Our good, holy, faithful clergy now suffer abuse from an outraged public in the midst of the unfolding abuse scandal. Check out the online news and blogs and you’ll find reports of incidents ranging from abusive, aggressive verbal confrontations to actual physical assault on priests. Good men, who have devoted their lives to Christ and His Mystical Body, suffer in the wake of the scandal coverage. They don’t deserve to be treated this way—no one does—but especially not the good priests and clergy of Jesus.
We All Suffer
Think about your favorite priest or priests. Doesn’t it elicit within your heart a mix of anger and deep sadness to consider them being treated this way? Some of them already have faced it, in this short period of time since the initial news reports earlier this year. Many more will suffer, through no fault of their own. Doesn’t it bring you to tears to think of what these good clergy and religious have to go through—all because of some bad actors in the Church? The bad priests and bishops we are reading about are not God’s priests. They’ve succumbed to the enemy and are serving him instead. The rest of us suffer because of what they have done. No one suffers more than the innocent victims of the perpetrators. Yet we all suffer, as St. Paul tells us:
If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. 1 Cor 12:26
A Day in the Life of a Priest
Consider that a typical day for many parish priests might start at 2:00 a.m. with a call to go administer Anointing of the Sick/Last Rites to someone in the hospital. After doing that, he’ll likely spend some time comforting the family. By this time, he may not even return to bed, due to the need to open up the church for early morning Mass. Following that, he has more pastoral needs to address for his flock. His parishioners have the garden variety of everyday needs for him to assist with. As the current scandal unfolds, some of his flock need more comforting and support, and this takes more of his time.
On top of all of this, the pastor will face a certain amount of mind-numbing administrative activities in running the parish. The diocesan bishop may also have assigned him some other duties or roles. With the shortage of priests, these time demands are crushing. Yet we wonder, “Why is Father So-and-So cranky today?” There may be a good reason why he doesn’t seem so chipper at times.
Priests Are Human, Too
Priests are human, just like the rest of us. None of them are perfect, and none of the rest of us are. Good and holy priests work hard to live out their vows faithfully. They realize the awesome responsibility they have assumed in saying “yes” to Our Lord. To be fair, some priests’ personal styles are more pleasing to some of us than others. And those other priests have their fans as well. Let’s all work together, respectfully with charity—especially in these trying times. We need to let go of any petty beefs we have with our priests. If we have a personality problem with a priest, it probably says more about us and our need for mortification than it does about him. A good, hard look in the mirror, with some prayer time in front of the Blessed Sacrament might be just the ticket to getting past it.
Offer Your Priest Some Support
Think about how hard it is right now for the good, faithful priests and clergy to have to read the news accounts about the terrible crimes committed by their brethren. As if that’s not enough, they get to hear about it from their parishioners, and from outsiders, some of whom have axes to grind against the Church. As this scandal drags on, they’ll face more and more discouragement and suffering. We don’t want to lose any of these good men because of the weight of what they have to bear. They need our support and understanding, not complaints.
One of my friends, a fellow Benedictine Oblate, told me he made an appointment recently to take his priest out to lunch. He just wants to be there for his priest, to be supportive and let his good and holy pastor have a safe place to vent. What an example this man is setting! We all ought to do something like this for our faithful bishops, priests, deacons and religious. Talk to them—encourage them in their vocations—ask if there’s anything you can do for them, or that they need. They really need our support. Show them some love, respect and gratitude. Theirs is a noble calling, and a difficult one—give ’em some help!
Pray, and Especially Pray for Your Priests, Deacons, Bishop and Seminarians
Pray every day for all those called to the clergy and religious life. Have Masses said for them. Enroll them in perpetual prayer associations. Add them to your personal prayer and Rosary intentions each day. God will not refuse our prayers when they align with His will. Doesn’t it seem that He wills that His priests receive the support and graces necessary to carry out their jobs for His greater glory?
Be sure you’re praying daily as well. We need the graces that come through prayer to stay engaged in the spiritual warfare we face now. Don’t let volunteer activities, even at church, or work life, social engagements and the like, interfere with your prayer time. Stay strong in prayer. Now, more than ever, we each need to be tethered tightly to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Hang on for dear life—with your good priests, deacons and religious.