Sunday, October 4, 2009

Let Me Tell You About A Priest

He arrived in this country from Ireland over half a century ago, recruited directly from his seminary by the bishop due to the shortage of priests (yes, some places had a shortage even in the 50s). He was the spiritual father of our parish for over three decades. I was only old enough to have been there for one of them.

Until very recently, my father was a Southern Baptist. While he is the greatest man I've ever known and did everything in his power to teach me to be a good man (which I hope I am doing), there wasn't a whole lot he could do to help me be a good, Catholic man. This was the purview of our priest, and I could not have had a better instructor.

He gave catechetical instruction to adult converts and kids alike. I still recall him making time to go through the entire Parvuli Dei manual with the few of us Cub Scouts who were Catholic just to be sure we had all our questions answered.

Lesson #1: The whole parish knew that nothing was more important than the Truth because our priest told us this every chance he got. I doubt he had a single homily that didn't mention this at least twice. Naturally, this made him unpopular with some people. It also grew our parish in the community. When he left, our church was 75% converts.

Lesson #2: Whether you were Catholic or Protestant or whatever, the Mass is the most important event on the face of the planet. That means that Catholics should be in awe of it, and non-Catholics must refrain from the Eucharist to avoid a desecration.

He was known by everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE. He was never seen without his collar, whether it was at the high school football games or working and sweating in the church yard and gardens for hours during the summer. Mostly, he was known as an exuberant, joyful, and holy man. A lot of those converts I mentioned were initially won over in casual conversation.

He was, and still is, an Augustinian. Our whole parish probably knew Confessions and City of God by heart. Everything he said and did exuded man's absolute dependence on God and the need for all to recognize the supernatural order as our primary concern.

Even through persecution, he was our guide. When a local Protestant group essentially declared war on our parish, he never once flinched. When signs reading "Pray for these lost souls" were being posted bearing the names of our youth, he openly confronted the issue even unto the pulpit. When we were being told by some of our long-time friends that they couldn't play with us anymore because we were Catholic, he carved time out of our Catechism courses to address the issue with us and drive home the apologetic tools we would need to defend, not ourselves really, but the Mystical Body of Christ.

Finally, I think the most palpable lesson he taught us was the utter and complete revulsion of sin. Sin is abhorrent. It is an offense to God. Mortal sin makes you worthy of one thing, and that's hell. Nobody ever really wondered if this was appropriate material for young people. It was accepted. I can only imagine how this would carry in most modern parishes. Probably not so well.

I learned about a week ago that this wonderful worker in the Lord's vineyard is retiring (even though he started this retirement by offering six Masses in one weekend for fellow priests who needed assistance). I am greatly saddened by this. Not really sure how to take it. Sometimes, it seems that there are so few good priests in the world. It's a shame to lose even one, for any reason. When it's the holiest guy I've ever known; the priest who formed my Catholic views for my whole life; who married my parents; baptized me, my sister, and two of my children; practically built the parish I currently attend; and played a role in the salvation of God only knows how many souls just in my short lifetime, I am truly staggered.

Enjoy retirement, Father. You have earned your rest. I know I have a small readership here, but if you have a moment, please pray for this good and holy man.


Chants a Lot said...

Beautiful post. You are indeed most blessed to have had a priest like this to form you in the faith. I will pray for him. Somehow, from all you've said, I doubt that "retirement" will really mean what the world means by that term. He'll probably be celebrating Mass in place of all the vacationing priests in his diocese, so maybe a larger number of Catholics will be exposed to him.

Turgonian said...

Lord, bless all your priests, and root them in charity and humility. Give them the heart and mind of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Roisin said...

Very powerful, and very much a description of many of the priests that I've known. I will definitely offer prayers for him.