Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Practicing the Golden Rule Toward Priests

"...Only Jesus could know the true depths of the emotional experiences of a priest. A priest tries to do Jesus’ work, and he gets rejected and persecuted because of it. A priest tries to bring people closer to Jesus, and he is distressed at their indifference. A priest calls his people to conversion, and few respond...If it saddens the heart of a priest to see how indifferent so many people are toward their salvation – and believe me, it does – how much more does it sadden the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

"Of course, we all know that there have been some priests who have abused their positions and have hurt people in the process. The most extreme cases caused a huge scandal in the year 2002 – a scandal that caused sadness and embarrassment for all Catholics, priests and laity alike. I make no excuses for those who have betrayed the trust of others. It is true that priests remain human, and are subject to the same faults and foibles as anyone else, but even this fact is no excuse for the most egregious violations of trust. In this regard, an insight from St. Francis de Sales may be helpful. He said that a priest who gives scandal is guilty of spiritual murder, but that anyone who takes scandal is guilty of spiritual suicide. In other words, we as faithful Catholics must be able to look past the human failings of our priests, no matter how serious those failings may be, and remain close to the one true Church that Jesus founded. It is NOT the fault of Holy Mother Church that Her priests commit sins; the responsibility for those sins belongs to the priest alone. Anyone who would leave the Church because of the actions of a priest would deny himself access to the one necessary and complete channel of graces that leads to everlasting life.

"If you read the stories of those saints who were priests, you will discover quickly that many of them were all too human. Just start with the apostles, the first priests: they argued among themselves about which of them was the greatest, while they were still in the presence of Jesus. St. Damien of Molokai was coarse and rough in manner; Padre Pio, at times, was abrupt and impatient; St. Nicholas had a quick temper; and St. Jerome’s sarcasm was legendary. Today, we might shy away from priests who have such qualities, but these qualities did not keep these priests from getting to Heaven. Perhaps, at times, God makes use of a priest’s impatience, short temper, coarseness, or sarcasm to prick the consciences of the people, and to make them realize their need to reform. Surely a priest needs to strive for perfection, but while he’s doing that, be patient with his imperfections. God may be using them for your benefit.

"If you want to know what you should do for your priests...treat your priest the way that you would like him to treat you. Support him; give him the benefit of the doubt; trust him; understand and accept his limitations; and, most importantly, pray for him. In this matter, St. Therese of Lisieux gives us an excellent example. She wrote about making a pilgrimage to Rome in the company of many saintly priests; and yet, it was during that pilgrimage that she saw, by their conduct, how much priests need prayers. How much easier would it have been if St. Therese had simply recounted and criticized their offenses! Yet she chose the high road instead. She didn’t give even a hint as to the kinds of things that the priests did; she just started praying for them, and continued for the rest of her life.

"When you think of the high calling that the priesthood is – that the priest is called to be another Christ and to continue the most important work that Jesus did – then you will understand quickly how badly priests need prayers, because they are bound to fall short. How can our Lord fail to give a favorable hearing to prayers offered for men whom He Himself has called to the priesthood? Perhaps there’s some real wisdom in the quip that, sometimes, makes its way around the Internet: “If the church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.”

~ Fr. Richard Libby, Pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Alice, Texas ~

Thanks to Fr. Libby for sharing his thoughts and for Fr. Farfaglia for posting Fr. Libby's reflections on his blog! To read Fr. Libby's entire article, click here.

Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, Mother of all priests, and our Mother, help us respond generously to the Holy Spirit's request, through the voice of His Church, to offer up to God Eucharistic adoration for priests. Amen.

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