Don’t stop praying for our priests.
They’re fighting a battle we barely know the half of. Because, until we walk alongside our priests as they visit the sick and dying, until we understand that they go where no one else wants to, we’re only seeing the tiniest part of their lives. We see them up on the altar, offering the Sacrifice of the Mass and we see them in the Confessionals (and at that, only for our short part of the many hours they spend there). Their Sacrifice and the Confessions they hear in the Church are only the beginning, from our perspective. It reaches far deeper into their lives.
I was following my pastor around for some sick calls to the hospital. We went off for a visit to a 17 year old boy in hospice at his mom’s home. He’s dying of cancer. He’s nothing but skin and bones. His mom is understandably having a very difficult time. I won’t say much more than that, so as to not over step their privacy. But please, please pray for them! So when we walked into the home, I was not expecting to experience as much as I did. Just all of hit me, knowing there was nothing we could do but to be there for them. I will never forget the way that Father sat with that boy on the bed and put his hand on his head during the anointing. It was so real. He couldn’t do anything more, but he did it all.
It was really powerful for me to see, but in a way, I had to move on quickly, as there was more to do at the parish before I could really process it all. I left for home that night for my day off and when I finally pulled up at my parent’s house, a realization dawned on me:
I’ve never really known what it means to be a priest until today.
The way a priest gives of himself to walk into those places and those times. The sacrifice that he makes to be there for those who feel so damn lonely. It breaks my heart, but in some mysterious way, I rejoice in the way God calls us to that.
And you know what? This has me convinced of one more thing. Our priests, and ultimately our Church, all of us, go into those places that the world is afraid of. There are so many voices out there trying to convince us that the Church needs to come up to date, to catch up with the times and change some of its “old ways.” While, yes, we need to keep finding new ways to express our love of God and, more importantly, God’s love for us, we cannot simply become a part of this world and “get with the times.” The world thinks we as a Church are out of touch, but the truth is, we are more in touch with the world, with a deeper, truer, more beautiful understanding of the world and what life means than they could ever imagine. And that scares them. We not only are in touch with the world, we as a Church, and our priests especially, are in touch with the deepest pains and joys and longings and loneliness that the world has ever known.
So don’t tell me that we as a Church are out of touch with the world. We’re so in touch, it scares the world to face the truth and the beauty and the goodness that God has secretly planted in our hearts to fight the pain and suffering all around us.