My successor in the parochial vicariate has started work. Today he had his first Mass with the early weekday crowd (6:45). Yesterday we spent the afternoon touring the sacristy and going over various procedures for services in church.
As I've tried to pray through this process I've noticed a lot of feelings. I can't deny that there is a certain liberation in handing over the various little church chores that have punctuated my days for three years. But there's also a dull kind of grief, of letting go of a life that has become a home, and in which I have found some of my own redemption in the work of the parish priesthood. Somehow, though, it's a very healthy kind of grief with an almost generative edge. I pass on the work. I hand over this particular care of souls that I was given for this moment in my life, along with all of the unglamorous little jobs that support the place and keep it going each and every day. It really feels like an act of tradition, of handing something forward towards the fullness of the Kingdom of God. But it also demands a letting go; his experience will be very different from mine, and he will do things differently. The moment of who I have been for this parish comes to a close; I give thanks for the good I have been able to do and try to let go of what I have done poorly, or left undone altogether.
As I've prayed through this, I find myself hoping and desiring that my own death might be the same kind of spiritual moment: full of the healthy grief that comes from having loved as best I could, but also full of surrender and a willingness to let go in a faithful frame of towards-the-Kingdom.