Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Priest Hero

Several months ago, I wrote a post related to Christ the King and included a prayer from my priest hero Fr. Todd Reitmeyer. When I was in the college seminary, each of the seniors would give his story of a priest hero. When I was preparing for mine, I thought about doing it on St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Dominic but there was one priest who kept lingering in my mind and so I did my reflection on his life and witness.

One day during the reign of Blessed John XXIII, a group of priests came to see the Pope at an audience. As each of them introduced themselves, they told the pope their name, and what they did as priests. Some were university teachers; some were the vicar generals for their dioceses. The last priest was timid because he felt that he did not measure up to the other priests. He told the Holy Father that he was just a parish priest. Immediately the pope knelt down and kissed his hands and said, “That’s the greatest priestly work of all”

My priest hero is not Blessed John XXIII, nor is it that parish priest, but it is a priest who influenced my life greatly, during his short priesthood. Todd Michael Anthony Reitmeyer was born in 1969 into a military family and because of that he never had a place to call home. After his father’s death in the early 90’s he began studying at Texas A&M and eventually received a masters degree in counseling. During this whole time the idea of priesthood had been in the back of his mind. He ended up coming to South Dakota because of the influence of Bishop Robert Carlson. Todd spent some time living at a parish in northern South Dakota before entering seminary and coincidentally it was a parish he would later serve as a priest. His time as a seminarian started here in this building where he studied philosophy before moving on to the North American College in Rome. Eventually, he was ordained in the summer of 2003.

There are several reasons why Fr. Todd is my priest hero. One of them is the way he brought Christ to the youth. After his ordination he began a program called Children’s adoration. He raised money to pay for a monstrance that would be used for adoring our Lord. This ministry was dedicated to families that home schooled their children. Each month he would have an hour of adoration, which also involved him teaching the youth about our Catholic faith. Although I never participated in one of these events, I eventually saw pictures of the children and Fr. Todd kneeling and bowing before our Lord. Through this he taught me that someone is never too young or too old to give praise to God. Along with that, he taught me to always be ready to teach anyone who will listen to me.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, I was involved with a program called Totus Tuus. I ended up spending a week with Fr. Todd at the three parishes that he was the pastor of. During Mass one day, as part of his homily he taught us a prayer that has passed my lips each day since then. It was very simple and it went: “Lord Jesus Christ, come into my heart and be my king.” This prayer has taught me to desire Christ all the more and to keep my focus on him. It is a very humbling prayer because it means I have to acknowledge that w/out Christ reigning in my heart, I can do nothing. Through this prayer, he taught me that my courage could come only with Christ’s help. There have been so many opportunities for me to call someone out for taking our Lord’s name in vain or cursing in public, but since I did not allow Christ to reign in my heart, I would end up being silent and a coward.

During that same week, Fr. Todd gave me a copy of the prayer card from his ordination. The picture was not of a saint or of Jesus, but it was a picture taken during WWII. It was taken just after one of the battles in the Pacific theatre and it is of a priest giving communion to a soldier. Each of the soldiers had their eyes on Christ and was beholding the Lamb of God. When he gave the prayer card to us he simply stated that those men had just been to hell and back fighting for their lives and now they are receiving our Lord. Upon reflecting on this, I realized that as a priest I would have to do the same for my parish. As a priest I would have to fend off the devil by protecting the sheep of my flock from the wolves who desire to attack and scatter them. This image taught me that I must nourish their soul through hearing confessions and saying daily mass. I came to the realization that I may even go to the point of physically fighting the devil as St. John Vianney did. That week was one of the last times that I saw Fr. Todd alive.

After school got out last year, I worked for my diocese and on May 25th, 2006 I went to our cathedral, prayed morning prayer as usual and when I went over to the offices where I was working at, the secretary for my vocation director told me that Fr. Todd had died the previous day in a jet-ski accident while on vacation. I was stunned and at that point I was filled with great sorrow because he had been such an influence in my l life. I went back to the chapel to pray for his soul and over the next few days, I began to realize that God had called Fr. Todd to intercede for us in a more profound way.

Eventually, Fr. Todd found his true home; he did not find it in the prairie of South Dakota, or in the United States Navy that he was to serve as a military chaplain. He found his true home in heaven. His blog was renamed from being titled A Son becomes a Father to A Son goes back to the Father. Even through his death, he has taught me to give myself over to Christ each day and to never settle for anything but Christ. Each day I look at the prayer card that he gave me and it reminds me that I must go into battle not only for my own soul, but for the souls of my family members, my brother seminarians, and for the souls of my future parishioners. Everything that Fr. Todd did was not his own original idea but it was what Christ did and would have done for the least of the kingdom. Through his brief presence on this earth, Fr. Todd taught me to love Christ with a child’s heart and to behold Christ in every act of my life.

Fr. Todd Reitmeyer, pray for us.