was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Baltimore on May 24, 2003 and since the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25, 2009 has been the pastor of beautiful St. Paul's Church, the "Jewel on the Hill" of historic Ellicott City, MD
Let me tell you a little story. I love going to the Catholic Family Expo and on Friday after hearing confessions for a few hours we were all getting ready for Mass with the Archbishop. As we are about to start they let the Archbishop know that his homily was going to be recorded. He responded, "I don't know if it will be any good." Fast forward to homily time. The Archbishop walked in front of the altar knelt and then prostrated himself on the ground, flat out on the floor for a few minutes. When he stood up I thought to myself that without making a recordable sound he just preached a fantastic homily! This was a homily that was preached by four young men the very next day as they prostrated themselves before the altar at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in just about the greatest and coolest celebration in the Church - Priesthood Ordination. I love all those guys but in a special way I know the new Father Ernest Cibelli. He and I both have the same home parish, St. Louis the King in Clarksville. There are now six (6) priests in our Archdiocese that share that home parish, wow! I hope St. Paul's can say that one day. Then the next day at Father Cibelli's first Mass on the glorious Feast of Corpus Christi (the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord) I heard another great homily, this time by Fr. Erik Arnold. Without knowing it he gave me the missing piece in my theological understanding of Original Sin, Conscience, Redemption, and Salvation. The Mass was literally better and more solemn than most of what I experienced at the Vatican. It included a Eucharistic Procession around the parish. This procession was another homily, that we are called to bring the Eucharist out into the world with everything we do and say. All of this reminds me that the ultimate homily ever given was by one who streched flat out upon a cross could hardly breathe. The simple act of bowing His head and the pouring out of His Blood was the greatest homily ever given. The Archbishop and our four new priests repeated that homily this weekend. Inspired by their example and strengethened by Holy Communion can you and I preach the same homily? Can we too lay down our lives in service of God and His people?
Today was the last day of school over at Resurrection - St. Paul School. After the awards ceremony I could tell we were holding the kids attention by a very thin thread as visions of summer danced in their heads. I'm so happy for them and I pray they all have an awesome summer. They are all such great kids and they showed it once again in our closing prayer service. The students and faculty have been particularly kind and welcoming to me. They gave me a painting today which was tied into their theme this year, "We are called by name." It was my name with a Scripture verse weaved throughout. It was very appropriate and seemed to fit me well. The verse from one of the Psalms said, "God is my strength and my shield and because of that I am filled with joy." I'll tell you that I am often filled with joy when I visit the school and once I get a hang of this being pastor stuff it is my hope to be over at the school a whole lot more. Tonight is our annual Priest/Seminarian get together up in Sparks, MD. Please continue to pray for more priests, specifically a few guys from our parish who might be interested in discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
I'll admit it I was a little worn out after the Masses this last Sunday. Three things that seem to really tire me out: 1) Shopping, 2) Visiting art Galleries or Museums, and 3) Preaching. I love preaching though and a couple of times people have said, "why don't you just preach you know, kind of normal like." I really don't think I can. I could preach about Wall Street or different types of fungus in a "normal way", but if I am preaching about our faith in Jesus Christ I just don't think it is possible to not get excited. Combine that with the nervousness that comes from preaching about things like our New Evangelization Center, a mysterious sickness that had me dry heaving before the 7:30 am Mass, and three baptisms in the afternoon and the fact that I survived is somewhat miraculous. Thank you St. Padre Pio! Today was Chris' Candidacy celebration at the Basilica. It was a wonderful celebration and as the Archbishop said a rarely seen celebration. One thing that struck me is that the new rite for Candidacy has the men respond when their name is called, "I have come to serve!" That was awesome! Today's first reading from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians says, "As God is faithful, our word to you is not 'yes' and 'no.'" Basically the point of Candidacy is that Chris is saying Yes to seriously discerning God's call to the priesthood in theological studies. This "yes" is not based on feelings or passing emotions but rather is grounded in faithfulness. A faithfulness first given to us by our loving God. It is my hope that our parish may see the faithful YES of this wonderful young man and realize that we are all called to respond to God's love by saying YES. It is only by our faithful yes that we can hear God calling each and everyone of us by our names to which we should shout, "I have come to serve!"
As I've got a big homily to give this weekend and it has been an awesome week I only have time for a short post. I guess I should start with the reason behind me doing this crazy thing - the Lord! If something isn't for the Lord then it ain't worth it. However I think this little blog could be huge and a lot of fun. It gives parishioners an inside view at the life of their pastor (wait do I really want to do this?). This summer it also gives them the interesting ability to read the stories and adventures of our summer seminarian Chris Little and I (see also blog http://christimesandtravels.blogspot.com). Let me wet your whistle to say that we have only gone a week into the summer and we have celebrated a funeral for a great man of our parish who died far too young, visited a group of religious Anglican sisters, had a three hour meeting with a corporator, attended our first ever history committee meeting, visited a beautiful family caring for both young and old, conducted a special Mass/tour of St. Paul's, and that is not the half of it. There is so much more to come - I'm so excited about this summer and also excited about this blog! Peace and God Bless, Fr. Matt