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

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Fr. Broussard for your courage and witness to the joy of sacrifice.