As the New–and lateley arrived–associate pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center, I am very glad to be here at my “first assignment,” after a taxing summer of thesis work back in Oakland. St. Catherine’s actually has a special place in my personal history. For a period of about five years prior to entering the order, I would annually travel back and forth from California to graduate school in Maryland. As I discerned my vocation to the Western Dominicans in the summer of 2003, the vocation director at the time–now provincial Fr. Mark Padrez–alerted me to the Newman community here. On one of my cross-country jaunts, I stopped in, attended daily Mass, and met Frs. Dennis Reilly and James Thompson. St. Catherine’s was the first Western Dominican community I was introduced to! So things have come full circle, I suppose, and it is good after many years of patient attention to study and formation, to be back at St. Catherine’s as a newly ordained priest.
On the note of “patient attention,” the Scripture readings this Sunday encourage us to reflect on our own attention to our spiritual lives, and the best ways we can contribute to the spiritual edification and nourishment of those around us. The image of a “vineyard” appears throughout the readings, and in each case, it describes a community planted and arranged by God, with everything it needs for flourishing. Yet–in each case–those within the vineyard end up marring the plan God has for it through neglect and selfishness. In a fallen world, those of us trying to live full spiritual lives come to know very well that we, and those around us, are all “works-in-progress.” I know indeed I am. I know the “vines” of my spiritual life need constant attention and much patience. But I also know that God’s power and goodness is always available with grace, mercy, and healing in precisely the places it is needed most. As a new pries, I feel a deep responsibility to be a vessel of this mercy, a mercy each disciple of Christ is called to, a mercy constantly ready to renew the vineyard of the Lord. Pray for me as I emberk on ministry this year, that I may be an authentic vessel fo God’s mercy; each of you, I promise, will certainly be in my prayers.
-Fr. Peter hannah, O.P.