I have been trying hard to keep my spirits up this week, but I admit it has been difficult. This WaPo story is a significant reason why. This is the Change we have been waiting for.

Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights [abortion] and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team.

So I went to mass last evening with a heavy heart. There I met hope.

We attended the 5:30pm Teen mass last night which is typically an exercise in the virtue of patience for me. I had just entered the narthex of the Church with the five kids in tow when my wife leaned over to me and said, “That’s him.”

Two weeks ago, just prior to the election, my wife was at this same mass and had the opportunity to hear a new priest in our diocese return to the parish where he attended in his youth. He has been assigned to a parish some 50 miles west of here, but was invited to say mass in his home parish.

My wife came home from that mass to tell me how impressed she was with this new young priest. She told me that he was a very gifted speaker, but moreover gave a compelling sermon on the issues at stake in this election. Life, he said, was the main issue. Without the right to life, all other issues paled. Without that fundamental right, everything else falls apart. Without life, no family, no society, and so on. The underpinning of it all is life. My wife was very favorably impressed that such a young priest would tackle the issues of the day head on and do it, in her mind, very effectively.

So when my wife said today “That’s him,” I was very interested. What I witnessed gives me tremendous hope for the future. Father gave a very solid homily focused on the Eucharist and the papacy. He peppered it with history, world history and his own, and did it very effectively. I must say that I hung on every word and noticed that my oldest, ages 8 and 7, were paying attention more than usual as well.

As favorably impressed as I was with his speaking skills, the reverence with which he celebrated the Eucharist bowled me over. His every move seemed infused with a profound reverence for the sacrament. Never rushed, he pronounced each word with a freshness and understanding that seems so rare today. This man understood what his priesthood means and does not take one single iota of it for granted.

A few days ago my wife was going through some old boxes and came across a miraculous medal that had been given to my daughter at the time of her christening but had unfortunately been misplaced. When my daughter found out, she immediately put it around her neck and told me that she wanted to have the priest bless it after mass this Sunday. After mass, the family and I introduced ourselves and I asked him to bless her medal.

We were at the back of the church just after mass and as a local boy, there were plenty of people lined up to say hello to the young priest. But again, in an unhurried way he blessed the medal and gave a special blessing to each of the kids in turn. Their faces left no doubt in my mind that they will remember Father for some time to come.

As I left mass yesterday, for a moment, I had forgotten all about the setbacks of this week and the ramifications of that defeat. Gone was the heartache and dread and in its place was hope. Hope for the future of our Church and our nation. Seeing a priest like Father Robert Ketchum, I know that God is still on our side.

Thank you Father for being, through the grace of God, in the right place at the right time and giving me back what I thought I lost this week. Hope.