Father Ben begins his day with mass. I arrived early and took a few pictures of the church and set my things in the back. As 8:00AM approached, groups of students with their teachers shuffled in and slid into the pews, each class sitting together.
St. Louis Besancon is a small, country church that is stunning and is the home to a devout Catholic community. As the students entered the church, I immediately noticed their reverence! They each used holy water as they came in the door, reverently genuflected at the end of the pew, and knelt before mass and prayed. What a joy to see!
It was Lent at the time, so Father Ben wore a purple Latin vestment that had a beautiful applique of Jesus on the back. I thanked God for the orthodoxy these children are granted here at St. Louis Besancon and mass began.
As always, mass was rich and beautiful. Father Ben has a way of explaining the gospel so that all can understand, even the children. It is clear to see how much Father Ben loves the faith and the mass by the way he does each act throughout the mass. After the Eucharist had been put back in the tabernacle, Fr. Ben knelt before the tabernacle in silence for a few moments—perhaps a few minutes—demonstrating to these students the reverence deserved and necessary.
After mass was over, the students followed their teachers out of the church and I remained there waiting for Father Ben. A few minutes later, he came over to me quickly and said “we gotta go.” He’d just gotten a call and he needed to go to the hospital.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we went to the parishioner’s room. The parishioner was an elderly man; his wife and daughter were in the room with him. Fr. Ben spoke with them all, and then began to administer the anointing of the sick.
I had witnessed each of the other sacraments, except for this one, so this was very exciting for me. I prayed for this man and his family along with them.
Father Ben read from the Bible, administered the sacrament, and then prayed a special prayer with them. They thanked Fr. Ben and we were on our way. Father Ben is the sole priest at St. Louis Besancon, so if there is a hospital call, he just goes. He said this doesn’t happen very often, maybe a couple times per month.
After leaving the hospital, Father Ben dropped his car off at a car service place. We drove in my car to downtown Fort Wayne where Father Ben had a retreat planning meeting with another priest, a youth minister, and various other people from the diocese. We all walked to lunch after closing in prayer.
When lunch was over, we still had a bit of time before picking up Father Ben’s car, so we went to George’s International Market to get ingredients for guacamole. Father Ben is famous for his homemade guacamole! Father interacted with many people while we were in the grocery, as many people recognized him and others recognized that he was a priest. He told me that people definitely treat him differently because of the roman collar he wears: mostly positively.
Then, Father Ben picked up his car and we headed back to the church and school. The school day was almost over, so Father Ben went into the school to greet the students as they left class. It was obvious how much the children love Father Ben, as many ran up to him to say hello. Father Ben joined a classroom for pizza party while at the school as well.
Next, Father Ben went to his office and worked on administrative things for a while. Shortly after, we drove down the road to a parishioner’s home to visit. The church is placed along a dirt road, where many houses are close by. Father Ben mentioned that many of the parishioners live very close to the church, even on the same road.
As the day went on, Father Ben led a mini retreat for the students preparing for the sacrament of Holy Communion. The retreat took place in the church, where Father Ben explained various things to the children such as the vestments he wears, what certain objects in the church are called, what prayers he says throughout mass, and the meaning of the Eucharist. The students asked questions throughout, and Father Ben was eager to answer. He even let them come up the stairs and stand by the tabernacle to get a closer look and understand how important it is. They were all so in awe of the beauty of the monstrance and each followed Father Ben’s lead in showing reverence by genuflecting.
Father Ben explained the various ways in which you can receive the Eucharist and they came up and practiced with unconsecrated hosts. Some of the students received the bread on their tongue and my heart was so full!
When the students left, Father Ben showed me the beautiful Latin vestments he had in the sacristy. He shared with me that his mother makes vestments for him! Each one was made so beautifully, with intricate detail.
At the end of the work day, Father Ben went back over to the school and spoke with the principal. They discussed school matters, but also joked around and talked about life! Father had one more meeting of the day that took place in his office, and then I headed home.
A few lessons I learned from my time with Father Ben.
Priests must be flexible with their schedules.
- Father Ben is a busy man! As a priest of many spiritual children, he often has to move things around in his schedule to make time for things like hospital calls or home visits, etc. Keeping a flexible schedule is a must for priests!
Priests don’t view what they do as a job. Rather, what they do is their calling.
- Even the mundane things that Father Ben must do each day like paperwork and administrative tasks, he is called to do them, so he does them with joy.
A priest teaches us, explains the gospel to us, and acts as Christ to us.
- By spending the day with Father Ben, I was able to see the role of the priest more fully. In addition to the priest’s central duty of offering mass, I found that priests do much more as well. Father Ben (and all priests) are our spiritual fathers each day of the week. They are there to offer guidance with retreat planning. They administer sacraments in the most difficult times. They are a smiling face and an enthusiastic high five to the children eager to learn. And most of all, they are representatives of Christ to each of us, teaching us by example day by day to follow Christ with reckless abandon, doing everything for Him.
The full album from my day with Father Ben can be found here!
If you or someone you know would allow a stranger (me) to follow you around for a day and take pictures of your life, contact me!!! I’m always looking for people that will help me expand this collection, which I’ve called Vocati a Christo.