Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The End of the Year of the Priest

A couple of weeks ago I went to confession and instead of the crusty old monsignor (who just happens to be the the reason I drive 30 minutes to this parish to go to confession there) a young priest came back and walked into the confessional. I was intrigued. I had never seen this priest before. I was pleasantly surprised by the spiritual counseling that he gave me. My eyeballs about popped out though when, instead of the five Hail Mary's and five Our Father's I'm used to, I got five decades of the rosary for my penance. And then I was taken back when he granted me absolution in Latin.

I grabbed a bulletin on my way out hoping to find something out about this priest. Was he new to the parish? Was he replacing the monsignor? I found a little snippet about a request for prayers for this priest as he began his vocation. I went home, got online and found out that he had only been ordained four days earlier. I may have been one of the first confessions that this young priest had heard.

This got me to thinking about the life journey this young man was embarking on. I think as Catholics we tend to put priests in two different categories. We either put them on a pedestal and think that they can do no wrong or think of their vocation as just a job that anyone could do.

Some Catholics will think it's wrong to say anything bad about a priest. You can't say that a priest is boring. You can't criticize him. You can't critique him. This is silly. They are men. They are just people. Just like you and I. They have human emotions. They enjoys having a beer at a baseball game. They may give boring homilies. They enjoy jokes. They make mistakes. They are on a spiritual journey just as you and I are. They don't have all the answers ready to blurt out like some sort of computer.

On the other hand, there is something special about them. They have dedicated their life to God. They've made promises of celibacy and obedience. They receive the ability to act in the person of Christ (persona Christi) and are able to forgive sins and transform bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. I couldn't imagine the graces that our priests receive. I've been given many blessing--a wife and kids--but that doesn't compare to the blessings priests are given. I also haven't been asked to make the sacrifices that priests are asked to make.

For the last year, we have celebrated these men by dedicating the last twelve months as the "year of the priest." This was a good idea--to take the year and reflect on our priests and to take the time to appreciate them. Just as Valentine's Day is a day to remember our loved ones or Father's Days (cough--this Sunday--cough) is a day to treat our dads in special ways, the "Year of the Priest" was a year to treat our priests in a special way. But just like we shouldn't forget our loved ones or our dads when it isn't their respective holiday (in fact--I think we should treat our dads special 365 days out of the year) we shouldn't forget our priests now that the year is over.


  1. I'm new to your blog but had to comment on your topic of confession and penance. I was given three rosary's as penance last fall from a retired priest. At the time, my heart sank....and I'm sure my eyes bugged out of my head with shock. I also went away thinking "did he know that I just happened to have rosary beads....did he know I was a church going many middle aged (I'm 52) women go to church, let alone own rosary beads". I was very taken aback. But once I got home....sat in my chair...pulled out my laptop and went to CatholicTv on the web....found 3 different mystery episodes and I did my 3 rosaries. In the end, I realized that all the priest was asking for was for me to spend more time in prayer. Like many people, I'm not looking forward to my next penance--but I figure now, it's my relationship with God that benefits. Happy Father's Day.

  2. That's a very good point and I wasn't trying to be critical of the priest's penance--just surprised because it wasn't what I'm used to. If anything we are spiritual weaklings because of the light penances we normally receive.
    You're right--confession is how we fix our relationship with God and prayer is a great way of doing penance.

  3. I am sad to see the Year of the Priest come to a close and you are so right...we need to remember our priests in prayer every day. They need them so much (much like we all need prayers) and I know they appreciate it, too.

  4. Geeze Jamie... what sins did you commit?! :-D

  5. Beautiful post! I honestly have not had a great appreciation for priests until the last year. But then in my discussions with my parents, they pointed out the young priest for whom I used to do cheers (with pom poms) in our yard on summer afternoons (we live right in front of the rectory). And then the outgoining priest who used to literally carry a wooden cross in our Labor day parade each year, dressed as an angel. Some of these men are amazing. Actually, most of them are. :)