O how great is the priest! If he realized what he is he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from Heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host. Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in the tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for the journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest—always the priest. And if the soul should happen to die (as a result of sin) who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again the priest. After God, the priest is everything. Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is. -St. John Vianney
Day 22 of 365.
Fr. Thomas Haan is a young priest from my hometown of Lafayette. He grew up in a farm family, which I am sure helps to account for his work ethic and natural humility. Like many young men from the Hoosier state, Fr. Haan was a talented basketball player and football player in high school. In fact, he was a gifted athlete who set some impressive records as a quarterback at my alma mater, Lafayette Central Catholic. He also went on to Purdue University where he was a member of the football team there.
That’s kind of a nifty and unique background for priest, but it’s not why I’ve chosen to highlight him today. You see, what makes Fr. Thomas Haan truly sensational in my book is that I believe he gives us all a pretty swell witness of what it means to live as a courageous and holy man. Accessible and reverent, Fr. Haan is an amazingly self-possessed and passionate guy who clearly loves the Lord.
In his role as the chaplain at St. Theodore Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, he preaches the faith to young people without even a hint of condescension. Some of those homilies are just incredibly challenging and they always call all within earshot to live in the world but not be of it. He asks us all to be the hands and feet of Christ to one another. He gets away with some bold and extremely demanding calls to holiness which enter into the interior of the listener because his authenticity and personal witness is clear for all to see. Also, he’s just a cool guy. That definitely helps when you’re dealing with teenagers everyday.
This fall, for instance, after my middle son, Drew had barely begun his freshman year in college, he and his high school buddies were back home for fall break. As 18 year old boys will do, a few of them decided to meet up at GCHS and play some pick up basketball. This was a fantastic crew of recent grads and they were thrilled to have the chance to go get sweaty with the buddies they hadn’t seen in a couple months. As Drew tells it, Fr. Haan walked into the gym with a scowl on his face and called out loudly, “Hey, do you guys have permission to use this gym?” They stopped and looked up at him and hollered back, “Uh, no, we don’t Father…” at which point Fr. Haan grinned widely and replied “PERMISSION GRANTED”. They all got a big laugh out his teasing, and it gave them the sense that they are loved and always welcome. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. Everyday kindness matters.
In short, Fr. Haan is one of the good guys. With him, young people (and their parents too) know he truly loves Jesus and feel that he cares, therefore his witness of faith bears fruit and begins to spread– even when he tasks us with the challenging work of being a disciple of Christ.
THANK YOU, Fr. Haan, for all you do each day!
PRAYER FOR PRIESTS
Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests. Through them we experience your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Inspire them with the vision of your kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of your divine grace. We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.