The measure you use will be used to measure you. Matthew 7:2
My 47th anniversary of ordination as a priest was this week. I guess I could have done the traditional anniversary thing and bought myself some flowers, took myself out for some dinner and dancing or even booked a nice hotel room, but it didn’t seem appropriate.
Instead, I did what I do twice a year, New Year’s Eve and my priesthood anniversary. I sit myself down to do some soul searching and try to measure myself against the ideal of priesthood.
Since there are two sacraments directed toward the salvation of others, marriage and priesthood, this soul searching is something I recommend to those who celebrate their wedding anniversaries. I do it every year and at least one of the couples whose wedding I presided over 45 years ago still do the same each year.
I have found it very effective to follow the advice from two saints in particular in this matter. St. Bernard taught: “As a searching investigator of the integrity of your own conduct, submit your life to a daily examination.
Consider carefully what progress you have made or what ground you have lost. Strive to know yourself. Place all your faults before your eyes. Come face to face with yourself.” Pope John Paul II said, “All formation, including priestly formation, is ultimately self-formation.”
I agree completely with the famous Greek philosopher, Socrates, when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” However, that is not as simple as it appears. If one relies on one’s own favorable examination of one’s own life, one could be accused of being delusional.
If one relies on the favorable examination of one’s life from the perspective of another, one could be accused of falling for flattery.
I am quite hard on myself and I tend to trust the unsolicited feedback of several people saying the same things, so when I subtract my own exaggerated self-criticisms and a couple of letters from “the crazies” from the equation, I am not too worried about the accuracy of the outcome.
I get lots of unsolicited feedback because I let people know that I want to hear it, so that I will know whether I am being effective as a priest. Some might think that it is “fishing for compliments,” but I am quite confident that it isn’t.
Here is a sample of what I heard from one of my readers over Christmas and what I reflected on during my anniversary. “I have told many people that if I had to pick one person who is Jesus today, it would be you. The most understanding, down to earth person I feel I know.
This connectiveness shows that you love what you do and are very good at it.” Since a priest is supposed to be an “alter Christus” and minister “in persona Christi,” I very reluctantly take that as a compliment.
To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.