My family is blessed to have a heroic priest living in our home. How this came to be I will get to later. But for now, I will describe what it is like.
It is overwhelming. It is unsettling. It is appalling. It is heavenly. This priest will spend a typical morning as such: He will rise early and, with much clamor, get out his Mass kit while we are trying to pray. He will say three of four Masses before breakfast (and more later in the day), all with haste – it is quantity over quality with him. Throughout the morning this priest will bless our foreheads twenty or more times, walk around the house clanking his thurible to chase the devil away, genuflect at random locations (such as the refrigerator), and then sing sweet hymns from his prayer book while my wife tries to homeschool the kids. The most overwhelming thing is his love of holy water. This priest will take a little hockey stick and dip it into a bowl of water. Then, as the Asperges Me runs through his mind, he will launch the water throughout the house. Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with a hockey stick, and I shall be cleansed. I worry about our floors. I worry about our sanity.
This priest is always on duty – always ready to perform his sacred obligations. I dare say he doesn’t even require clothes to wear, for he practically lives in his chasuble. His dedication is unfathomable. The love for his vocation is unsurpassable. He is, without a doubt, a heroic priest. And he lives in our very home.
In case you have not clued in, I am speaking of my two-year-old son, Jude – our dedicated little priest. It never used to be like this. Once upon a time his little hockey stick was used solely for slapping at pucks, toys, and siblings, and not for cleansing us with holy water. But one cold day at the beginning of January everything changed. Suddenly he became “Father ____.” What changed? The answer is in what he encountered. Something extraordinary, heroic, and gently unassuming.
But first, to appreciate the extraordinary and heroic, you must be well-versed in the ordinary. If there is one thing I’ve learned as a Catholic, it is that priests are ordinary, fallen humans, like the rest of us. It should feel strange that a priest would take to YouTube to tell the world about his new tattoo, or that another would livestream a Mass that resembles The Ed Sullivan Show more than Calvary. But this happens. We shake our heads and move on. Priests can be saintly, or utterly messed up, as are all of us. I have known priests addicted to sports, food, alcohol, gambling, and the insatiable pursuit of power. Yet I have known holy priests who have performed exorcisms and have encountered souls in purgatory. I have known priests who did not believe a word of what they preached. I have known priests who believed what they preached, but were too weak to act on it. I have known priests who were annoying, easily agitated, and, sadly, abusive. And I have known priests too weak to stand because of their excessive fasting, offered for poor souls such as me. I have known the sinner priest, the saintly priest, but mostly the in-between priest who struggles, succumbs to, and then struggles anew against the poison of mediocrity. I do not like the fact that so many priests are mediocre just like me. But it is easier to tell them to be better than to make myself better first.
And so, I return to this one cold morning on the first of January. We were at a traditional Latin Mass to complete the Christmas Octave – our first since July of the previous year. The reason the TLM was happening was because a priest decided to hop into his truck and drive 3000 kilometers to say Mass here. Never mind the frequent snowstorms along the way, nor the 35°C below temperatures of Saskatchewan. We were starved for such a Mass, and this priest sacrificed his very self to be there. The ordinary was smashed to pieces. His act of love was extraordinary. It was heroic.
For Easter, a return trip was made by the same priest. I shake my head thinking about it. Easter morning was our first TLM since January. Why? Because another 3000km drive was made, through more snowstorms (oh Saskatchewan…), to offer Mass for a flock starving for the beauty and tradition of this noble Mass. What a gift.
There is a cause and effect to these laudable actions. Or rather, there are Divine blessings that flow. My little son Jude has become mesmerized by this priest who travelled so far. He is my son’s hero. Jude now emulates being the priest daily. And now Jude is our heroic little priest. I recall Anthony Esolen’s words in his powerful book, Defending Boyhood
Men fall in love with women, but boys fall in admiration and emulation of the man who can make things happen, and if that man is holy, they learn the way of holiness sometimes without even suspecting it (p.97).
Such is the case. And as a brief aside, I will say that the name of the priest shall go unmentioned, for this would surely embarrass him. It doesn’t matter – though if you must know, simply ask my son what his name is, for he will say, “I am Father ____.”
Our home is now filled with many blessings, genuflections, “communions” of crackers stolen from the pantry (he’s still two, after all), and the overabundance of water launched throughout each room. The house shall be sprinkled by a hockey stick, and we shall be cleansed. Because of the heroic actions of one priest, I now have a similar priest living in my home.
I will say no more. You see, I must head over to my living room now for Mass.
Dan Millette is a husband and father of four. He teaches in Saskatchewan, Canada. Millette is a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario and has a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut. His personal blog is www.bravestthing.com.