Sunday, June 1, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 2, 2008
Feast of the Martyrs of Lyon

The Life of Faith is a Life of endless horizons.

- Brian McHugh, ordained priest on this day 35 years
ago, at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park NY

Thirty-five years. I remember it as yesterday. Liturgically, it met every desire. That beautiful Romanesque chapel designed by Cram. A hundred friends, and the OHC community there. An ordination stole from a dear friend, embroidered with the date – later stolen. Incense so thick that Bishop Stiff, coming down the aisle in procession, looked like he had only half a body. I had poison ivy so bad that my ankles were wrapped in thick bandage to prevent the ooze running down my legs. Palms anointed with oil. Many priests laying on hands with the bishop. I tell you, I felt, felt to my core that I had become what I was meant to be.

But the moment I remember most? My parents were there. My father, a long-estranged Roman Catholic, and my mother were the first to come down the aisle to the altar to receive the Eucharist. I was astonished! Giving the sacred elements of sacramental bread and wine to my father. First time I had known him to do such a thing. And afterwards, they were the first to receive the blessing of the newly ordained priest.

Today, I know that I was meant to be a priest. Exactly what it means to be a priest has gone through many changes in 35 years. And still is, into my “retirement”, it shifts. I hope I will never stop learning what this great mystery means.

I have loved some things about priestly ministry; some I have hated with a passion. The words I’ve quoted I said once in a sermon, and they were calligraphied on a watercolour given to me on leaving my parishes after 9 years in NY. But the remembrance I value the most is a Rainbow Flag that hangs on the wall of St. Peter’s and St. Andrew’s, Providence RI, where I served for 9 years. It was brought down the aisle at the Offertory of my last Sunday there by the Vestry. They said it wasn’t for me, it was for them. A symbol that they accepted me as a Gay man and priest, as valued as any child of God.

I realize now that I’ve lived my lived on these words. I’ve listened to voices calling, and moved on with trust and excitement into different experiences, having sensed that the moment had come to venture towards a new horizon in faith, with the hope that I had given what I could to where I had been. My “reward” has been superb friends, people I have helped to a vision of a freeing, glorious, loving Divine Companion, bringing of myth to life, willed love, and much joy and laughter and willingly shared sorrow.

Horizons are endless. And wondrous in the life of Faith. I look forward to many more adventures.

Would I do it again?



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