Just as a counterpoint to yesterday's little rant, I have to say that I have only received two angry notes a I prepare to leave the parish. In contrast, the pile of encouraging and kind ones gets larger each day. The people here are very gracious, and though I have tried to work diligently and honestly on their behalf, the thanks that they are giving me is beyond anything I have actually done. But no matter. The thanks belong to God, whose work it is. If I have allowed some of his grace to come through my ministry, in spite of all of my distraction and eccentricity, it is all Him.
So I am very grateful to this place. Providence arranged that I would be ordained priest in the course of my assignment here, so that I would have a "home parish" in which to offer my first Mass. Not having grown up Catholic, there was no other obvious choice. In this sense, my life as a perpetually professed friar and especially as a priest will always belong to this place, to this particular altar and these people.
The groups whose care I have been given have edified me constantly by their gentleness and desire for faithfulness: The altar servers, lectors, and ministers of Holy Communion, the Spiritual Life Committee and the Secular Franciscans, and especially the little kids' catechumenate group, in which I experienced some of my most encouraging moments of common prayer.
I have heard confessions of people so advanced in the spiritual life that I could only speak to them based on things I've read in books, so far beyond anything I have experienced they were. Sometimes these intense holinesses are hidden from those who carry them in the world, and this too is God's mercy, that they might not be distracted by any of the conceits of those of us who are professionally pious.
So I am exceedingly grateful and entirely unworthy. But gratitude and the sense of our unworthiness are paths into God, and I want to take them. In this sense the people here have been ministering to me.