By the grace of God and ministry resource software, yesterday's Mass, for which I was scheduled as Lector, was being celebrated by one of my favorite Roman Catholic priests. I like and, more importantly, respect this wise and gentle octogenarian because of his good-humored compassion. Got a big greeting when I walked into the sacristy.
We haven't seen each other for a while and how am I? Disturbed. About what? The Catholic church. A shrug and swift smile. Oh that. Yes, that. What now?
I recite the short list which includes the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin report, the new abysmal translation of the Roman Missal, the politicization of the Eucharist by some bishops in the United States.
Yes, it's just awful. Embarrassing, really. The hand resting warmly on my shoulder as he speaks reminds me why this is one priest I do respectfully call, "father."
There have been others, like the Catholic priest who told me, "the Church does not ask her people to stay in abusive marriages." And the one who explained, "we learn nothing in seminary about how to run churches." The priest who, from the ambo proclaimed, "Catholics aren't the only Christians." And the visiting missionary who stunned an already uneasy gaggle of parishioners by saying, "Martin Luther got a lot of things right about what's wrong with the Roman church." I will be forever grateful for the priest who confessed during my confession, "no pope...no bishop is going to run me out of my church. You, stay put."
And so, during this Vatican-declared Year of the Priest, I'm finally realizing that I need to pray for these fine Catholic priests and others who:
- entered the priesthood never expecting to encounter such deeply embedded institutional dysfunction.
- were forced out of the priesthood because of their call to marriage or other committed relationship.
- have remained in the priesthood and serve with integrity despite the bad behavior of their confreres.
- speak out against false divisions within the church and welcome all to the table of the Lord.