Father Francis Gaffney is one of three priests living at Villa Raffaella Assisted Living, Pleasantville. Below is a reflection he wrote on the occasion of his golden jubilee, June 14.
Fifty years ago today, I was ordained a priest. I am not going to give a biography of what unfolded over those many years sometimes quietly and most often unnoticed. There were many manifestations of destiny which over the years opened intense thresholds in the lives of those ordained with me. There were 28 men ordained for the Camden Diocese in 1964. Ten have died; 10 left for one reason or another, and 8 remain.
Time and religion have contributed many things for our lives, have done things to us, and have undone things in us. Some people, naively, ask me when did God call you to be a priest or how did you know. I cannot answer those questions with any clarity. All I know is this:
God is not secretive, nor is he devious. Yet, he can be very subtle as Einstein once said. He speaks to all of us silently as he, once, spoke to Elijah in the cave. God was not heard in the high wind nor in the earthquake nor in fire but in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:9ff). This is the way it is with ourselves, God speaking to us, not directly, but through others. You know your “others” and I know mine. Mine were good parents, and some kind priests and lay people whom I met along the way and after ordination as a priest it was good holy parishioners, some of them saints and even a few of them students from high school who kept me going on the straight and narrow path. I know because I could feel it. One does not go on valiantly like some Superman or Superwoman or Lone Ranger. These types were not real persons nor could they be anything else but fiction. But God is always there and he is no fiction. Such are all our biographies – God calling and our sometimes feeble attempts to respond.
What we seek, or should I say the One we seek, is very busy trying to seek us. God calls us to a field beyond everywhere and it is there we meet him. When we were baptized, God gave us wings. Think about that and say to ourselves, “Because I have my wings, I am not going to crawl but soar through my life.”
At this moment let us get rid of, sell our cleverness and deviousness. God, as I said a moment ago, is not devious. Let us buy instead amazement and wonder at what God has done for us and in us. Omar Khayyam was a Persian poet about 1,000 years ago and he came up with the line,” a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and Thou.” These were only words as lovely as they may seem to be. One thousand years again before him, Jesus already by a gesture beyond all human understanding had changed a loaf of bread and a jug of wine into himself. On the Thursday night before he died Jesus gave that same power to his Apostles and to many men ever since. Then, by our participation in that, transformed bread and wine, Jesus changes us into himself. God speaks to us silently in our hearts. Everything and anything else is just a poor translation of what really is. One day, God will explain it all in words that are explicitly clear and which will leave us with perfect understanding. Meanwhile, thank you all for your prayers and for your lovely wishes. And may God bless you too and keep you in good health.