I don’t often go to church these days; about the only time I do attend Mass in a Catholic church is when I visit my Mom in the small town of Chase, BC, as I did this past weekend. We usually go to the small church in Chase that is administered from the diocesan seat of Kamloops. This is the church where I first encountered Father Bob, whom I have blogged about in the past.
In spite of my disenchantment with the Roman Catholic Church and my recent ambivalence about attending church services period, I am still fascinated (for some reason) by priests and the priesthood. In my limited experience and observation, there appear to be two general kinds of priest. One of these is the cookie-cutter variety, which tends to follow a standard orthodox path in the celebration of liturgy. I usually find Masses celebrated by these priests, characterized either by excessive piety or a lack of sincere piety, singularly uninspiring. The homilies are boringly pedantic, patronizing and condescending, or simply incomprehensible. I cannot help but feel that these men are priests for reasons other than the desire to be loving and faithful servants of the People of God.
The second type of priest is the one who is truly himself. Orthodox or progressive in outlook, he simply loves being a priest, loves God, and loves the People of God. This love is apparent in all that he does, but especially in the celebration of liturgy. It is so rare to find such a priest (at least this has been my experience) that when one does encounter a man belonging to this second category, the occasion is memorable.
On Sunday, Mass in my Mom’s church was celebrated by Father Vincent, a young priest on loan to the diocese from Nigeria. The Mass was late beginning and when Father Vincent explained to us that this was because “several of our brothers and sisters needed to reconcile,” I could immediately feel genuine warmth radiating from the man. His voice was loud and strong, and he sang much of the Mass, in a powerful and beautiful baritone.
Father Vince’s English is flawless in every way except that it carries a pronounced African accent, making it, in my view, all the more charming and compelling. His homily was on the topic of the parable of the sower and the seed and was delivered without notes and without a pause or a mistake. It was also beautiful in its immediacy, its passion, and its use of imagination (“God is a foolish farmer: he sows his good seed even where he knows that it is not likely to grow”).
It is incredible to me this man could come from a country like Nigeria to the Interior of BC, where the culture is so radically different and the winters can be so bitterly cold, and pour out his love for people who must at times appear as if they came from the far side of the moon.
During the Prayers of the Faithful we learned that Father Vince’s father had just died, and at the end of Mass, he told us that he was going back to Nigeria in a couple of days to bury him.
Father, you are truly a man of God.
The photo above is not of Father Vince