My favorite sacrament stories, 47 years into the priesthood

Children bring a special blessing to the sacraments.
Catholic Voices

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

This past May I celebrated the 47th anniversary of my ordination. Throughout my ministry, I have many memories of the joy, and sometimes the tears, as I accompanied young people in receiving the sacraments. Young people bring a special blessing to the sacraments. I’m grateful to be with them and their families in these moments.


Parish group baptisms are wonderful but at times chaotic. If one child begins to cry, another soon follows, and then you have a choir. There’s always one child who sleeps through it all, while the celebrant must always be prepared for the occasional baby shoe flying past his nose.


Children’s confessions can be challenging, not because of serious sins but because sometimes it’s hard to stifle your laughter. Once a child confessed to adultery. Knowing he was between 7 and 8, I asked what he had done. He answered very solemnly, “I peed in my sister’s shoe.”



In one parish, the teacher gave her third-grade children the opportunity to prepare the bread for their First Communion. She found a recipe on a monastery’s website, and the kids worked in groups in the school cafeteria. There was flour everywhere! Later, we discreetly picked the best of the day to use for the sacrament.


Once I assisted a bishop during confirmation. I stood at his left giving him the confirmation name of each child. When one boy came up, the card for the boy named William read “James.” The bishop looked at me and said, “His confirmation stole says ‘Thomas.’ ” Then he asked the boy, “Son, what is your confirmation name?” He said, “Edward.” The bishop calmly proceeded: “Edward, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”


A handsome little ring bearer brought the rings to the best man. The best man untied the beautiful bow holding the rings to the pillow and lifted them. The whole pillow came up with them. Someone, worried the 6-year-old ring bearer would lose the rings, sewed them to the pillow. Try as he could, the best man could not separate the rings from the pillow. Luckily, I had a pocketknife to cut the thread!

Holy orders

I was in Spain a few years back and concelebrated a Mass in a local church. There were 30 of us standing around the sanctuary along with three little girls who were the altar servers. When the priests raised their hands calling down the Spirit upon the gifts, the girls raised their hands in a similar way each time. I was laughing inside! Pointing to the girls, I whispered to the priest beside me, “This is the first Catholic Mass with women concelebrating.” He was not amused. I said, “Relax and enjoy the moment!”


Anointing of the sick

One little boy told me, on a trip to a local McDonald’s, of the headaches he had. Doctors eventually discovered he had a brain tumor. Surgery was unsuccessful. After I anointed him, his parents knelt on one side of his bed, I on the other, praying. I watched as he breathed his last breath. His parents grieved quietly. God had taken him home, but that didn’t lessen the pain. 

This article also appears in the August 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 8, page 9). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Unsplash/Betzy Arosemena