The priest is not a priest for himself- he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. (St. John Vianney)
Have you ever been to mass and you just weren’t “feeling it” that particular day? Then, on top of that, some priest you don’t really know, or about whom you have a slightly bad attitude is celebrating it? Well, that happened to me some time back. I like to think I’ve evolved a bit, spiritually speaking, since then. I’ll own my bad behavior here, though, for the sake of affirming a good man.
Allow me to explain. You see, this perfectly nice man who really is a miracle of grace, began his homily that fateful day when I first encountered him by telling the story of some famous movie he loved…and I am apparently the last one on earth not to have seen it. He talks rather rapidly as a general rule, and my head was hurting, so the truth is that I was the problem. However, a VERY UNFAIR CHARACTERIZATION sort of formed itself in my brain during that initial encounter and I allowed it to become a cemented bad attitude– for a short period of time. Stay with me, though, because if you’ve been reading this blog post all year, you know my silly stories always have a happy ending.
Well it happens that one of my most favorite saints is St. Padre Pio. I found myself at mass not long after “crabby Shelly Sunday” on the feast of Padre Pio and wouldn’t you know it, there again was Fr. Hurley. I am ashamed to admit that I was so bugged (I mean it was the feast of Padre Pio) that I even rolled my eyes!! Guess what happened, though? God is so good and so patient with us. You see that day, Fr. Hurley began to speak and it was as if the room went silent. He spoke the very famous quote that I LOVE from this incredibly amazing mystic and stigmatist, “If we only knew how God regards this sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single mass.“
“Oh, hey there, Jesus. It’s just your goofy daughter Shelly again, and yes, I’m a complete idiot.” That’s what I thought in my head, and I actually began to giggle. It wasn’t an appropriate reaction to the quote or the point being made by Fr. Hurley about the reverence with which we should participate in the holy sacrifice of the mass, of course, so my son elbowed me and gave me the same death stare that I used to give him when he was a little guy misbehaving at mass. Now, I was gotten even more and was having trouble containing the laughter. You see, it was at this point that I realized God quieted the place so that I would notice Him through this particular man of God– and see the beautiful work of salvation he is endeavoring to do each day. Sheesh. He’s saving souls and I’m rolling my eyes. Classy, right?
Fr. Hurley was the face of Jesus that day for me, and so powerful was the message he delivered in that homily as well as the loving correction Jesus provided me that I couldn’t miss it. I have since learned, of course, that Fr. Kevin Hurley is a lovely human with a good sense of humor who actually hails from Carmel. He’s a kind, faith-filled guy who has acted as a light in the darkness for MANY and who works hard every day to provide for the thousands of souls in his care. He’s the real deal.
Today, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Fr. Hurley celebrated the 8am mass. I knew it would be him saying the mass when I knelt to pray, because I have started to be able to identify the celebrant by the chalice placed on the credence table. I prayed for him before mass and asked Mary to be a mother to Fr. Hurley today in just the way he needs. Because I really do love Our Blessed Mother, I found it heartening to hear him talk this morning about staying close to her and following her example of grace and holiness. She’s the surest route to Jesus was the essence of what he said to those gathered this morning. The gospel message he shared really did touch my heart, and it made me laugh thinking back at my grumpiness. Also, it left me feeling grateful for Fr. Hurley. He’s a genuine man with a good heart who has many days helped me focus a little better on my relationship with Christ. THANK YOU, Fr. Hurley for all you do each day for so many folks at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I, for one, am grateful for you…and I am long overdue to say so!
“If you ever feel distressed during your day, call upon Our Lady. Just say this simple prayer, ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.’ I must admit; this prayer has never failed me.” -St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta