By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published May 24, 2012
There is a priest I’ve known for 12 years, who has been instrumental in my deeper conversion. When I came back to my childhood faith, I was at first a “cafeteria-style Catholic,” refusing to accept Catholic teachings on many issues. But then in 2000 I had one of those big wake-up calls—a cancer diagnosis—and decided to get serious about my faith.
I started taking instruction from this priest, who helped me grasp the deeper meaning of church teachings. Over time, I left the cafeteria line and starting enjoying the full feast of Catholicism. I am writing this column as a tribute to him. He is a reflection of what a truly good priest is, and there are so many of them in the world. Here’s why I’m so grateful for faithful priests:
2. In a world where there is so much tweeting and texting, people often yearn to pour their hearts out to someone in real time. As for me, when I sought spiritual counseling about cancer, this particular priest allowed me to express my deepest fears and didn’t try to “fix” things with trite assurances. Instead, he gave me the gift of his full attention and guided me to spiritual readings to bolster my faith.
3. Priests don’t make much money and must live simply. But this means they can set an example for the rest of us, who are often swimming in material goods—and are perhaps overwhelmed by the time it takes to care for everything. In their simplicity, priests show us we too can be happy with less stuff.
4. Priests are in contact with the suffering and dying members of the parish on a daily basis. Unlike the rest of us, who may squeak by for a few years without a big cross to carry, priests can’t escape the reality of suffering and death. Hospital and hospice visits, along with funerals, are their daily fare. At times it surely gets depressing, and yet the fact that they maintain equilibrium shows their closeness to Christ.
5. It is reassuring to go to confession and have the priest tell you that he too struggles with some of the same temptations. One reason people shy away from confession is they fear the priest will be horrified or shocked by their sins—but over the years, I’ve found that good confessors are eager to extend Christ’s mercy in this wonderful sacrament.
6. Many priests are very humble people, rarely talking about themselves and instead taking an interest in others. This priest whom I admire so much is one of these. His example of true humility helps people like yours truly temper our desire to grab center stage in every conversation.
7. Especially for those who have lost their earthly fathers, it is a great gift when the men we respect as our spiritual fathers assure us of the Lord’s compassion. I thank God for the beautiful fact that priests—who act in persona Christi when administering the sacraments—also become a moment-to-moment reflection of Christ’s love in the world.