Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Vacation Reveals the Vocation

            This past Thursday I left for a little Labor Day Weekend getaway with some friends.  We left Lafayette around 2:45pm and got to Orange Beach, AL just after 11:00pm…yes almost 8.5 hours later (this is usually a little over a 5 hour trip).  We came to a complete stop at least 4 times on the Interstate during the course of our travels, which made for the extended trip…that along with a stop at Café du Monde and Cracker Barrel.
            At one of the standstills several emergency responder vehicles were passing by us.  I made a comment that this situation always makes me nervous as a priest.  After several more vehicles passed us and an Air Med helicopter flew over us, I, prompted by my friends went to see what was going on.  I got out of the drivers seat, grabbed my anointing oil, book, and stole and ran towards the accident.  Since I was traveling I was in khaki short, a white polo (Geaux Cajuns), and Chocó’s…not the easiest to run in!
            As I got closer, I could see a car that had run off of the road and partially into the woods.  There were many emergency personnel cars blocking the road with police standing by them.  I introduced myself to the first one that I came to, telling him that I was a Catholic priest and wanted to see if they needed me.  He told me to go speak to another officer a little farther up.  I did so, and she gave me the go ahead.  As I got closer, I noticed an ambulance along with the helicopter in the road.  I went up to a truck where people were gathered and introduced myself to them.  One of the people in the truck was a middle-aged woman who had been in the car that went off the road due to a blow out.  She seemed fine, except for a sore shoulder and being understandably shaken.  This woman was traveling with her fiancé, who had been thrown from the car and was in far worse shape.  I asked her if he was Catholic and she responded yes.  I asked her if she thought he would want to be anointed and she again responded yes.  I walked to the ambulance where the paramedics were working on him.  I waited outside and told the fireman standing nearby who I was and what I wanted to do.  He said that it wasn’t a problem, but that I would have to probably do it while they brought him to the helicopter.
            As I waited, I watched the paramedics and a doctor who also happened to be in the traffic work on the man and get prepping him to be put on the Air Med helicopter.  I also sent a message to my friends waiting in the car to pray for Julian (that was his name).  Once they got him out of the back of the ambulance, I got a little better look at him.  Though he was conscious, he had pretty serious injuries to his head.  I had been standing there for a while, so I had my stole on with my anointing card (for situations just like this) and my oil ready.  After they got him out and transferred him to another stretcher, I jumped in for a few seconds and anointed him.  I stepped back to all them to work on him again.  From behind a row of first responders I held up my hand and prayed the beautiful prayer called the Apostolic Pardon, which is to be given in danger of death (“Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come.  May He open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.”).  I noticed out of the corner of my eye that as I prayed, the firefighter that I had talked to extended his hand over the man to join in the prayer.
            A few seconds later, they were wheeling him to the helicopter.  I turned and began to walk back to the car.  I let the man’s fiancé know that I anointed him and that I would pray for them.  I continued my walk and the second police officer that I had approached stopped me and thanked me for coming to see about the man.  Along the way, many people were out of their cars and asked me what happened.  I told them briefly that there had been an accident and that one man was seriously injured.  When I got back to the car I got in and my friends were in the middle of praying the rosary.  We continued praying and it wasn’t’ long before the helicopter flew away and we were moving.  When we finished the rosary, one of my friends made a comment that this had been a “Fishers of Men” moment.  For those of you who don’t know, “Fishers of Men” is a video that the USCCB put out several years ago to promote vocations (Click here to watch the Fisher's of Men video).  The story revolves around a priest coming up on an accident and anointing a young man as he dies in his arms.  A young boy witnesses this.  As the priest walks away he tells the boy hello.  The video then cuts to an ordination, which makes one think that it was the boy that witnessed the actions of that priest that is being ordained.  We continued our long trip with several more stops, though none of them were as intense as this one.
            As I said earlier, we arrived a little after 11pm.  I had waited to celebrate Mass so that my friends could have Mass that day.  We brought our things up to our condo quickly and set up so that we could get Mass in before midnight.  We began normally.  One of my friends read the readings, then handed me the Missal for the Gospel.  I had not looked at the readings before now because I figured I’d give my friends a break and not preach.
            I took the missal, bent down and said the prayer before proclaiming the gospel (“Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God that I may worthily proclaim your holy gospel”), and then I began.  “The Lord be with you.”  “And with your spirit.”  “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.”  “Glory to you O Lord.”  

