Msgr. Bradley Offutt
When did you first feel called to the priesthood?
I have always traced the genesis of my call to the experience of attending daily Mass in the middle 1960's at Sacred Heart Parish in Florissant, Missouri. Though only in the second grade. I distinctly remember determining that was going on at that altar "up there" was of primary importance to me, and to all, and that I needed to devote my time to it. My intense feelings for the Mass have never left me. After all these years, it is still the most sublime expression of truth in my experience. God has given many wonderful and fascinating aspects to life, but for me, the Sacrifice of Christ represented on the holy altars of our churches is what matters most and most often.
What is the defining issue of our time and what does the priesthood have to say about it?
The defining issue of all time is the conversation between God and creation. God is the most provocative mystery, creation is riddled with a beauty and order in which humanity is caught up but cannot even begin to replicate. While eternity is planted in our hearts, our hopes are conditioned in time and inevitably fall short. The excitingbridge between provocative God and inmost human hope is the God-man, Christ. The holy priesthood existes to point the way to this "bridge." The priesthood makes no sense apart from Christ. The glory of the priesthood and the purpose of the priesthood are one in the same: to preach Christ with our bodies, brains, and blood in a more systematically exacting way than any other vocation on the planet. It is a very high adventure though, it must be said, it is a most rigorous one. Not many can do it with thorough-going integrity. I sure cannot.
What advice would you give someone who approaches you about the priesthood?
First, if you think you have a call to the priesthood, you owe it to the Lord and to yourself to seriously investigate it. Seminaries are not easy places. They would do you a grave disservice if they were. But they are without many parallels in their ability to test your call and teach you about the Faith and about yourself. Go, try it out. Do not wait for assurance. God does not give assurance. He demands faith. Have faith in his direction and have faith in the Church. If you meet the Lord and the Church with a sincere heart, you will be rewarded with some precious wisdom, no matter if you are ever ordained.
Second, do not be duped into thinking, the priesthood is about helping people. Indeed, in the course of your priestly life you may, and you must, help legions of people who suffer from a vast array of want. But helping people is to the priesthood as chickens are to Colonel Sanders. That is to say, it is incidental. Colonel Sanders is really about making money. The priesthood is really about witnessing to the Truth that is Jesus Christ. If you sense that Jesus Christ is greater in you than you are in yourself, you might have a vocation to the altar.
Finally, understand that the Catholic Priesthood is not easily attained, nor easily lived. It is more precise imitation of the life of Christ. Well, you know about the life of Christ, don't you? It can be very gritty business. You could be disappointed, especially in yourself, a hundred times a day. No matter, really. For the priest, it is Christ that matters utmost. A "sucessful" priest then, learns little by little to surrender himself.
What is your family background?
I am very blessed to say that my family is overwhelmingly Protestant in culture and through many generations. We came to America in the late 17th century. We are Baptists of long standing. I am proud to count Baptist pastors in various parts of the South as distant relatives. I do not believe in their notions of church, sacrament, or worship. But let me tell you, they know how to put the Blood in what they preach. They know how to reach people. In that, I want to be like them and I think more Catholic clergy should come to appreciate the power of the well-preached word. This is not to claim I am a good preacher. I pray I am at least adequate. I feel fortunate in my family in many ways. I come from a long line of people who have made their share of big mistakes. I am qualified to stand in line right along with them. But they have faith beyond their understanding and were blessed with the grace of repentance.
What books/authors, films, music, etc., do you like?
I guess my tastes are eclectic. I enjoy Mark Twin for his wit and facility with the mother tongue. I have appreciated Albert Camus for his intense regard for integrity even though he was fatally misguided. I am ferevently devoted to Abraham Lincoln for his keen pastoral skill, razor-sharp insight, and unsurpassed elocuence. I agree with Gore Vidal's comment about Lincoln: "He is a Christ in miniature." I admire the spare, direct beauty of Ulysses Grant. I guess I just groove on American history. I also greatly enjoy technical articles about Model A Fords and antique American timepieces. These are icons of my childhood that I have never outgrown.
I don't do much with movies. Music, on the other hand, is my drug of choice. I like "doowop" and I like Armstrong. I am particular fond of Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman. Beethoven was the greatest composer of all time. The organ music of Cesar Frank captivates me so that I feel he and I are, somehow, tuned into the same existential channel. But the most enduring soul-searing sound I know is the music of the Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe. Their virtuosity is mind boggling. Their plaintive messages of lost love, death, sin, and redemption have kept me going through many a hagridden day. I find them more compelling than any tome I have ever read. Give 'em a spin.