FATHER CHICHESTER (NATE WHITCHURCH PHOTO)
FATHER CHICHESTER (NATE WHITCHURCH PHOTO)
(Father Chichester is a native of Columbia County. This is his final “Seminarian’s Diary” column, part of The Evangelist’s ongoing series of reports from diocesan seminarians on their formation for the priesthood. Read previous installments under “specials” at www.evangelist.org.)

By the time this column makes it to print, I will have been ordained a priest of Jesus Christ at the hands of Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger; ordained to labor beside many faithful laborers in the vineyard of God’s people until my death.

This will be an incredibly enriching life, as long as I am faithful to my prayer and my promises. At the same time, I harbor no illusions that this particular labor will be characterized by a perpetual “honeymoon” experience.

In fact, aside from my own challenges and growing awareness of my faults (and virtues) during these past five years of formation, many people have already come and laid their greatest worries open before me.

Many have worried about loved ones who are away from the Church, impending death or the present state of confusion in the Church about some of the fundamentals of the faith. Some have asked if the Church of “nice” or the Church of truth will prevail. Others wondered about who to obey in matters of faith and morals when entire bishop’s conferences disagree.

This experience of frustration and worry has notable precedents in the history of the Church. From the very beginning, when Christ died, the Apostles floundered about, uncertain and afraid. Christ rose, taught them and sent the Spirit to dwell with them. He confirmed in their hearts who He was and why He came and how men and women ought to live as children of God.

The nascent Church endured.

In the first 600 years after Christ, the Church again and again had to respond to those who doubted that Jesus was Lord. Arius clearly and vigorously argued against Jesus’ divinity, “There was a time when He was not,” and many Christians followed him into a heresy that nearly destroyed the Church.

Only a few stalwarts withstood the error and, by the grace of God, the truth of Jesus’ divinity prevailed. The Church endured.

As a final example, during the time of Avignon papacy in the 1300s, no less than three men called themselves pope. The real pope had been legitimately elected and two anti-popes were elected by different factions of bishops. By the grace of God, a council was called and all the contenders resigned (or were forced to do so). Pope Martin V was elected by the Council of Constance in 1417, and the Church endured.

All the Christians during these times had to ask themselves the same questions we ask today. In the end, the true faith in Jesus Christ prevailed.

With this in mind, what do I say to the worried hearts of today?

•  Know your faith and be convinced of it.

•  Do your best to live the faith in its entirety.

•  Read the Word of God.

•  Practice charity in truth.

•  Be renewed in your conviction that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.

•  Take up devotions for yourself and your family that help bind you to Christ.

•  Take courage in the Lord; He never abandons his Church and will ensure that it endures whatever trial besieges it.

In this continual struggle for holiness and perfection, the priest plays a critical role. The priesthood into which I have entered is ordered to bringing everyone with ears to hear and eyes to see into relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Just as there is a real power in Jesus’ words and actions, being the Son of God, He delegates a portion of His power to His priests to continue His mission of drawing all to Himself. Words and actions are the “stuff” of everyday life, and the same “stuff” with which God has chosen to convey His very being.

It is my great desire to be a worthy instrument of grace who will build up Christ’s body, bringing the healing power of Christ to every situation and person. God bless you all!