Has No One Condemned You?

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In A Shepherd Without Sheep (Bruce Publishing, 1956), E. Boyd Barrett, who left the priesthood in stormy circumstances and, after twenty years, was reconciled, and so finished out his life in repentance and peace, writes:

I have no chapel; no altar at which to offer the holiest sacrifice; no pulpit from which to preach. There is no confessional where penitents await counsel and absolution from my lips; no baptismal font where, by the sacrament of regeneration, I may give to the Eternal Father another child. I am a priest, Christ's shepherd, but I have no sheep.
But though I have no sheep, the Prince of Shepherds is my Friend. He needs me; He is my Divine Companion. It is His will that I should be as I am. "Christ is in me," and for me that is enough.
There are others like me, in every country throughout the world, "silenced priests" living hidden lives; hidden from the world; hidden, as far as may be, in Christ. Some are my good friends. . . .
Prayers going up to heaven, in every increasing volume for faithless priests are wondrously fruitful. Many "stray shepherds" heed the call of Christ, who searches for them in the mist. When they see Him again their hearts are moved and they come back. Then there occurs what Luke (2:20) mystically foretold: "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God."

The Appropriate Response

What is the appropriate response to the media's sensationalization and amplification of the weaknesses of certain priests? In our response there should be nothing harsh, nothing that condemns, nothing swollen with the self-righteousness indignation that was "the leaven of the Pharisees" (Mt 16:6). "Let him who is without sin," says the Lord Jesus, "be the first to cast a stone at him" (Jn 8:7). Read all of John 8: 1-11, and in place of the woman caught in adultery, put the priest caught in sin.

A Resolution

If every time one heard of the moral failing of a priest, one resolved on the spot to pray and fast for him, what miracles of grace might occur? "And when He entered the house, His disciples asked Him privately, 'Why could we not cast it [the unclean spirit] out?' And He said to them, 'This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting'" (Mk 9:28-29).

If every time one heard of the moral failing of a priest, one offered a Rosary for him, or spent an hour before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, or fasted, or gave alms, or even "adopted" him spiritually by offering for him one's weaknesses, sufferings, and losses,
what graces might touch his heart?

Lord, Thou Knowest All Things

The Heart of Jesus is full of tender compassion for sinners; for His priests, His chosen and privileged friends, there is nothing He will not do to lift them when they fall, to bind up their wounds, and to restore them to wholeness. He waits for them to say but one thing, the very thing that Peter said, making reparation for his triple denial: "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee."

Where the world sees scandal, the friend of the Lamb sees an opportunity for reparation, a call to love, a summons to intercession through the Most Pure Heart of Mary. The Heart of Jesus will do the rest.

6 Comments

Father Mark,
You said "If every time one heard of the moral failing of a priest, one offered a Rosary for him, or spent an hour before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, or fasted, or gave alms, or even "adopted" him spiritually by offering for him one's weaknesses, sufferings, and losses, what graces might touch his heart?"

Well Father, I will resolve to do just that; I will fast or say a Rosary for each time I hear about a Priest who falters. I have some catching up to do, so my first Rosary will be tonight.

Thank you Father, for suggesting this resolution.

In Christ,
John, the Haskell Catholic

A salutary and gentle reminder of the spiritual frailty and weakness of us all, but also our absolute need for the closeness of God in our hearts. Thank you Father, for posting this.

Thank you for your post. I have been "nudged" repeatedly over the past few weeks to pray for our priests. I posted this today: http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/2009/05/which-should-we-choose-condemnation-or.html. I also ordered the book you referenced - it's available from Amazon.com if anyone else is interested (though there are only 3 copies left, so "get them while they last")!

God bless you, Father, and all our priests and religious. I will lift you up in prayer.

NCSue

First of all, I just want to let you know that I am a brand new Catholic, so I may not make my statements in a way that a life long Catholic may make them.

I want to thank you, Father Mark, for your kind and compassionate post. I don't think we can ever pray for our priests enough. We have a very young priest in our parish, he has only been here a couple of years. I don't think he was prepared emotionally to take on this task. I believe he feels deeply for every funeral, wedding, mass, etc. that he takes part in. I can see the stress in his face every time I take the Eucharist with him.

I personally know of a priest who had a very abundant parish for many years, then one day someone made an accusation against him, and it was all taken away. It was his whole life. It was his reason for being, and it was snatched away from him. He lost everything. He died a few years later. We truly need to offer a prayer for our priests every time we think of them. Thanks, Marcy Lee

Paul Z shared a very compelling quotation from St. John Vianney on his blog : "When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion." How clever has the media become and now careful we must be to avoid complicity!

I've been reminded regularly over the past few weeks of the importance of praying for our priests. While I pray especially for vocations and for priests who are currently practicing without a hint of scandal, I agree that it would be an excellent idea to pray and fast for those who have "fallen from grace".

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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