There is so much about being an Episcopal priest that I love--the community, the love, the fun, the relationships, the conversations, the communion (both liturgical and personal).
But there is a part I don't like--but need to do.
The priest at St. John's in Waterbury, where I was for 21 years, called me yesterday. He's on vacation in Maine, and asked me for a pastoral favor.
A couple I married 20 some years ago, were at Waterbury hospital with their 19 year old son on life support.
Of course I did the favor. This is the part of being a priest that I don't like--but need to do. All the good stuff is to build relationships for moments like these. This is what I need to be to be a priest.
I called them and met them at the hospital half-an-hour later. I'd never seen a patient on so many machines and I've been in Intensive Care a lot.
Masked, I hugged his mom and dad. And then anointed him and prayed for him, holding his hand and touching his face.
Then I asked, "I know this is a hard question, but do you want me to give him last rites?"
They sadly, but earnestly, shook their heads 'yes'.
So, I did.
I'm not sure I've given last rites to a person I baptized as a baby before. But I've baptized lots of babies and given lots of last rites.
I left with more hugs and not a few tears.
I hardly slept at all last night.
He died at 3:18 a.m. this morning.
What a tragedy.
I enjoy the good parts, the joyous parts of being a priest.
But these are the things I was called by God to priesthood to do.
I don't like them--but I need to do them.
These are the times I was chosen to live.
I blame God and thank God at the same time for the pain and privilege to be there for those times.
Those times are why I am a priest.