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Father John Hollowell was ordained a priest on June 6, 2009, just prior to the start of the Year for Priests.
He reflected on his joyful experience as a newly ordained priest in a series of reflections given during an annual 40 Hours devotion on March 8-10 at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis.
The last of his reflections was given as part of Holy Rosary’s 10th annual “Spaghetti and Spirituality” Lenten adult education series.
Father Hollowell began by focusing on the joy he has found by deliberately planning for the near and long-term future, which he described as intentionality.
“There’s a real joy in that,” said Father Hollowell, a teacher, coach and chaplain at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis. “When I wake up, I know I have a purpose. And I know that we’re moving somewhere.”
He then encouraged his listeners to not wait for “the right time” to start giving attention to their lives of faith.
“Well, the time is never right, most likely,” Father Hollowell said. “In terms of our human weakness, we’re never really ready to dive into things. We have to plan. We have to mean it. And we have to intend to do it.”
A timely joy he reflected on was the practice of fasting, which Father Hollowell said he dreaded while growing up.
“My least favorite was a tie between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday,” Father Hollowell said.
The priest talked about how his spiritual director encouraged him, shortly after he was ordained, to fast on a regular basis.
He said it has made a fruitful cycle in his life.
“There’s a cycle of both penance and suffering on those days of fasting,” Father Hollowell said. “Then I find a much greater joy that comes on those days when I’m not [fasting].”
He also encouraged his listeners to consider taking up the practice of regular fasting.
“It’s certainly something that needs to be done in prayer and possibly through discernment with your priest,” Father Hollowell said. “But it is something that has borne much fruit for me in my life.”
Another joy for Father Hollowell is the happiness he sees in Catholics who love the Church and embrace its teachings.
This joy was also related to what he sees as the fading away of the belief that one could “be Catholic and hate the Church at the same time. One can dissent from and basically trash the very Church that they claim to be [a part of].”
Father Hollowell claimed that this stance was rooted in schools of philosophy that emerged about 500 years ago in which people were encouraged to doubt everything.
Such a position, however, he said, ultimately brings people to unhappiness and despair.
“I think that what we see now, when we honestly survey the surroundings, that when people carry that out to its logical conclusion, there is no fruit on the tree,” Father Hollowell said.
On the other hand, Father Hollowell said, he has seen great vitality in an alternate vision of the Church in which there is “a love for the faith, a love for what it means to be Catholic.”
“It’s there and it’s thriving,” he said. “It’s a great time to be in the Church. We’re seeing a great rebirth in a love for the Church. I think we should recognize that, and we should be thankful, and we should be continuing to help those who aren’t sure.”
Father Hollowell said that the best way to make a connection with people who doubt the Church—and the vision for life that it offers—is to be joyful in our love of the faith and our example in living the faith.
“May we be a people of joy, even in the midst of Lent, even in the midst of the fasting and the penance and the almsgiving—maybe especially because of those,” he said. “May we be a people who witness to the happiness and the joy and the peace that is to be found here and only here in the Catholic Church.”
One of the people listening to Father Hollowell was someone who hears him preach on a regular basis—Peggy Martin, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, where Father Hollowell is in residence and serves as a sacramental minister.
“He is a joyful person,” said Martin, who assists in her parish’s confirmation program. “He lives his faith. And you see it when he talks to us and he tells us his stories about his youth and how he got to be a priest.
“It’s important that [youths] see people living their faith. And with him being the [football] coach and chaplain that he is, that’s just great for the kids to see someone like that.”
Prior to his 40 Hours reflection, Father Hollowell assisted Father Michael Magiera, Holy Rosary’s associate pastor, in a solemn high celebration of the extraordinary form of the Mass. Also assisting was Father Ryan Hilderbrand, a priest of the Evansville Diocese.
Following the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in a monstrance during Father Hollowell’s reflection.
Following the reflection, there was a eucharistic procession in the church and solemn Benediction. †