We have been saddened to read in the past month of the sins and problems of some local priests in the daily newspapers. Struggles with serious drug addiction, failure to live up to priestly promises of chaste celibacy, engaging in lewd and perverted lifestyle, these are just some of the things reported about two priests of neighboring dioceses.
We are saddened when we see the cheap shots taken at the expense of our priests. Ricky Gervais, the “comedian” who hosted this year’s Golden Globes, was particularly distasteful with some of his remarks at the nationally televised ceremony.
What should be our reactions when we read these things in the Daily News and The New York Post? We should be upset and we should be outraged, because we expect more from our priests. We realize that they are humans and they have faults and failings, just like all of us; however, we naturally do expect more from our priests. We cannot judge them, but we also cannot approve of their actions.
What then can we do? Three things: first, pray for your priests; second, pray for those priests who are charged with the task of seminary formation and vocation recruitment; and third, let your priests know that they are loved and appreciated.
Pray for priests. Look to the example of St. Catherine of Sienna, who loved her priests. She revered them. She recognized when they had fallen and failed, and she still revered the office and loved them individually. Catherine wanted her priests to be holy. She had a task given to her by Christ. The Lord told her: “Intervene to eliminate the stink of the ministers of the Holy Church; pull out the stinking flowers and plant scented plants, virtuous men who fear God.”
How did St. Catherine do this? By being a woman, by being a mother, by being a Sister. This young nun feared no cleric. She chided and she challenged, sometimes gently, sometimes not, Christ’s priests.
Pray for those priests who are engaged in seminary formation and vocation recruitment. Pray that we not only have more vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese of Brooklyn, but happy, healthy, holy ones, who have truly discerned their vocation to the priesthood and then who have been fully formed in their vocation.
It’s not a numbers game; it’s about getting men who are truly called and who, through deep prayer and through the careful discernment of the Church and the observation of their formators, are verified in this call. Pray for the diocesan vocation director, Father Sean Suckiel and the good work that he and the regional directors of vocations do. Pray for the priests of our diocese who serve on the faculties of our local seminaries – St. Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie; Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst; Cathedral House of Formation, Douglaston; as well as the Brooklyn priests who serve on the faculties of seminaries outside of New York: SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Mich.; and the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City.
Finally, let your priests know that they are appreciated. Say an extra Hail Mary for them. Drop a note or an e-mail to let them know you appreciate them for their priestly example.
Yes, priests are men, with a fallen human nature, just like the rest of mankind; but look to the examples of the numberless priests that serve as ardent, but gentle stewards of the mysteries of the Kingdom. We need them and they need us. Let’s always pray for them.