Life Lessons from an Elderly Priest

When I saw this front-page headline in The New York Times this morning I groaned (at least inwardly): "In Graying Priesthood, New York's Grayest Keeps Faith in Bronx."  I expected another mournful article like "For New York Archdiocese's One New Priest, a Lonely Distinction," a well-reported but depressing piece on dwindling vocations, accompanied by a photo of a sad-faced new priest sitting alone in the empty seminary chapel.  Today's headline betokened another sad article about a sad reality.

But today's story by Sharon Otterman (who also wrote the previous piece) was a great inspiration.  It is a beautiful profile of Msgr. Gerald Ryan, New York's oldest working priest, at 92, who offers some great life lessons for contemporary priests and contemporary Catholics. 

“I think I have come a long, long way from when I was ordained,” he said. As a seminarian, he said, he liked the idea of saying Mass, hearing confession and being addressed as “father,” but that was “like a fairy tale.”

“It isn’t about serving the church in the way you have envisioned, from the altar, and from the position of authority and power,” he said. “But it is learning what human nature is, and what the struggles of people are. And where Jesus really is.”

Do yourself a favor and read about Msgr. Ryan here.

J Cosgrove
4 years 10 months ago
I have a couple comments:


First, great article and I recommend everyone read it. It represents the Catholic Church that I am so proud of.


Second, I am an information junkie and yesterday while on the treadmill, watched part of a Teaching Company course on ''The Brain'' The two lectures I watched were on Alzheimer's. 


I have a personal interest since my wife's mother who is 5 years younger than Fr. Ryan was diagnosed with it a few years ago.  After listening to the two lectures I learned my wife's mother did not have Alzheimer's but some other form of dementia.  The second thing I learned is that Alzheimer's is a behavioral disease as is most forms of dementia.  In other words most who get it, have it because of behavioral reasons.  In other words diet, exercise, living habits will prevent it in nearly all cases and intellectual habits learned early may help.  And the reason we know this, is what brings me to my comment.


One of the most important research studies on Alzheimer's was with an order of nuns who lived to ripe old ages with high mental alertness and cognitive ability.  Only a few of these nuns got Alzheimer's even though many were in their 90's or over 100.  Because the nuns were unrelated genetically it showed that it is mainly environmental or behavior patterns that causes the disease in most people.  And somehow these nuns avoided all the pitfalls.


Which leads me back to Fr. Ryan.  He may be gifted genetically or he may have led the life that avoided all the traps for Alzheimer's.  He is still able to use his God given gifts into his 90's just as many of the order of nuns were able to live active lives in their 90's and some into their 100's.  I never heard of the study til yesterday but due to the marvels of modern technology, the book, ''Aging with Grace'' by David Snowden is now on my Nook and I have started reading it.  I have no comments on the book because I only have read a couple pages but it has very good reviews.  Here are the Barnes and Noble and Amazon links to the book


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/aging-with-grace-david-snowdon/1111007871?ean=9780553380927


http://www.amazon.com/Aging-Grace-Teaches-Healthier-Meaningful/dp/0553380923/ref=la_B001IU2QZ8_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342623031&sr=1-1
4 years 10 months ago
A life of holiness, all about "Life Lessons From An Elderly Priest" telling of Msgr. Gerald Ryan, a 92 year old priest of the New York Archdiocese and still active in ministry!


He said the following and more about what being a priest is really all about. "It isn't about serving the Church in the way you envisioned from the altar and from positions of authority and power. But it's about learning what human nature is and what the struggles of people are. And what Jesus really is!" I love that last line especially., "AND WHAT JESUS REALLY IS!"


But unnfortunately it seems seminaries are dusting off xerox prints of "the way it used to be" and seminarians from the "old print" are being shipped out, all aflame with the blaze of Tridentine's "authority and power."

 

One pastor was shocked to see a young priest in Romanesque vestments maniple and all, celebrating Mass in Tridentine pomp and splendor. at his church. Another newly ordained opted to uses Tridentine for his First Mass! I fear others are waiting their turn to do the same thing. I find this alarming and in effect is another smack at the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, effectively weakening the Council's intent.  I hope this whole thing is like a passing bellyache that'll pass away! 

God bless Msgr. Ryan! May every priest be like him.
Jim McCrea
4 years 10 months ago
"One pastor was shocked to see a young priest in Romanesque vestments maniple and all, celebrating Mass in Tridentine pomp and splendor. at his church. Another newly ordained opted to uses Tridentine for his First Mass! I fear others are waiting their turn to do the same thing. I find this alarming and in effect is another smack at the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, effectively weakening the Council's intent. I hope this whole thing is like a passing bellyache that'll pass away!"


Must be in the diocese of Madison, WI. If it were in the diocese of Arlington, VA, or Lincoln, NE, no one would have batted an eye.
JOHN SULLIVAN
4 years 10 months ago
God bless you Msgr. Ryan and all like you.
David Smith
4 years 10 months ago
Father Martin, the New York Times prints these nostalgic, paper-thin little pieces on the disintegrating Catholic Church with some regularity.  They love the Church as a farmer must love a dependable old milch cow.

You see it as a tribute, but it's also decidedly ironic and condescending.
4 years 10 months ago
(#3)  Jim, A noun deals with "persons" "place" things." I've been as "nounie" as I want to get having named "things" in my Msgr. Ryan post. Young priests using Tridentine in places you mentioned were not the ones ralked about. It happened  in other unexpecteed places and seems to signal a seminary trend. After all,  the Holy Father did give priests permission to use Tridentine even without the pastor's approval, didn't he? 
JOHN SULLIVAN
4 years 10 months ago
#5 You enjoy being the contratian, not too much different than Scalia. Wake up! Smell the roses.
Joe Mcmahon
4 years 10 months ago
#5.  Come on, David Smith.  Allow writers to tell the stories of good priests.  One of the major improvements in the NY Times in recent years has been an increasing willingness to look at ordinary life in the four outer boroughs.  On both sides of East 138th Street, Mott Haven, good people are making their contributions, and Msgr. Gerald Ryan is one of them.  Praise to him, and praise to the writers and editors that get these true narratives in print. 

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