Every single day, there are thousands of airplanes high overhead, soaring through the sky going about their business with ease. Generally, you never see, nor hear about them. Rarely, a plane crashes and the tragedy makes mainstream headlines.
The same can be said of the clergy.
Every day, thousands upon thousands of good bishops and priests lead a life of service that is pleasing to God. The odds are that you never hear about them. However, when a member of the clergy fails, like a tragic plane crash, it becomes mainstream news. As a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, I am by no means trying to downplay the despicable acts committed by the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Rather than be jaded, however, I choose to pray for the men who are pious, virtuous, masculine examples of the likeness of Christ. I can assure you that there are many more men of this standard than there are of the traitors to God and His people.
Regarding those priests and prelates who have disgraced their vocation, St. Pius X tells us, “Christ himself, the model of priests, taught first by the example of his deeds and then by his words: Jesus began to do and then to teach. Likewise, a priest who neglects his own sanctification can never be the salt of the earth; what is corrupt and contaminated is utterly incapable of preserving from corruption; where sanctity is lacking, there corruption will inevitably find its way.”
Therefore, difficult as it may be, we must never forget to pray for the fallen men who have neglected their own sanctification. It is imperative that we pray for their repentance and that God will have mercy on their souls, provided they repent.
Likewise, we must pray in earnest for those prelates and priests who are radiant examples of Christ the High Priest.
Think about it.
These men are likewise affected when news surfaces of a disgraced vocation. Some of them know the accused. What’s worse is that whether a stranger or acquaintance of the accused, more often than not, all priests endure the stigma caused by their fallen brother. Sadly, secular society and even some of the faithful begin to generalize that all priests are corrupt.
We know this is simply not true.
Then there are the priests who have a genuine desire to serve God’s people, but they find themselves mired down in Church politics and radical bishops that make it difficult for these men to minister to the faithful. Just as the laity become frustrated with peculiar prelates, so too do the priests. Still, they do what they are called to do.
We must also recognize the prelates and priests who, like many of the faithful, find themselves disappointed at times with the words and deeds of the Holy Father. Whether it’s the decision to impart restrictions on the Latin Mass, disagreement with an aspect of the Synod on Synodality, or confusion from a radical statement made during a papal audience, just as many priests find themselves as frustrated as the faithful. Still, they do what they were called to do.
Regarding good and faithful priests, St. John Eudes reminds us:
“The worthy priest is an angel of purity in mind and body, a cherub of light and knowledge, a seraph of love and Charity, an apostle of zeal in work and sanctity, a little god on earth in power and authority, in patience and benignity. He is the living image of Christ in this world, of Christ watching, praying, preaching, catechizing, working, weeping, going from town to town, from village to village, suffering, agonizing, sacrificing Himself and dying for the souls created to His image and likeness. … He is the light of those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He is the destroyer of error, schisms and heresies, the converter of sinners, the sanctifier of the just, the strength of the weak, the consolation of the afflicted, the treasure of the poor. He is the confusion of hell, the glory of heaven, the terror of demons, the joy of angels, the ruin of Satan’s kingdom, the establishment of Christ’s empire, the ornament of the Church.”
Most of us at some point in our lives have experienced such a priest as St. John Eudes so eloquently describes. We should pray that all members of the clergy could be described in such a way. Indeed, the overwhelming majority are worthy of such praise. Perhaps then we should offer a prayer of thanksgiving that such men have given their life in service to God and His Church?
For men such as these, the days are long, the slumber is short, the criticisms are many, and the gratitude is little.
Every week they offer multiple Masses, administer the last rites, perform baptisms, marriages, conduct spiritual counseling, hear confessions, attend meetings and various social functions, write homilies, offer funerals, vigils, RCIA, bible study, and a host of other necessary activities all for the greater glory of God and in service to His people. Then of course, he must find time somewhere in the chaos to pray his Divine Office, his Rosary, and do some personal prayer. The priest’s phone rings almost non-stop day and night, he receives hundreds of emails, visitors come to call, and he has to set aside what he’s doing to make them feel welcome. Because, indeed, every member of his flock is special, and he must tend to them day and night.
As if the day-to-day challenges weren’t enough, St. Alphonsus Ligouri tells us that the devil assails priests 100 times more than he assails a lay person. Thus, we must pray for their strength. Their workload, combined with constant assailments are not only taxing on their bodies and their minds, but their spirits as well.
We live in an age of heightened division, both in the secular world and in the Church. Our priests and bishops are not immune to the issues facing both society and the sacred. Like us, they often find themselves frustrated, saddened, and overwhelmed. Still, with each new day, they rise up and carry their cross for the sake of you and me, and the glory of God.
In what seems to be an era of chronic negativity, sometimes we need a reminder that a few bad apples don’t spoil the bunch. Just as there are thousands of planes flying high above our heads that go completely unnoticed so too does the sacrifice of many fine men in the Holy Priesthood.
Let us pray, therefore, that the Immaculata will envelop them in Her mantle of protection. Let us hope that they cling to Her when darkness, temptation, and frustration knocks at the door of their heart.
May the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph, the Most Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus watch over our beloved priests.
Together, let us pray for the good guys in black.