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.

God has an amazing way of getting my attention when he wants to!  Once I realized what gospel it was, I almost couldn’t finish proclaiming it.  Although I had not planned it I did give a homily.  I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of, “Can you believe that?  God knows what he is doing!”  After celebrating over 1,000 Masses in my 2+ years of priesthood, I have to admit that many times I no longer have that amazement that I had initially.  Don’t get me wrong, I look at the Mass as the most important part of my day.  I try as best I can to celebrate it reverently and well.  But, many times I don’t comprehend what it is I get to do (not that we can ever comprehend it fully this side of heaven).  But celebrating that Mass I prayed harder.   I feel like I celebrated it with the mindset that I should celebrate every Mass, the way I am reminded to celebrate every time I have Mass with the Missionaries of Charity.  They have a sign where I vest that reads: “Remember, priest of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, as if it were your last Mass, as if it were your only Mass.”
            Thank you Lord for this wonderful gift with which you have entrusted me.  Thank you for calling me to be your priest.  Thank you for allowing me to be there in that uncomfortable situation, to administer the Sacrament of your Church to that man in need.  Thank you for reminding me why you have called me to this life.  Thank you for reminding me that I’m called to this life for nothing other than to save souls!  Thank you for allowing my vacation to strengthen my vocation.  Help me to cooperate with your grace so that I can continue serving you and you Church, and to do so more faithfully.

Fr. Broussard

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - 12.8.2014

I don't know how to put my homilies up on the RCC website yet, so I will post here.  This is my homily from the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Monday.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Reflections: Four Years in the Eternal City

