Father, we need you. We need you to be our spiritual leader, on fire for the Lord, in order to feed our poor flames.
I attended Mass at your parish this past Sunday. I’ve worshiped there before, although this was my first Mass with you celebrating. I hope I simply caught you on a bad day, but fear that might not be the case.
From your first remarks before the congregation, with that sad mixture of anger and boredom, I sensed trouble. Your homily seemed to lack heart, exuberance, even much insight. And you read it — yes, it was obvious you were simply reading — in such a flat, monotonous style that I wondered if you truly believed any of the words on the paper.
Later, you read through the Eucharistic Prayer so quickly that I wondered if instead of reliving the Last Supper, we had hit the drive-through of a holy fast-food restaurant.
Did someone upset you at an earlier Mass? I wish you could have forgiven them. Have you become sensitive to so many folks looking comatose in the increasingly empty pews? I’m sorry so many of the “faithful” are less than faithful.
Here’s the thing, though: Father, we need you. Those folks in the pews need you. Those folks no longer in the pews need you. My kids and my grandkids need you. And, Father, I need you.
I wouldn’t think badly of you if you have had occasional bouts of second-guessing your vocation. We all do at one time or another. God asks the same of all of us — love Him with your whole heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. But God asks it of you and your brother-priests perhaps in a more relentless way, perhaps, than the rest of us, and you aren’t honored much for it.
Here in the U.S., we set aside a Monday in May to remember the military men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice of dying for their nation, and another day in November to honor who responded to a call to military service. Now more than ever, people seem willing to say “thank you for your service” to any member of the military or veteran.
We never have a day set aside to say “Thank you for your service” to our priests, even though in profound ways they have died to a certain way of life and made numerous sacrifices. Yours often is a thankless job, one getting harder, too, because fewer men are responding to the call to such sacrifice.
Father, I’m sure you want to shepherd your flock well. As a Church, we have asked so much of you, and we have no choice: We look to you for encouragement and motivation and advice. We expect you both to convince us of the value of the sacrament of Penance and hear our confessions; we expect you to celebrate multiple Masses on Sundays as though each one is fresh. To bring us Mass in the morning and then attend parish meetings late into the night, and perhaps stop by the hospital at some point in between, or assist the CYO, or the CCD, and to wear the friendliest of faces as you do it. We expect your undivided attention and your perfect resistance to every temptation that comes your way, and your resolute good cheer even in the face of the residue of past sins committed by other priests.
And most of the time, we don’t even ask you to dinner, or invite you to breakfast after Mass.
When you decided to give your life to service for the Lord and His people, much of this never entered your mind. Please know, I’m praying for you, for every man like you.
St. Paul wrote this to some early Christians who faced often-overwhelming trials: “Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.” (Romans 12:11-13)
Father, we need you. We need you to be our spiritual leader, on fire for the Lord, in order to feed our poor flames. We need your zeal, to show us you care and help us understand why we should care. We need you to help us spiritually navigate our way through this increasingly secularized, polarized, angry, misunderstanding world.
Father, the “holy ones” need to know, love and serve Jesus better. Please, help us, starting this Sunday, by showing us it all matters to you, too. May God bless you. And thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice, and your service.
More to read: How to Help Priests Smell Like Their Sheep