Rooted in Jesus
July 2012 — Vol. 1, Issue 9
Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C.
“What do you value most about religious life and the priesthood?” A few weeks ago I was asked that question. It made me stop and think. I hadn’t given it much thought previously as I tend not to think much along the lines of what I like most or least. Yet after reflecting for a moment, there was something that quickly rose to the surface.
I realized that I greatly value the fact that my life as a religious and a priest keeps me rooted in Jesus. At the heart of who I am called to be and what I am called to do is the reality that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came that we might have life. There really is no greater reality that we can come to know in our lives, and the Lord led me to a place where this reality is at the center of my life and my life’s work. It is something that I am immensely grateful for.
As a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, I am a member of a religious community. At the heart of consecration to the religious life, whether it be as a priest, brother, or sister, is the offering of one’s life in discipleship in response to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, the One who leads us to the Father. It is a life that is first and foremost rooted in Christ, to draw one into deeper relationship with Christ, and to bear witness to Christ in the world. When I made my final vows in Holy Cross, I made a commitment to offer my life and my life’s work to the Lord. That commitment has, among other things, served to press me into pursuing the Lord and bearing witness to Him.
As well, in the reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, I have been conformed to Christ and ordained to serve the Church in a particular way. Here again is a way that my life has been oriented to Christ. With it comes the welcome challenge to remain true to my consecration by remaining focused on Christ. It also sets before me the work of celebrating the Sacraments, preaching, teaching, counseling and many other wonderful tasks. The work is wonderful in that it is centered on drawing others into relationship with the Lord. In doing it, I am continually faced with the reality of God’s good grace at work in the world. It is a life and work that challenges and draws me deeper into the eternal and beautiful mystery of God.
The wonderful thing about religious life and priesthood is that one is not called to them after they have found perfection in the Christian life. If it were so, the vocation crisis would be much worse, and yours truly would not be writing about what I value in my life as a religious and a priest. One is called as an invitation from the Lord. The discernment and preparation in the seminary is dedicated to helping one grow in that relationship with the Lord and understand more deeply His call in one’s life. From that growing relationship and deepening understanding of His call, one continues by stepping forward for final vows or ordination. This then leads to a life that is meant to continually conform one to Christ and is continually spent in service to the Gospel.
I am keenly aware that I was far from perfect when I entered formation with Holy Cross. I continue in the awareness that I am a good ways off from perfection. Yet the Lord has given me this wonderful gift of a life that continually holds me tight to the challenge to grow in my relationship with Him and leads me to pour myself out in service to others. It is a wonderful gift indeed.
Prayer from the Tradition
Act of Desire
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