One of the main drivers of my vocation to the priesthood is my love of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. I guess you could say I was literally "born and raised" by the Church - after all, my whole family was, and still is, strongly attached to my home parish of the Assumption of the BVM Ukrainian Catholic Church in Perth Amboy, NJ. My roots go way back - my great-grandparents on my father's side were part of the original founding group of people that organized the early community there, starting with the original church of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street, and after the splits that fractured the budding Greek Catholic Church at the start of the 20th century, continued on at Assumption of the BVM Ukrainian Catholic Church (which was first on Wayne Street, and now on Alta Vista Place). The storied history of Ukrainian and other Slavic/non-Slavic Greek Catholics of Perth Amboy, NJ, is really infused into my bones. Unfortunately, this history naturally causes much confusion in a casual observer.
It is precisely because of this long history that holds one of many reasons why I answered God's call to serve as a priest in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. For as long as I can remember, I always loved our Church - the icons, the services, how the services are sung, the smell of the incense, how knowledgeable our priest was and how compassionate he was, and so much more. Unfortunately, we see a lack of interest in these things that would capture the heart of someone's soul. All too much, society at large is not interested in things divine. If it comes to matters of things divine, well, there is the all-too convenient excuse that "I am spiritual, but not religious." Most would rather just have a 10-20 minute "download" of just what they want, and leave it at that.
Unfortunately, or should I say, VERY FORTUNATELY for me, in my spiritual growth, I know I can't have the 10-20 minute spiritual data dump. I should say though that, during the day, I do utilize this so that way I can incorporate prayer into my regular life (10 min in morning on waking, 10 min after lunch, 10 min before bed, usually scripture reading/psalms/ or short rule on the Jesus Prayer - the KISS rule and moderation holds for me at all times). This short burst of prayer (one could say it is a HIIT version of prayer) prepares me for the wonder of our Liturgical services. It is precisely this wonder, this sense of God's presence among us as we engage in the Divine Work of liturgical prayer that drew me to service as a priest. It is this sense of wonder that impels me along to share it with others. Our Ukrainian Catholic Church has such a deep and rich spiritual treasure that a 20 minute "mass" (if you can call it that) simply will not do.
You can see this with our Traditional Roman Catholic friends who are deeply inspired and moved by the Tridentine Liturgy (or by a well-done and properly served Novus Ordo Liturgy). When the Liturgy takes place with proper attention, the wonders of our Lord becomes revealed to us and we are figuratively and literally taken in worship with the heavenly hosts. It is a wonder that becomes a fire in your heart, and nothing else can fill it. It is like developing a taste for olives, or blue-mold ripened cheeses, or a good liqueur - at first, everything is too intense and you can't stand it. But as you take your time, you begin to savor it; the rich depths of flavors in the intensity draw you in, and then you realize the depth of the flavors you are experiencing. For me, it is like that - I can't subscribe to the all-too commonplace "Burger King Catholicism", where everyone just samples what they want, when they want, and off you go flitting to your next thing.
Our Church has a very deep well of spiritual treasure and flavor. If you stick with it, you too will find yourself being touched by God on a very deep level. I know I have. I can't easily explain it, but it is that depth that brought me closer to our Lord, that motivates me to serve His Church and to share this treasure with all.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!