My Daily Conversion
In Georgia, Fr. Brian rediscovers the work of School of Community and the companionship of CL
In April of this year, I was excited to finally attend the Communion and Liberation priest retreat that is given annually the week after Easter. The retreat was not only a nice retreat time with the Lord, but it was also a time with fellow priests who follow the charism of CL. The retreat days were full of silence, prayer, singing, and friendship. Fr. José led us in reflections throughout the week on the topics of attentiveness, presence, and silence. After midday mass, we were encouraged to spend time together as brother priests by going to the beach or visiting a cultural site (a group of us declared the local brewery a cultural site). In the evenings, we talked about life late into the night. It was helpful and encouraging to live with other priests in the Movement for the week.
The retreat prompted me to reach out to the responsible of my local community who happened to be on the retreat with me. I asked him if there was a way for me to join the School of Community during the week, even if I live two hours away. We decided that I could easily join via video each week. It has been a couple of years since I was active in School of Community simply because a priest’s schedule can be difficult to manage; I was excited to begin again.
I now join with three others on a weekly basis to talk about the text and reflect on our experience. We laugh, make jokes, pray together, reflect with each other, and allow Christ to appear in that space. I started to realize that our School of Community was impacting my life. As a priest, I am always saying prayer daily, celebrating mass daily, ministering to my flock, having spiritual conversations with people, and reading theology. I have been a priest for four years and I am comfortable in that life. Yet the School of Community gathering that I was participating in on a weekly basis was fostering a weekly conversion in me. I would show up after a full week of ministry and my heart would be convicted. I have felt the experience of mercy from Christ through those who do this work of School of Community with me. Their merciful gaze strikes me, because they look beyond my sin, and embrace me. Their friendship reminds me of what I am made for, recalling my destiny, instilling hope within me, and inviting me to an adventure. My life is met with a weekly conversion like no other.
Because of this weekly conversion, my daily prayer has become a begging for Christ to convert my heart towards Him each morning. I sit there, distracted and tired, in front of the Blessed Sacrament simply begging to have my heart turned towards him.
Each morning in prayer I read a section from “Christ, The Life of Life” by Fr. Lepori, which helps foster my begging heart. Though one of my favorite books is Simon, Called Peter by Lepori, I know very little about him, yet his witness has been provoking a conversion in me on a daily basis. I experience a companionship in his words; I’m walking with a friend who is running towards Christ.
I currently work with college students at the University of Georgia. There are two of us priests and we both participate in the life of CL. Fr Michael, our assistant priest, accompanies me in my daily prayer and I have discovered even more how his companionship is special and necessary in my life. We are not meant to live this life alone!
As a priest, my mission is to usher everyone into the Mystery, but in this friendship with Fr. Michael and by following the work of the School of Community, I recognize my own need to be ushered into the Mystery. School of Community has offered me a companionship with others who are looking towards Christ. We look at reality, we are honest with each other, and we try to not be scandalized by our own sin. Together, on a weekly basis, we return to the Mystery who became flesh. This has allowed for the Life of life to come into my own life and those whom I shepherd as a priest. I am very thankful.
Fr. Brian, Athens, Georgia