Regulars here at Life At 25 may recall that I wrote a post on pastoral humility which featured Father Erik Richtsteig as part of a post on “Two Lessons in Humility” with regard to the way that Father Erik handled himself and cared for his shell-shocked flock after a shooting which took place at his parish, St. James the Just, on June 16th. Within that post I mentioned that I have admired Father Erik’s outspoken blog work for quite a long time, having been introduced to it and to him via Facebook thanks to our mutual friend Stephanie Richer, whose work many of you have seen in the East Tennessee Catholic. As it turned out, Father Erik needed a little vacation after everything that has happened at his parish of late, and he came to East Tennessee. Thanks to Stephanie, who has hosted Father all week while he has been here, I not only got to meet and share a great pizza with he and she, but we discussed the “state of the Church” for nearly four hours Wednesday (she also was kind to snap this photograph).As you can see, Father is a great Three Stooges fan (so am I). In addition to being able to complement Father Erik on his public witness that he delivers through social media, I learned a little about his story. He is a convert who came to the Church at the age of 15, but he says that even before he completed his journey into the Church, he knew that the Lord was calling him to the priesthood. I asked Father if he thought that the devil tried to obstruct his vocation once it became clear to him that this was where God was calling him, and he said that of course that happened.
My lunch with Father and with Stephanie Richer did me a great deal of spiritual good, because there are times on our spiritual journeys that we need encouragement, and need to know that holy people are praying for us and are looking for our spiritual benefit. Now that I am approaching candidacy for ordination to the permanent diaconate, I shared with Father that I am often troubled by the reality of my own physical limitations. I sometimes worry about what others will think about what I can and can’t do. Father Erik, Knight of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (pictured above not in Three Stooges regalia) was pretty clear that I shouldn’t worry about those things. He certainly isn’t the first to tell me that, but he may have put it the most bluntly.
We talked about a lot of other things, from the Extraordinary Form to the nature of the involvement of the wives of permanent deacons. I won’t share it all here, but what was supposed to be lunch bled over into dinner, as he, Stephanie, and I talked for nearly four hours. On a personal level, I found that we agreed on a great deal, which I did not find the least bit surprising. However, I was grateful that Father was such an encouragement to me. I pray for his safe return to his parish, for his parishioners at St. James the Just, and that we will meet again. Perhaps I can assist at a Mass at which he is the celebrant one day.
Pray for our Aspirant retreat this weekend!