December 9, 2023

I prayed, longed for and waited 23 years for a rural parish until God blessed me with a mostly rural diocese! Wow what a gift beyond my imagination, but only a foretaste of heaven.

Man is it hard to wait for what I want. This has been my experience most of my life. It seems I always wanted the next thing, the ideal, the fullness of my desires. Much of my life I tried various ways to fulfill those desires, sometimes discovering what I was desiring was more surface things like the pleasures of money, power, possessions, the mind or the body.

In seeking and having some of those things I would eventually discover they didn’t satisfy my heart where my deepest longing is. My heart has and always will long for the fullness of happiness which can only be found in loving friendship with God and others.

At various times in my life I longed to be a farmer, fireman, husband, dad, businessman or a priest. When I thought about being a priest, my desire was to be a country parish priest with vibrant souls living their Catholic faith. Only after 23 years as a priest have I been fulfilled in a way far beyond what I could imagine possible in this life with a largely rural diocese.

You, like me, may wonder: Why does God make us wait so long sometimes for what we desire? Because His plan is always better than mine, and my virtues (good habits) need to be strengthened.

My “hurry up God” produces impatience, disappointment, discouragement and other questions of “why not now God?” One thing I have learned through the years is that waiting is essential for growth in holiness and happiness. For example the virtues of patience and even long suffering need to grow in order for me to be a saint one day.

Advent is a time of waiting for the coming of the Lord, ideally filled with a joyful anticipation and not an impatient or anxious waiting. It certainly was hard to do as a kid when all I wanted was my Christmas gifts. Only as I grew older did the Christmas gifts become less influential and the longing for interior happiness in my heart grow stronger.

I would eventually discover what I really wanted was a deep loving friendship with God. I had to discover what St. Augustine described: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

If our focus is receiving and sharing God’s love, we will be satisfied as much as we can here on earth but will still be longing for the fullness of it in heaven.

Perhaps you, like me, have searched for love in all the wrong places and things, i.e. in the pleasures of the mind, body or will, rather than focusing on what will bring us interior or spiritual happiness of a loving relationship with God and others.

As extremely blessed as I am to be your bishop with my love of our mostly rural diocese, that alone will never satisfy my heart. I will forever long for the fullness of loving friendship with God which will only be completely fulfilled in heaven.

So, as we continue our earthly journey with all its joys and sorrows, may we focus our attention and energy on our deepest desire of loving friendship with God and align everything else according to that great desire!

Remember the words of Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” That is my prayer and hope for all of us.

This Advent and Christmas Season let’s joyfully await the coming of the Lord through the grace he provides each day, at Christmas, and at the end of time when the waiting and longing to be COMPLETELY fulfilled in a more satisfying way than we can even imagine.

As we await and strive for the full satisfaction and perfect love of God and others, may we never forget that Jesus is “Emmanuel – God with us” each and every moment of our life on the journey to heaven.