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The love of Christ urges us on

Caritas Christi urget nos

One of the great benefits of having attended Mundelein Seminary in Chicago is the wonderful diversity of chapels that were available to us for prayer throughout any given day. As I recall, there are roughly a dozen chapels of various sizes sprinkled through the many buildings that comprise the seminary. Among all of them, my favorite is the one called the Deacon Chapel, which happened to be located in the residence hall in which I lived for my five years of seminary.

The Deacon Chapel is noted for its graceful simplicity and beautiful acoustics. It was by no means the largest of the chapels on campus, but I have always thought of it as one of the most beautiful. Its pale-colored walls exude a gentle, peaceful feeling and its beautiful stained glass windows include the usual variety of inspiring saints. Since it was located just down the hall from my room, it also made a very convenient place to pray.

Over the chapel’s altar are the words, Caritas Christi urget nos. Taken from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, these words, The love of Christ urges us on, seemed, at the time, very appropriate for any of us who were patiently making our way through the system of formation that would lead some to priestly ordination and others away from the seminary into deeper, different ways of serving God in the church. Our shared desire to be of service – as laity, deacons or priests – was an expression of our love for Christ. That we would sense such a call was an experience of Christ’s love for us.

Ten years after priestly ordination, I have come to recognize an entirely new sense to those challenging words – a sense of urgency, of being driven – as well as a sense of the fount from which my priesthood springs. Christ’s love for me is central to my priestly ministry, and I pray that my ministry as priest and pastor is some small expression of Christ’s love for all of us. I have come to understand that I am able to love and serve others to the extent that I know that I am loved by Christ. The urgency that I sense seems to stem from a desire to want to share with others what I have sensed in my own life – Christ’s profound love for me. I cannot keep this gift to myself, but must share it, and so the love of Christ urges me on, just as those words in the Deacon Chapel said.

As Christ’s love urges me into a new decade of priestly ministry, Christ’s love compels many of us to do things that, to some, make no sense. Why would Sister Nancy leave Lansing and give up a promising career in neurosurgical nursing to feed and clothe Hispanic migrant workers in Colorado, if not for the love of Christ? Why would John Wooden, with his wife Mary, give up so much of their well-deserved and well-earned time in retirement in order to feed the hungry of Lenawee County, if not for the love of Christ? Why would the people of our diocese undertake the difficult and challenging process of reconfiguring our parish communities for the future, if not for the love of Christ?

Knowing that we are loved by Christ makes it possible for us to love others in Christ, to share Christ’s love in ways that cause us to grow and stretch and change. Like any gift, Christ’s love for us must be shared with those around us, even if that means we may eventually move across the country or seemingly have to give up a good portion of something for which we worked so hard. The love of Christ urges us on. And so our journey in FAITH continues.