Monday, May 2, 2011

Three Conversations

Over the course of the past week and in the midst of travels, I spent some time with three very different priests.  First, was a young priest recently ordained who is learning the sometimes harsh reality of ministry and relationships.  Second was an older priest who is a pastor of a large parish and has had a variety of ministry and administrative experiences.  The third was a priest who has been inactive for many many years.
Here are some of my thoughts from our conversations.

Nobody wants to state the obvious but often times the soil where a newly ordained is planted is barren. In the world of 'vocation' shortage--wouldn't it behoove someone somewhere to institute a different way of formation for parish ministry? Why not 'homeschool' the formation of diocesan clergy?  Why not radically rethink and redo formation so men are not put in unhealthy situations?  Fact is, there are very few priests who could be the spiritual mentors needed for a newly ordained.  The much anticipated fruits of ministry are soon choked by the weeds of personal and ecclesial confusion and disillusionment.  The old clergy eat the young and the young react.
Some splinter and become progressive and (in their minds)--a prophet, cloaking themselves as a Jesus figure.  They begin to thrive on shock and reaction and use the priesthood as a platform for their drama, their gospel, their wants, their desires.  Come on we all know guys like this.
Eventually pride takes over and they implode.

For others they decide to cling to an identity of priesthood which is closed and ultra conservative --'hiding behind the collar'.  Here they cry out for a universal respect for the priesthood but don't want to be held accountable.  What they really want is everyone to stop challenging them, blindly obey their lead, and feed their wants and desires. The arrogance of this approach is often times perpetuated by the priest thinking he is above the people he serves--chaulk another one for pride.  And we all know guys like this.

I have no solution to the above dilemma but am struck with a thought from my final and third conversation--with the third fellow.  He's been on a life-long pilgrimage asking the question; 'What should I believe?" Not a bad question to ask every now and then.  But this has been unrelenting to his soul.  It has worn him down.
Instead of asking; "What should I believe?"  why not pray "Lord Jesus Christ--have mercy on me a sinner."

Whether ordained or not--it doesn't matter.  We react all the time to situations in our life and our work, some we can control, many we can't.  Instead of reacting and asking the same question again and a again--why not just pray for mercy?  All day--"Lord Jesus Christ--have mercy on me!"
Such a prayer brings perspective and humility--the opposite of pride.

And, didn't the church just beatify a man who instituted Divine Mercy Sunday?  Wasn't this priest's way one of mercy?  Wasn't this priest's way one bookmarked by suffering early in life and in his last years?  Wasn't John Paul's way one not of demanding trust and respect, but earning it?  Wasn't John Paul's way one of praying all the time; "Lord Jesus Christ...have mercy!"?

Last, a word from our Mother;

Dear children, God the Father is sending me to show you the way of salvation, because he, my children, desires to save you and not to condemn you. That is why I, as a mother, am gathering you around me, because with my motherly love I desire to help you to be free of the dirtiness of the past and to begin to live anew and differently. I am calling you to resurrect in my Son. Along with confession of sins, renounce everything that has distanced you from my Son and that has made your life empty and unsuccessful. Say “yes” to the Father with the heart and set out on the way of salvation to which he is calling you through the Holy Spirit. Thank you. I am especially praying for the shepherds, for God to help them to be alongside you with a fullness of heart.  May 2, 2011

ps--if you feel particularly called to share this post with someone who may need a spiritual nudge--feel free