Sunday, December 30, 2007

Living in the Catholic Gitmo: 4- A Post for Suffering Priests

Rome tends to send bad news to priests through their bishops around the time of major feasts, such as Christmas or Easter.
Rome hardly ever communicates with priests directly, so often times after the multi-year appeals process a terse one or two lines will come from the bishop and since Rome virtually never rules in favor of priests those terse lines cause another upheavel of pain in the life of the priests and those who love him, family, friends, former parishoners.

So many emails, posts on other blogs, reflections in secured chat spaces for priests, so much snail mail has come my way over this Holy Season - so very much pain in so many priestly lives that I wrote what follows today for one group of priests and post it here - without names of course - so perhaps others may reach out to Christ who these days is being re-crucified in His Priests:

My Dear Brothers,

I have just returned, before the early winter darkness this far north
engulfs the city mid afternoon, from my daily prayer walk around the
neighburhood, past people, young and old, shoveling the sidewalks;
past the, quiet at this time of year, huge garage for the forest fire
crews; past one of the city bus barns, always so busy with buses
being repaired, cleaned, fueled up for another run; past too the
homeless, the hustle and bustle of street life, past families
returning from church or shopping or playing in the snow.

These walks are more physically demanding each day as, after the news
from Rome I mentioned the other day, my doctors examined me and are
concerned about the condition of my chest { I started smoking as a
street kid at age 10 - 54 years ago! } and other bits and pieces of
Brother Ass, to borrow from St. Francis, that may be hosting cancer.

As I was praying I was carrying each of you in my heart, reflecting
on today's posts and was stunned by the Scipture passage which kept
coming to my heart from St. Luke - so the walk turned into as much of
a meditation as prayer to the Holy Spirit for the right words for
this post!

I felt my own heart challenged by Father's words and asked myself how
do I really see our exchange of letters?
As the old monastic chapters of faults? No way!
As an variation on AA style meetings? Not hardly!
As some type of sharing circle where we all tell each other how great
we are, all will be well and let's praise Jesus? Doubt it!

So, how do I really see us, see myself?

Well let's start with the least important first: moi!

This will be long enough without covering the entire near 65 years of
my life so to keep it simple {now let's see if that miracle occurs
while I write!} I see myself truly - no matter what Rome says but
because Jesus said it and the Holy Spirit indelibly made it so - I
see myself as a REAL priest.

A real priest, like Jesus, is one who, like Jesus, becomes the object
of universal hatred, becomes the accused one, the brutalized one, the
suffering one, the wounded one, the crucified one.

Ultimately it matters NOT if we have become so as a result of the
repercussions of some hidden sin we committed, or some exposed sin
committed, or been exposed as it were to being like Jesus through
false accusation - what does matter is are we willing to BE PRIEST or

Ultimately in my heart and soul it matters not if Rome or some
Bishop does let us or not in the public area function or "do" priest, but
in reality, in our hearts, prayer, following Christ - will we choose
in each and every moment to BE priest - even if we are crushed by
whatever, even if we are covered by the spittle of things unresolved
in whatever form those things take, even if we are in such pain,
fear, darkness we cannot seem to satisfy ourselves that we are
priests, let alone always get it right when we reach out to our
Brothers and perhaps feel we are being confronted when exhausted,
challenged when hurting immensely - even then will we choose to BE
what we are PRIEST?

I admit readily I live in an almost perpetual state, certainly
enhanced with the news from Rome and my doctors, in an emotional
state that is filled with fear, doubt, anger, confusion, tears, and a
horrendous struggle to pray and as regards trust - well forget it

Our Brother X states clearly the stark, unjust, frustration-anger
inducing reality that we are caught up in the ceaseless vortex of a
dark and evil whirlwind rattling within the institutional church,
pulling us in, thrashing us about, spitting us out, battered, broken,
and sometimes 'offically' stripped of priesthood - but we must never
forget God is NOT bound by edicts from any institutional functionary,
even the ordained ones - He is bound only by His love for us!

He also reminds us to avoid the torture of what they do.

What precisely is that torture?

I would suggest my Brothers it is the chosen abandonment of
compassion and so the challenge for me, being priest, is to strive
with my will and heart, no matter what my emotions are doing, to BE
compassion, understanding, love.

The Scripture which kept running through my heart and which I
meditated upon to the sound of my laboured breathing, boots crunching
on the snow, the scrap of shovels against cement, the spinning of
tires as cars tried to get going again once lights turned green {this
far north no salt on the roads and not much plowing either} is from
St. Luke 9:62: Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand on the
plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

In my teenage years I used to work fields with horses and, unlike
plowing with tractors where you do have to look behind you,
experieced the folly of looking back because the horses would start
wandering away from the furrows to flatter ground and you'd have to
Worse if you were weeding vegetable fields and looked back then the
wandering horses would pull the harrows through the rows of
vegetables, uprooting everything and that late in the season you
could not replant.

So I asked the Holy Spirit what the dickens this has to do with me
and all my suffering brothers and suddenly I realized - now Brothers
I apply this only to me but offer it here because writing to you
helps me see things clearly - anyway I am being asked, profoundly to
leave the past in His hands, to keep me eyes on Him - on the 8th Day
as one of you always reminds me about.

To live not with my heart anywhere else but where HE is in this very moment - and my heart said YES! - it means to contemplate Him who is all-merciful, to trust as the Thief did - our
brother crucified alongside the High Priest in whose Person we are ordained.

This is the mystery we live: we are on the Cross as Christ Priest and
on the Cross as one needing His mercy!

Now my dear Brothers I know I am neurotic, verbose, lacking in real
faith, have very little trust, struggle with anger, confusion,
faliure to love and forgive my enemies, have REAL problems with
certain persons with power in the Church - but - and this confuses
the hell out of me {literally I pray such a complete purging occur
before death!} but these years of horror have been - are - in my
heart the most joyful of my entire life, especially my priestsly
life, and I believe have been, are, the most fruitful.

I certainly could not, would not, struggle to leave behind what must be left behind in His
hands, - for the challenge is to walk forward, following Him in His footsteps, wherever He leads, - no!, I could not, do that alone, indeed I am only able to do this following Him while holding onto the hand of Our Lady walking forward.

Indeed too without your fraternal affection and prayer, my Brothers and that of so many of the Laity, I might well let go of the hand of the Mother of Priests and then truly would fall - from grace, proably, from life off a bridge or some such possibly, for we all know this is too much, way too much suffering for any person - but NOT too much for Him and He is our faith, HE is our trust, HE is our courage and HE is the reason for our ad sum!, spoken not some yesterday of ordination but in the now of every moment in Him, which is always the graced moment of begining again!

Thanks my Brothers for following in His footsteps because following
you following Him makes this mysterious pilgrimage of the suffering
priesthood a possible one.

May the New Year of Grace bring to each, from the hands of Our Blessed Mother, hope, peace, joy, light, love.

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