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Dear Jan-B and Loudette,

I am writing to you in the middle of my annual retreat here in the same compound where I was formed as a priest. San Carlos Seminary is the only seminary I know. I grew up here. I came to love God and the Church here. Every corner, every wall, every pew in the chapel, every corridor in this seminary has a story for me. Some of those stories are known only to God.

Some of those stories I have shared with you over dinner or while enjoying plates of “decadent” desserts.

My fellow priests have repeatedly told me to slow down because I am taking too many assignments. I take pride in the confidence of the Cardinal in me. I am grateful for it because I know I do not deserve it. He has given me so many opportunities to serve the Church. Some of my friends are worried that I might burn out. They are concerned about my mental health and my capacity to manage stress.

Aside from the grace of God and my regular dose of vitamins, I think the secret of my ability to cope with stress and tension is my long friendship with you. Pharmaton helps me a lot. Vitamin C helps me a lot. Prayer is the best.

I have never missed a day without the breviary, the rosary, and the Mass. Many times, I had to celebrate the Mass alone. I know I am not alone. God is always with me. Time and again, I have to remind myself that I can never be too busy to pray.

The Cardinal told me once, “If you are busy, you should pray for one hour. If you are very busy, you should pray for two hours.” He has never missed a day without a Mass even when he was sick in the hospital. I am trying my best to follow that example.

My other secret is you. I think burn out is caused not by an overload of work. In fact, I know of some people who hardly have any work to do and they are burning out. I think the cause of burn out is not a busy schedule but a lack of meaningful friendship. When people lose the warmth of their hearts, they burn out. The fire that is absent in the heart starts to burn out the meaning of life. It seems to me that the common victims of burn out are the frigid and cold people who do not care and do not allow themselves to be cared for. You are my secret fire. Being friends with a priest has not been easy for you. Time and again, I have told you that sometimes, I feel like King Midas.

Everything the king touched turned into gold. In my case, the people who became my friends become objects of gossip, envy, and intrigue. But you have chosen to stay by me. Your quiet support means so much to me. Your thoughtfulness and trust buoy me up. Thank you for being my friends.

Each time I lift the host and chalice at Mass, I lift you up to the Father in gratitude and love.

Looking For Jesus