There is a line in the 1998 song Closing Time by SemiSonic which goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.”  I feel that it is an appropriate quote as I make these reflections on my time in Rome on the brink of priestly ordination on June 21st.  This past week, I was asked to give some words at a fundraiser for the NAC (The North American College, which is where I lived in Rome) in New Orleans.  As I thought about what I might say, what was unique about my time in seminary in Rome, one word made its way into my thoughts that seemed to tie what I wanted to say together: Friendship.  There are three different areas of friendship that I would like to focus on to describe my four years of formation in Rome.
Dinner with some friends as we travel.
The first type of friendship is friendship in the traditional sense.  One of the tough things about studying theology in Rome is that we do not come home very often.  For most of us, the first summer is spent away from home.  That means that we have amazing, once in a lifetime opportunities during those 2-3 months, but it also means that we do not see family, friends, or home for almost 2 full years.  Because of that, I think that the men at the NAC form deep, lasting friendships with each other, and this was certainly true for me.  As I prepared to leave Rome and head back to South Louisiana for good, I was obviously very happy to be returning home.  However, there were many things that I realized I would miss about Rome, and perhaps the thing that I will miss most is living in a house with so many close friends.  Though I made many friends, there were about 10-15 men to whom I became particularly close.  Our bonds of friendship were deepened due to our common experience of being away from home, our going through classes at the university together, the common formation we received at the NAC, and the many wonderful opportunities we had to travel together all over Europe.  In the days before I left I had to say goodbye to a few friends who managed to finish finals before me.  On the day of my clap-out (a NAC tradition for those returning home), I had to say goodbye to many more friends who were finishing up their finals.  It was hard because I realized that I would never see some of them again in this life.  Though it was difficult, I was comforted by two thoughts.  The first was that I know that I will see many of the men with whom I am close again.  We have already made a pact to get together each year in a different hometown of one of us so that we can all experience the wonderful places from which we come.  The second, and even more important thing that consoled me as I said goodbye was the hope that I have that we will all be together again one day in heaven.  After all, that is the goal for each one of us, to get to heaven and to take others there with us!
The Angelus on my last Sunday in Rome.
Tomb of St. Catherine with white roses.
The second type of friendship that I developed while in Rome is with the Church/The Holy Father/the Saints.  Being in Rome, you get a sense for the Church in a way that I don’t think you can anywhere else.  That is not saying that those who study elsewhere can’t love the Church, no.  However, there is something about being in the Eternal City and being among the dealings of the Church.  One of the most powerful experiences that I had of the Church while there is being able to attend the events surrounding the conclave and the election of Pope Francis.  Seeing the Church at prayer (and at work) was a wonderful experience, and I don’t think I have ever felt more Catholic than when I was standing in St. Peter’s Square that night watching the white smoke come out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and all of the other events that unfolded.  One of the missions of the NAC is to form men in the “shadow of St. Peter’s,” and to send them home with a great love for the Holy Father.  I can honestly say that this goal has certainly been achieved in my time there.  Finally, Rome, like no other place, is filled with the stories and bodies of the saints.  Being in Europe, one also has access to other places which house the bodies of the saints.  Perhaps a story can bring home what I want to say about the saints.  This past Saturday I was blessed to be able to serve as deacon for the priestly ordination of 4 men in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  As part of the ordination rite, all of us present prayed a Litany of the Saints for the 4 men being ordained as they laid prostrate on the ground.  As we went through the list of saints names and asked them to pray for these men, I couldn’t help but think of my encounters with these holy men and women of God.  Each time they would invoke a saint to whom I have a particular devotion, I would think of how my friendship with that saint began and the time that I was able to visit their tomb.  For the sake of brevity I will recall only two.  St. Therese of Lisieux:  My devotion to St. Therese began at St. Ben’s, when one of the men being ordained in New Orleans introduced me to her.  She has followed me throughout my time in formation and has been a great help to me in difficult times.  She has also reassured me many times of my call to the priesthood by sending me white roses when I have doubted that call.  I was able to pray at her tomb in Lisieux in December of 2010.  St. Catherine of Siena:  I took a class on St. Catherine last semester and she quickly became a new favorite saint friend of mine.  She has constantly called me to suffer well, and she has given me a great example of how to do that!  She is buried in Rome, and I had the privilege of visiting her tomb often.  She teamed up with St. Therese on my last visit to Catherine’s tomb the day before I left Rome.  When I walked into Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (Where Catherine is buried) there were white roses all over…very comforting as I prepared to return home to be ordained in a few weeks!  There are many other stories and many other saints, but this gives you an idea of the types of friends I made while in Rome!  There are two reasons for including the Church, the Holy Father, and the Saints all in one.  The first is that 3 types of friendship is easier to remember than 4 or 5.  The second is that they belong together.  The Saints and Holy Father mean nothing if they are not connected to the Church.  If they are not connected to the Church, they lose what makes them special, they cease to be what they are.
Serving with Pope Francis for the 2014 Easter Vigil.
I have certainly saved the best and most important for last.  The third friendship that grew during my time in Rome is my friendship with Jesus Christ.  This was fostered by my friendship with the men in the house, by the Church/the Holy Father/the Saints, and by the constant reminder that the most important thing in formation is growing in my relationship with our Lord.  In his regular conferences to the house, the rector would always remind us to stay faithful to our daily personal pray, including our holy hour and devotions.  He would also remind us of the importance of attending Mass daily, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, remaining faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours, and fostering our devotion to the Blessed Mother.  All of these things are so important if any of us, priests, religious, or laity, want to grow in our love for Christ and His Church.  Being away from home also helped in the growth of my friendship with Christ.  There were many moments when I felt alone, especially early on in my time at the NAC.  One moment in particular stands out in my mind as I write.  It was a Sunday early on in my time in Rome, perhaps during the first semester.  As we finished Mass around 10:45, I thought about how if I were home I would be leaving to go to my grandmother’s house for Sunday lunch with the family.  As I thought about this I was saddened by how far away my family was.  Feeling like I had no one to turn to, I realized that I did have a friend who would never let me down, who would never be far from me, and that I HAD to turn to Him.  My friendship with Jesus grew at times out of a type of necessity, but more than that, it grew out of a realization of how much He loves me.  Realizing this love that God has for me, and growing in my love for Him has made me happier than I have ever been.  I will be forever grateful for the NAC and for my time in Rome for helping me to grow in that love.
Saying goodbye is never easy.  As I have had to say goodbye many times in the last couple of weeks, I am comforted by the fact that “Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.”  I am so incredibly happy to be back home among the great people of the Diocese of Lafayette who have supported me so much through these last 6 years.  I look forward to all that is in store in this new beginning which will begin with ordination to the priesthood in just a few days, and my arrival on the UL campus at Our Lady of Wisdom on July 1st!

