Monday, October 14, 2013

The Priesthood ... and troubled priests.

Some thoughts from Fr. Ciszek.

Pretend it's back then - that life is a concentration camp ...
"The camps were full of informers...
In every camp there were a number of priests.  They were delighted to have another priest in the camp, and quick to spread the word among the prisoners.  We exhorted and encouraged one another, shared prayers and short homilies ... They may not have been the most polished sermons ... but they were often moving and provocative because of the circumstances under which they were delivered.  It was something just to be with these men, and to see them prove in word and deed their dedication to God and to the flock he entrusted to them day after day.
Not that all of them were perfect.  Indeed, there were even informers among the priests themselves.  We sometimes knew it - trusted prisoners who worked in offices would tell us of encounters they had seen.  Sometimes these priests themselves would tell us privately ... they begged our forgiveness.  ... These informers or suspected informers were never excluded from our company.  They shared in our Masses.  We heard their confessions - and they heard ours; such was our confidence in the seal of the confessional.  We all had our failings; each of us knew only too well how much we depended upon God and on his grace.
The key word, in fact, of our priestly apostolate in the camps had to be the word 'witness'.  It wasn't so much a matter of preaching God and talking religion to the men around you as it was a matter of living the faith that you yourself professed.
It was not always a matter of preaching God and religion.  It was enough at times to simply respect each of your fellow men in the camp, to do good to each no matter what he himself did or said, no matter how he acted toward you ... There was little call to preach about sin or damnation or hellfire to men who experience daily the hell of loneliness and separation and anxiety.  A great deal of tolerance and a great deal of understanding were required of a priest if he wished to be effective among these unfortunate and almost degraded human beings.  Common sense and intuition, a feeling for the finger of God's grace behind a question or a conversation or an encounter, was much more necessary than textbook answers in theology." - The Priesthood, He Leadeth Me, Walter Ciszek, S.J. 

I need a priest.

I need a priest for the sacraments, for the Mass, for my life.  I've gone to confession to good priests and bad, and they absolved me.  They have counseled me - they listened to me and cared about me - they absolved me.  I need to forgive too.

"Not that all of them were perfect."

Pray for priests.



  1. I don't know, Terry. Do any of us need a cultic priesthood, a clerical caste? Surely this was not what Jesus was about or what the early church understood of the calling of some individuals' and which over the centuries the institutional church has distorted and come to term "priesthood." I think we've gotten way off-track. The crisis that we've been facing for some time now should thus be seen as a calling and an opportunity to re-evaluate, reform, and in some cases let go completely so as to be open to God's transforming power in our midst. I think the priesthood as we know it needs to die so that something new, something more aligned with Jesus and the early church can emerge. And it is emerging, most clearly in the intentional eucharistic community movement that's growing both within and beyond the Roman institutional borders. It's an exciting time to be Catholic, though a scary time for some, to be sure. But I trust in the guidance of the Spirit. And I don't see much evidence of this Spirit or its gifts in the system of the Roman Catholic clerical caste. In many individuals, yes. But not in the system, which in some very fundamental ways is corrupt to the core.

    1. Didn't Our Blessed Lord select certain men who were configured to him in a certain way and instructed to perform certain duties?

      You say "something new". What exactly do you propose? Easy to tear down, not so easy to build up.

    2. We're made in God's image, Michael, not God in our image.


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