One of the first items I purchased for my first parish office as a priest was a respectable piece of artwork. Truthfully, after living on a college budget for most of my years of seminary, receiving my first real paycheck was quite exhilarating. After doing a bit of “artio divina” on a few online art venues, one piece stood out: “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt. This, I thought, would make for a good image to have in my office for a person coming in to talk about any variety of issues.
Admittedly, Rembrandt’s Christological window into the chaos of the storm also provided me a touch of humorous relief considering how often parish life can be a swirl of chaos. I, however, had no idea how profoundly the message—that Jesus truly is with you amidst any storm or trial—would resonate with my first year of priesthood.
Within my first year of priesthood the Church experienced scandal in the US and worldwide Church with particular regard to Theodore McCarrick and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, both of which I had to address my first weekend at my new parish. In my own diocese, a young priest, whom I attended seminary with and knew well, was caught in a horrific scandal that brought immeasurable levels of shock, hurt, and betrayal to many in the diocese. Now, the world is experiencing the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will provide—for many priests, but certainly for myself—a rather awkward first celebration of the Sacred Triduum as a priest. The waters have been a bit choppy.