A Day in the Life (of a Priest) – Part 1

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/06/02/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-priest-part-1/

NewBostonPost is publishing a weekly column by local religious leaders on Friday. This week’s article is below.


This year I passed three milestones.

In January I celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination as a priest … forty of those as an Episcopal priest.

In February I turned 75 years old, passing well beyond the biblical allotment of three score and ten — on my way, God willing, to the four score allotted to the strong (Psalm 90:10).

Last month, I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my ordination as a Catholic priest. Through a special provision of Pope Benedict for married Anglican clergy, I was ordained by Cardinal Sean O’Malley and now serve as a senior priest (meaning officially retired, but still active if a pastor will have me) in the Archdiocese of Boston.

My wife Gloria frequently comments on my busy life as an old priest:  “I thought you were retired!”

“No, my dear, a priest never retires!”

The ordination rite reiterates constantly:  ”You are a priest forever after the Order of Melchizedek!”

“Forever.” That is not a burden but a privilege and a joy. Though I have slowed down from the 70-to-80-hour work week of my days as a parish pastor, still every day is rich and full in sacred ministry.

So what does a Catholic priest, a senior priest, do on an average day?

The morning begins with prayer.

A priest is required to share in the reading of the Divine Offices, particularly Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours, as these prayers are also called, are prayers, psalms, and readings to be read at specific times during the day. This tradition is built on the monastic life, which itself is built on the Jewish tradition of praying seven times a day.

Throughout the whole world, this great symphony of prayer is raised up by every bishop, priest, and deacon, by every monk and nun, and by millions of laypeople who share in the recitation of the office. With the development of online apps specifically to pray the offices, any Christian anywhere in the world in just about any language can share in this universal prayer.

And though as in all prayer there are times of distraction and dryness, still one has this sense of the fellowship of the Spirit carrying us along. It is a beautiful way to begin each day and to end each day.

Though it is duty, it is delight.

My favorite of the various offices provided for in the breviary (the book that contains the prayers) is the Office of Readings. This office includes two long readings:  one from Sacred Scripture; the second from a saint.

Holy Scripture, because it is the word of God, is always the foundation of our conversation with God. Though I have been reading the Bible all my life, its richness never runs out. I see things I never saw before; I hear God speaking in fresh and personal ways.

And the saints … this great company of holy men and women and children in love with God speak across the ages to me today. What friends and companions they have become. It is one of the special new dimensions of my Christian faith since becoming a Catholic.

In my evening prayers, I follow a pattern a bit different from that of a regular diocesan priest. When Pope Benedict XVI established the provision under which I was ordained, he encouraged us as former clergy of the Anglican communion (which the Episcopal Church in the United States is part of) to bring our Anglican patrimony with us “to preserve and to share.” Among the treasures of the Anglican Heritage is the Book of Common Prayer, the primary liturgical text of the English church.

Birthed in the same period of the great flowering of the English language as Shakespeare and the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer epitomizes the best of the dignified and exquisite liturgical prose proper to the worship of God. Many a Catholic priest who has some familiarity with the Anglican prayer book has told me that the Elizabethan language of the prayer book should be the pattern for the English vernacular in the Catholic Church. Much of the language of the contemporary Catholic Mass and rites, including the New American translation of the Bible authorized in the American Catholic Church, is wooden, clumsy, and unpoetic.

So at night, I use an Anglican form of Evening Prayer, thus keeping one foot in my Anglican past while fulfilling Pope Benedict’s mandate to preserve and share.

Another discipline of my evening prayer, also of a sort having to do with language, is to try to keep my knowledge of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew alive. I studied Greek and Latin at Boston Latin School, many a year ago; I added Hebrew in college; and continued with all three all through seminary.

It is a special blessing to read Sacred Scripture in the original languages. I found a marvelous Bible app that gives Sacred Scripture in four parallel columns:  English, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.  (The app is called Holy Bible Reference, developed by Paul Avery.)

The app actually gives you many languages to choose from, not just the original biblical ones. So brush up on your French, Spanish, Italian. Russian, German, or whatever… while praying and meditating. This is a definite cure for distraction!

The Divine Office are also easily available online.  Some of the many apps for The Divine Offices are:  Universalis, I-Breviary, Divine Office, Laudate.

For the Anglican Offices from the Book of Common Prayer, I highly recommend the app The Daily Office from the Mission of St. Clare.

A.J. Gordon, a great Christian leader of Boston and the founder of Gordon College and Seminary, once wrote:  “There is much you can do after you have prayed; but there is nothing you can do before you have prayed.”

How true this is, and it is certainly true in the life of a priest — to begin and end all things in prayer.


Father Jürgen Liias served for forty years as an Episcopal priest in various churches in the Boston area.  In 2013, through a special provision of Pope Benedict XVI for married Protestant ministers, he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston. He serves now as a senior priest on the staff of St. Patrick’s Church in Stoneham, Massachusetts.


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