With the Year of St. Paul coming to a close, Pope Benedict tomorrow will inaugurate the Year of the Priest.
While my parents have been the first and foremost influence in my faith development, several Catholic priests have also played a critical role.
Some of them I have known personally. For example, two priests in the Diocese of Arlington (Virginia) had a tremendous impact on me during a time of searching and unhappiness in my 20's. I am still good friends with one of them to this day.
There are also other priests who I have not known personally yet who were huge influences. Pope John Paul II, Father John Corapi, and Archbishop Fulton Sheen come to mind.
Each of these priests has, in his own way, played an important role in helping me to accept, to understand, and ultimately embrace my faith. To all of them I say, "Thank you."
During this Year of the Priest, I encourage anyone reading this who has been positively impacted by a Catholic priest to track him down, and, if he is still living, contact him and thank him.
Above all, let us pray for our priests. (and for vocations to the priesthood!)