The Smoking Priest

The Smoking Priest

Maintaining Joy in the Middle of the Craziness Around Us

Normally I wake up every morning in a great mood, always filled with enthusiasm to do what I can to fulfill my daily mission as a Catholic priest.  However, this morning, I awoke with a horrible feeling.  I kept pushing myself all morning.  Yes, I got my work done, but I could not shake this pervasive feeling that was keeping me down all morning.  

I had lunch with a very dear priest friend of mine.  Our conversations are always very positive and there is always a lot of laughter.  Nevertheless, when he left, I still felt the same way I did all morning.  

Quickly I started to think about what could be causing my bad mood and lethargic feeling.  


Did it have something to do with the 10th year remembrance of September 11?


I still have vivid memories of how I first heard the news on that terrible day.

On September 11, 2001, I began to hear confessions at the customary thirty minutes prior to the morning Mass in a Catholic parish in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The first penitent entered the confessional and before he began his confession, he told me that something dreadful was happening in New York City.  He heard something on the news during his drive to the parish, but he wasn’t sure exactly what was happening.  


I had to begin Mass on time, so before I began to celebrate Mass, I told the congregation gathered together in the small daily Mass chapel that something terrible is going on in New York City.  I asked them to pray for this intention.  

As soon as I finished Mass, I quickly went into my room and turned the television on.  The first plane had already hit.  Filled with horror, I watched the second plane hit and the eventual collapse of the Twin Towers.  

That afternoon, a parishioner who was a flight school student at the Naval Air Station located in Corpus Christi, came to tell me that his brother worked in an office located in the Twin Towers.  The office was located above where one of the planes had hit.  His family had heard nothing from him since the time of the attacks and the worst case scenario was expected.


We sat together, alone, in the main church, and we prayed together for quite some time.  I mustered up some words of encouragement and he went back to his work.  

I lost track of him for about three to four weeks and then he returned one Sunday only to tell me that his brother was gone.  The family had a funeral for him with no body, because his body could not be found.  They had to assume that he was one of the thousands that were lost in the tragedy that occurred on September 11.

Now that I think about it, I guess all of these vivid and sad memories did cause this terrible and pervasive feeling of discouragement.  


However, that feeling is now gone.  

This afternoon, I knew that I had to get rid of the heaviness.  The weekend is quickly approaching, and I don’t have time for a pity party.  

I cleared my calendar, shut off my cell phone and I sat in my prayer chair, the one that I have in my quiet room.  After an hour and a half of centering prayer I remembered the beautiful words of Saint Theresa of Avila, the famous Spanish mystic.

“Let nothing trouble you.  Let nothing frighten you.  Everything passes.  God never changes.  Patience obtains all.  Whoever has God wants for nothing.  God alone is enough.”

Saint Theresa is right.  I sure do feel much better.    

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Josie Castillo

posted September 9, 2011 at 11:43 pm

That was beautiful sharing, Fr. you always have some thing positive to say to us. I think of that morning of September 11 10 years and it brings tears to my eyes. We do have to pray for all who lost their lives and for their familes. The firemen to me are so special for all they did and do for the people of New York. God Bless America.

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posted September 12, 2011 at 5:45 am

Father James, very good post – thank you for sharing your thoughts with everyone. I will try to remember the words of St. Theresa of Avila when my heart is heavy with worry – it is a beautiful prayer.

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posted September 18, 2011 at 3:37 am

I mean no offense by this question, but are you saying that you’d made it halfway through the day with this lethargic feeling and you never stopped to pray? Or was there something different in the way you prayed once you realized what was bothering you?

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posted October 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I find myself ‘wielding’ prayers and devotions. Striking with them. Keeps you engaged / proactive.

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