A priest’s memoir

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Father Robert A. Lange retired from active ministry in the Arlington Diocese in June 2012. He's chronicled his journey from a troubled youth to a priest in a new book, Windows Into the Life of a Priest.

The book is dedicated to the Blessed Mother and is a story full of inspirational anecdotes, along with triumphs after sexual abuse and drug use and an unwavering love for Mary, the Mother of God.

Father Lange was born in Richmond in 1944 and earned a bachelor's degree from Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, S.C., in 1967. He spent 15 years in the real estate business before entering Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. In 1986, at the age of 42, he was ordained a priest by Arlington Bishop John R. Keating.

He said his life was a series of interventions from God including a near fatal car accident, the death of a friend in a motorcycle accident and being victimized at age 15 by a sexual predator.

The attack had an effect on the young man. His outlook on life changed as false rumors spread about his sexuality.

"I felt less than other people," he said. "I felt I couldn't achieve anything."

His lifelong struggle with stammering intensified his lack of self-worth. But for Father Lange, the Cursillo movement had a positive impact on his life and helped him realize that he could become a priest.

"The spiritual director for the Cursillo suggested I go on a silent retreat to discern the call to the priesthood," writes Father Lange.

He returned from the retreat convinced of his vocation.

After ordination, he served as a parochial vicar and pastor of churches in the diocese, and he has stories from all of them - many profound and some humorous.

"My first Christmas as a priest, I fielded the first phone call in which someone asked me, 'What time is your midnight Mass,'" he writes.

The book details one person's fight over adversity to reach his goal - the priesthood. It's also an account of a priest's love of the Blessed Mother and her intervention and influence in his life.

He said he laid the book out the way the Blessed Mother directed him.

That love and devotion to Mary took him and his brother-in-law, Charlie, to Betania, Venezuela, the sight of Marian apparitions, in search of a cure for Charlie's bone cancer. The cure did not happen, but Father Lange said the pilgrimage was not wasted.

"When Charlie arrived home his adult children were so amazed at the change that had occurred in him that they wanted to go to Betania and experience it for themselves," writes Father Lange. "Charlie had changed from within. He had become very comfortable with the understanding that he was not to be cured. There was a peace and joy in his life I had not witnessed before."

The book is also about suffering - and using suffering to strengthen one's faith.

"I've come to see suffering as a gift from God," Father Lange said. "We learn best through suffering."

But most of all, the book is about a priest's life.

As Father Lange wrote near the end of the book, "There you have it: Windows Into The Life Of A Priest! Every priest could tell his own story, and this is part of mine. I share it with you for the honor and glory of our merciful God."

Buy the book

Windows into the Life of a Priest is available from: amazon.com and the Paschal Lamb, 11214 Lee Hwy., Fairfax. An e-book is available from loretopubs.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014