for me.  I am not sure what my expectations were at ten years old, but I am certain that my life during my time as a priest—with its many twists and turns—was not what I anticipated.  On that day, it was about the Eucharist.  Walking down the center aisle at the Cathedral, it was about being called to serve the Lord and His people.  Sitting at the table with Msgr. Philbin, it was about the overwhelming nature and extraordinary grace that comes with priesthood.

Priests are called to walk with people in the wonderful times of life: baptisms, weddings, first communions, confirmations, Easter and Christmas joys.  It is a great honor and privilege to prepare a couple for their lives together, sharing in the wondrous gift about to be bestowed on them of becoming Christ for each other, and helping them to be open to a relationship centered in God.  It is a tremendous joy to pour blessed water over a child’s head and bring him/her into a new relationship with Christ, uniting them with Christ in a deep and personal bond that can never be severed.  The priest is also there in the painful moments of life: broken relationships, financial hardships, losing a loved one, and dealing with illness.  He is a companion on their journey during these most difficult moments that bring, for some, a sense of separation from God.  He is also concerned with the mundane realities of creating budgets and solving financial issues, the upkeep of buildings, and at times, selling property, and the myriad other administrative issues that arise, sometimes working ten to twelve-hour days to ensure that everything gets done.

But most of all, the priesthood is about experiencing the joy of serving Christ.  I love the life God has called me to live.  It is an incredible array of the unexpected.  It is not about having expectations, but rather, being open to whatever God may call me to do on any given day.  It is the norm of having a day scheduled and then having to rewrite the schedule as priorities swiftly change.  It is not about pleasing people or making them happy, but about being faithful to the life Christ has called me to live.

What is true for me and every priest is also true for every Christian.  The most successful people I have seen are not the ones with the biggest paycheck, the nicest home and cars, etc., but those who have discovered the contentment of a life well-lived.  Money cannot buy that, but living in the love of God and being open to His plan will always give it.

If you have any questions about anything, please do not hesitate to ask me directly, or send your questions to me at fr.brian@chelmsfordcatholic.org.

Please keep me in your prayers.

In Christ,

Fr. Brian