In Christ,

Dcn. Patrick

Friday, August 16, 2013

That's My Home

     The refrain of Billy Joel's song You're My Home says "Whenever we're together that's my home."  After a typical Italian expierience of going out into the city to recharge my cell phone, only to find that the store was closed, I slipped into one of my favorite churches in the city, the Basilica of St. Andrew.  I walked in and as I was going to the side altar where the Blessed Sacrament is reposed, I noticed all of the people taking in the beauty of the church.  This particular basilica has beautiful paintings of the martyrdom of St. Andrew along with many other treasures.
     As I walked past these people captivated by the beauty of the church, I began to wonder if I was becoming calloused to beautiful churches after having been in Rome for 3 years.  Though this may be a small factor in my experience, I think something deeper was at work.  The beautiful art, the precious materials, they are all meant to lead us to God.  I have had many experience when a painting or a sculpture or the vast quantities of precious materials in a church have led me to prayer.  But in this particular moment, I didn't need them, I already knew what the real treasure was, or should I say, Who the real treasure was and where I could find Him.  No matter where in the world I find myself, no matter what is wrong, when I step into a church and kneel before the tabernacle which houses our Savior, I feel at home.  So Billy Joel was right, whenever were together, that's my home!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins...and Shortcomings!

     Last night I was invited to speak to a group of high school students who gather at a local Church each week to discuss life.  I was invited so that they could be exposed to another seminarian to see that we are normal people (I'm still trying to figure out why I was picked to show them we are normal!).  One of the questions that I was asked after I gave a brief story of my life was "do you still get scared of not knowing how to answer people?"  Have these people been reading my journal?  That is probably the number one fear I have had recently in approaching the altar of God to be ordained a priest.  What will I say when people ask me about x, y, or z?
     The answer I gave surprised me, sort of.  I said that it is important to be vulnerable.  It is important to show people that you love them and that you are willing to stand there and not know what to say...but that you are willing to stand there anyway.  We must be willing to journey with people.  That means that we won't always know the answers, but we are willing to seek the answers together with them.
     This approach will require a lot of time and effort on our part, but it takes away a great burden.  We don't need to know all of the answers.  Of course we can't use this as an excuse not to learn as much as we can about our Catholic faith, but we must come to the point where we are humble enough to admit when we don't know...and that will happen a lot!
     The key is love. We have to love people enough to tell them the truth and to stand there when they have questions, especially "why?".  We must love them enough to stand there and take whatever may come our way when they don't agree with us or when we don't know answers, and we must love them enough to agree to journey with them in finding those answers however difficult and painful it might be.  So in the end St. Paul was right (shocking, I know), "love covers a multitude of sins," and it can also cover a multitude of our shortcomings, if we are willing to give of ourselves.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why Am I Doing This?

