Pay Praing

Bible Speaks

By Pastor Julian Harris

This Sunday, September 26, 2021 is Father’s Day for Catholic priests all over the world. The Bible tells us to Honor thy father and thy mother… (Ex 20:12); so let us fulfill God’s command and honor those men who have been granted by us, the children of God, the most compelling, the most profound responsibility in a man’s life, fatherhood.

 

It was a priest, Father Jean-Baptiste Lacordaire who wrote these words to his friend:

 

Have you noticed what I have just said, my dear father? You have, in fact, become my father since you consented to look after the spiritual concerns of my soul…It was then quite natural that you should become my father on the day when Jesus Christ gave you His priesthood, and on which you were

able to absolve me from, and cure me of my faults with His blood. (Soreze, October 11, 1859)

 

Priests share the calling of all of you who are fathers. There is no more important or greater calling of a father than his commitment to his children. And, of course, with the greatest responsibility comes the greatest joy and the greatest heartache:

 

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they

entrusted much, they will demand the more.

(Luke 12:48)

 

For those priests who are blessed with a long life of ministry, they learn that existence is an intricate

mosaic of tranquility and difficulty. Struggles, along with blessings, are an inevitable and instructive part of life. A caring father prepares his children for this reality. Likewise, the priest teaches that in human nature, there is no perfection but Jesus.  There is simply the obligation to do one’s best.  The priest teaches the lessons of imperfection in his own flesh. He knows his own failures and sees them repeated in his children by the confession of sin.  He relies upon the love of those whom he servers and who see his failures and his weaknesses.  The people of God know that a priest, a bishop, a pope hold this treasure of God, this sacred life, in vessels of clay:

 

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

(2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

 

Without any hint of disillusionment, the noble emperor Marcus Aurelius knelt in the dust of disappointment before his son Commodus:

 

Your faults as a son are my failure as a father.

 

No mortal soul is perfect or without fault. That is the reality of being human.


Each priest is a man with a body of soft clay. To keep that treasure pure, he has to be stretched out on a cross of fire. Our fall can be greater than the fall of anyone else because of the height from which we tumble. Of all the bad men,

bad religious men are the worst, because they were called to be closer to Christ.

(Venerable Fulton Sheen, A Treasure in Clay, p. 4)

 

The patron saint of priests Fr. John Mary Vianney wrote in his catechism:

 

If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God;

but the priest holds His place.

 

Such sentiments sound strangely alien in our fallen world of fallen men and fallen clergy. But then, from the lips of such a simple creature as Saint John Vianney who was purified at the Altar of Sacrifice and in the Confessional just as surely as Moses who second only to Pharaoh was purified by the scorching desert and made fit for service of the Living God, his words express the curate’s awe of God in bestowing such dignity upon such an unworthy candidate a man.  The Saint never mastered Latin and was deemed unfit to hear Confessions because of this inadequacy.  Can you imagine? Inadequate?

 

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 8, records this remarkable fact of the Saint’s life: During the last ten years of his life, Saint John Vianney spent from sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional.

His advice was sought by bishops, priests, religious, young men and women in doubt as to their vocation, sinners, persons in all sorts of difficulties and the sick. In 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached twenty thousand a year. The Saint sets the bar very

high for us all. Sometimes it seems as if our Catholic people, having become accustomed to the heroic lives of saints, find it trying and irritating to put up with the lesser lives of us priests.

 

But priests try, in the main, to do their best.  David, the King of Israel, a man after God’s own heart, desired to do one great thing for The Lord—to build His temple.

 

But the LORD said to David my father, 'Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. (1 Kings 8:18)

 

We are grateful, fathers, that you tried, and failed and tried and failed and tried again. But such an example you taught us children, too, that we might

do the same and the world and the church would not perish at our failures. It is well, Fathers, that you tried and that it was in your hearts to do good.

 

We are all prey to losing our way at difficult times in our lives. But a good priest, like any father, will provide his children with a map and a well-worn path to follow. The hallmark of that path, throughout life, is the conscience formed in the Eucharist and the soul configured to Christ crucified. It is that inner moral compass that has been so essential to the greatness of The Catholic Church and to her priests.

 

Adversity proves the character of the man. The Roman philosopher Seneca said that fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men. All men in all times are tested, great and small alike, they are sifted and weighed in the balance. Priests in particular are subjected to the trail:

 

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have

you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32)

 

These are trying times in which to live and to minister as priests. We live now in what has been termed the age of information, the age of disillusionment, the age of self-absorption. So, one might surmise, we have exited the age of ignorance? And the institutions that for centuries have been the bedrock of our civilization and the hope of future generations—Church and Priest, Marriage and Spouse, Parent and Children, Nation and Patriot, Sergeant and Private, Teacher and Student—are seen increasingly as anachronistic and vestiges of a time gone by. This, then, is an opportune time to sound again a note of caution for all of God’s children.

 

Information is not the same as wisdom any more so than doing the job of a priest is the same as being a priest. Our society bombards our children and our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren with information and entertainment, such as it is, useless, tasteless, and bewildering, much of which is geared to our basest instincts and our tawdriest impulses. It is a parade that seeks the shortest, quickest, slickest route to the least common denominator of faith and function. It is into this world that priests are poured out like a libation as signs of selflessness to this generation and as living expressions of God’s love because it was in their hearts to try.

 

At the Consecration, the priest does not say: This is the Body of Our Lord.  No, he says:  This is My Body, which is given up for you.

 

In honoring our parish priests we honor all priests who have gone before us, who stand today and who

will follow along this awesome way of Christ the Priest. AMEN.

 

Please Pray for Our Priests:

 

Rev. Alex Vargas Rev. Marvin Borda

Rev. Giuseppe Savaia Msgr. Steven Bosso

Rev. Bob Randall Rev. James DeVita

Rev. John Horan, O Carm,

And all who have ministered over the many years of St. Thomas More Church

 

In the Name of Christ Jesus,

 

Pastor Julian Harris