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In August, a group from the archdiocese went to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Having gone to Madrid in 2011 and Krakow in 2016, I was ready for Lisbon. I was excited to see how the Lord would work in my life. In a moment of pilgrimage, the Lord is ready to grant graces too numerous to count.

When I went to Madrid, the grace was a realization that I am not alone. I saw the universality of the Catholic Church. When I went to Krakow, the grace was a tangible experience with Divine Mercy; everywhere we went in Poland there just seemed to be another merciful moment. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed in a monstrance in the middle of a plaza and people would turn the corner of the busy street and fall to their knees in adoration.

Lisbon was my first WYD as a priest, and I knew that something special was in store. I was very excited to go to Fatima because Our Lady of Fatima had been pursuing me for some time (different blog post). I was excited to be where Fernando Martins was born, or as you may know him, St. Anthony of Padua. There were many things to be excited about, but I would have never guessed that the grace I would receive was a greater appreciation and true gratitude for the calling that Jesus gave me to be his priest.

There were a lot of people at the opening Mass of World Youth Day. It took about 45 minutes, with some pushing and shoving, to get to the concelebration area. After receiving Communion, as I was praying in a moment of thanksgiving, I looked back at the sea of people and, under every white umbrella, there was Jesus: body, blood, soul, and divinity being received by young men and women who were hungry for him. And I, by virtue of ordination, bring him to people. The tears welled up in my eyes as I thought, “Thank you, Lord!”

We fast forward a few days to the closing Mass. We were all tired, sweaty, dirty, sweaty, sleepy, and did I mention sweaty, from our pilgrimage to the vigil site and overnight. We woke up at 5 a.m. to get our vestments and be ready for the 9 a.m. Mass. We were sitting by 6:15 a.m. and the section slowly began to fill up. At around 8:30 a.m., as my brother priests began to put on their chasubles, it hit me: “This is the biggest Mass I have ever concelebrated in my life.”

During the words of consecration, the tears welled up again. You see, in front of me were Italian priests, next to me were Polish priests, and behind me were religious order priests from four different countries. We didn’t speak the same language, we all have different ministerial realities, we all have unique stories of how God called us, but we answered the Lord’s call, and we are here together, ready to bring about an encounter with the risen Lord and his young people.

Again, I thought, “Thank you, Lord!”

On the flight back home from Madrid to Miami, there was a medical emergency. About two rows in front of me an old woman was having a medical issue and some fellow passengers began to take care of her. When I saw that chest compressions began, I asked her daughter if I could anoint her, and I did. She passed away on the flight and I was asked to say a few consoling words to her husband and family.

Although it was a sad situation, I don’t think the Lord could have allowed me to finish the pilgrimage in a more profound way. After having multiple experiences of true gratitude for the gift of the priesthood, he allowed me to be present in a family’s hardest moment as I ushered their loved one to heaven. I went to the airplane bathroom to compose myself as I thought, “Thank you, Lord!”

We celebrated Priesthood Sunday on September 24, a day to say thank you to priests for their yes and their vocation. But today, and every day, I say thank you to the Lord for calling me, empowering me, and allowing me to his priest.

Please pray for your priests and pray that the Lord, the Master of the Harvest, may send more laborers. Join me in praying a Hail Mary a day for vocations!

Comments from readers

Deacon Tom Hanlon - 09/27/2023 09:36 AM
You are such a great example of what a Priest should be. May the Lord continue to bless you and your mission to bring others to undertstand their need to serve Jesus as a Priest or Deaons.
Giuliana Gage - 09/26/2023 03:41 PM
Thank you for sharing your joy in being a Priest and asking us to say a simple prayer every day
Dwayne Clein - 09/25/2023 12:48 PM
Thank you Father Matthew for sharing your experience from WYD. May God continue to bless you always. :)
Robert Lee Hubbard - 09/25/2023 11:58 AM
Thank you, FT Mathhew, for your dedicated service to mankind worldwide. Many blessings from the Immaculate Conception Emmaus ministry. Hubbard
Carmela Beltran-Brito - 09/25/2023 11:04 AM
And we say, "Thank you, Lord for Father Matthew!" You are such a true blessing to our Miami church. Thank you for saying yes to the Lord.
Pat Solenski - 09/25/2023 10:40 AM
Thank you Father Matthew for sharing your blessings and graces. As you express your gratitude to God for your priesthood, we express our gratitude to you for your priesthood.

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