     In a recent holy hour, the question came to mind "why am I doing this?"  The question was not related to the holy hour, but to my vocation; Why am I becoming a priest?  Almost immediately, the answer came to mind; "You are doing this because you have encountered the love of Christ and you want to help others to experience that same love."  This may seem like a great epiphany, but it is actually nothing new.  In fact, it is a new spin on something I have prayed on many times.  I once heard it said that we should take our lead from the Blessed Mother (duh!) in the first two mysteries of the Joyful mysteries of the Holy Rosary.  In the first mystery, the Annunciation, the angel comes to Mary and announces that she will conceive the Son of God in her womb.  God comes to Mary, she has an encounter with Him.  What is Mary's immediate response after God comes to her?  She goes in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  Moved by the love of God Mary must share that love with others, with those that she loves.
     Pope Francis spoke on this phenomenon in his first encyclical saying, "Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves" (Lumen Fidei 37).  God's love is so amazing, makes us so happy that we cannot keep it to ourselves once we experience it.  We must go out and bring that love to others.  We experience this with things that have no lasting value too.  When I eat at a good restaurant, I want to share it with people so they can have good food too.  When I like a brand of electronics, I tell my friends about it so that they can have a better experience with their phone, tv, radio, etc.  If we are moved to share such mundane things with our friends, it only makes sense that we would share the good news of salvation and love with them too.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Eyes on the Prize!

     A couple of weeks ago we had our annual softball tournament here at the NAC where guys from the 3 different universities we attend for the first 3 years of study play each other.  The Angelicum, which I attend had been on a winning streak for the past several years (7 or so).  However, that day the Gregorian put together a great field and came up with a big win.  I had a pretty good game by anyone's standards.  I went 3 for 4 and had many catches in the outfield.  That sounds good when you say it like that.  However, the one time I did get out, we were in prime position to puts some runs across the plate as we had at least 2 guys on base.  I hit a pretty good ball to second base, but right at the 2nd baseman and the inning ended.  I also missed one ball at a crucial point in the game which allowed the Greg to plate a couple more runs.
     The week after the game, I went to Confession.  After I had told the priest my sins he looked at me and said, "Can I ask you a personal question?"  I started thinking about my sins wondering which one he would ask about.  Then it came, "How did it feel when you missed that fly ball?"  Not really what I was expecting, but I swallowed my pride and told him something along the lines of "not too good".  He continued asking, "did you let it get to you?"  I had to be honest, so I replied, "a little bit Father".  It was a crucial point in the game and when I thought "if I could have gotten a hit and if I could have caught that fly ball, the game might have ended differently."  What was the point of asking that question though?  It came when Father told me for my penance to take that feeling when I missed the fly ball, that experience of making that mistake and pray with it, to bring it to Jesus on the Cross, then to wrap it in a Hail Mary.
     I have to admit, at first I was a little shocked.  This seemed rather silly.  It was a softball game, and though I was a little upset, in the grand scheme of things it didn't mean much.  But I agreed and I went to pray in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  Almost immediately, I remembered why I missed that ball.  In the excitement of the game and in my concern with the base runners  I took my eye off the ball.  It wasn't long, maybe a fraction of a second before it went into my glove, but I took my eye off the ball.  It struck me that this is exactly why I needed to go to confession.  At different times, in different ways and to different degrees, I had taken my eyes off of Christ, off of the One who hung upon the Cross for me, who poured out his blood so that I might live.  It is not enough to be focused on Christ when things are going well,  when no one is on base, when the pressure is off.  No, it is in the times when the stakes are high that we need to focus on him the most.  The easy situations are training so that when the rubber hits the road, we will be ready and able to cling to him who is our salvation.
     Lord, I thank you for this humbling and formative experience.  I thank you for continuing to form me to be a good priest even in the most unusual and unexpected ways.  Please continue to pray for me that I may see God's hand in every event in my life.  Please especially pray that I will remained focused on Christ, our crucified and risen Lord.  In those times when we fall and feel unable to do anything on our own, we should remember the words of St. Paul that "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).

In Christ,