My friend is seventy and knows he is slowing down. He has asked his bishop’s permission for two days off each week instead of one. Should he tell his people or just carry on as well as he can and hope the people won’t notice?
The cynics will sneer, a priest works only one day a week anyway. Funny how men (never women) think that’s funny every time they say it and priests hear it many times over the years and are expected to laugh at the clever wit. Each time?
I’ve watched my fellow priests over the years and admired many of them in their dedication, kindness and willingness to help. I’ve also been deeply disappointed to see the hurt some of them cause and wonder what has happened to the ideals (we suppose) that first brought them to the priesthood.
I so disliked that TV programme ‘Father Ted’. We know the main actor despised the Catholic Church and priests and used the programme to ridicule us. He was right that there are alcoholic priests and silly immature men (and thus dangerous) in the priesthood. They are not typical of us – but it makes us easy targets for ridicule and then anger when the awful truth about child abuse brings shame on all of us and on the men in authority who hid the truth and shielded criminal priests.
The focus is now on Australia. It is world headlines again. It is the English-speaking Church in particular that knows this shame. Why would any boy or young man admire priests, the priesthood, see the covering up by Church authorities and want to become a priest?
People laugh at their impression of lazy one-day-aweek priests and not see they visit the schools, the hospitals (on 24 hour call), the sick at home and in nursing homes (9 in our parish), the families, the lonely and depressed, help in times of sorrow, celebrate mass for the people every day, are always available for quiet conversations, to prepare funerals and baptisms and weddings, and take the abuse and mockery of lapsed Catholics at the hospital and in the street. It’s a wonderful life. Each day the Church expects the priest to spend three hours in prayer. He must be a man of God before he is good enough, if ever, to serve God’s people. Australia makes sad, sad reading.
God bless us
14th March 2016