In early June, I wrote a piece entitled ‘A Good Priest” about Msgr. James McDonald. He is the rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington LI in the diocese of Rockville Centre. In that piece I mentioned how he was a young parish priest in the parish where I grew up. I wrote of his care for souls and his emphasis on saving them. I my mind, he is the model of a good priest. The National Catholic Register dubbed him ‘the Priest Maker’ (my parish currently has three men in the seminary as a result of Msgr. McDonald) and Bishop Murphy said of him:
“Msgr. McDonald, 64, has never taught in a seminary and holds no advanced degrees in theology. But Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy said he tapped the long-time pastor because Msgr. McDonald holds “a doctorate in priesthood,” and is “an extraordinary mentor and leader of the men,” as demonstrated by his tireless recruitment of vocations. “
Well, today I came across an article on Catholic Online about a retreat for teens in my diocese. Msgr. McDonald is featured prominently in the article. What he says is terrific illustration of why I regard him as a model for priests.
“When I go to Yankee Stadium – actually I go to Shea Stadium, not Yankee Stadium,” Msgr. McDonald said, drawing laughter, “I think, ‘How many of these people need to go to confession?'” The audience laughed again. “That’s really how I think,” he said.
The priest told his audience that he often thinks about souls outside of church, for example, when he passes people in a restaurant parking lot.
The doctrine of hell, that those in mortal sin face eternal separation and punishment from God, “is hardly ever spoken of in a Catholic church,” Msgr. McDonald said. “And when that is not being spoken of, you and I are being cheated and salvation is being compromised.”
“For you and I that is the central question — salvation,” the priest said.
The Catholic Church “has so many activities” but “we are faced with the stark reality that fewer and fewer people know Jesus Christ and fewer and fewer listen to him,” he said.
Many church activities serve those who already go to church, yet many people have no contact with the church but need to, he said. There are too many of those people for priests to know about or find, Msgr. McDonald said.
“But any one of you can go up to that other person,” he noted. “If you don’t, who will?”
The priest told the teens that just as God spoke to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah he is speaking to them. “But if you’re listening to your iPod, playing on your computer or talking on your cell phone, you might not be able to hear him.”
He told them to think about what they are planning to do about their relationship with Jesus Christ and what they are “doing to help bring others to God permanently,” he said.
It is not enough to receive the sacraments, as important as they are, he said. “To fully benefit, what you and I have to do is give ourselves totally to God.”
Msgr. has totally given himself to God. He is consistently funny but never pulls any punches. He speaks to real people about real issues. Death, Heaven, hell, judgment, purgatory. Real things that many priests gloss over or ignore completely today. I thank God that Msgr. McDonald never has. Dear Lord, please send us many priests just like Msgr. McDonald.