This morning was my last regularly scheduled Mass with the 8:30 crowd. We have two daily Masses here, 6:45 and 8:30, but the latter is a much larger group.
As a parish priest, the folks who come to daily Mass get to be like family. They are the first people you get to know by name, and the ones whose spirituality and style of prayer you get to know the best. In turn, they know you better than anyone, both because they experience the more relaxed preaching and prayer of weekdays, but also because they get to see you both when you are generous and on fire with the love of God and also when you are grumpy and petty and not praying well. You get to be grateful for them as a kind of anchor in your daily life.
It all makes me realize how deeply supported the life of a parish priest is. The work has plenty of headaches and stresses about which I have often written gracelessly in these posts, but one is supported and held in prayer in a way that far outstrips them. I will very much miss the little group of folks with whom I have regularly shared in the secret of the Lord's Sacrifice.
Providence made today the feast of St. Bonaventure, which is appropriate because I am leaving the parish ministry to return to the life of a student. I preached on one of my favorite lines from the Itinerarium: In hac consideratione est perfectio illuminationis mentis...videt hominem factum ad imaginem Dei. "In this consideration is the perfect illumination of the mind...[when it] sees the human being made in the image of God." (VI:7) So often we take the doctrine of our creation in the image of God in a matter of fact way. As it turns out, however, it is the key to our journey into God. Our imagination, by which we can be anywhere and reach out in love and care both forward and backward in time, we imitate God's own eternity and ubiquity, finding a way into the consideration of these mysteries. But above all it is by our capacity to love, and in our freedom to dispose of ourselves completely in love for each other, that we imitate the delightful and delighted will of God.