Stories of Catholic priests' "creativity, sacrifice and compassionate service" during this time of the coronavirus…
Thankful for our spiritual fathers
Have you thanked a priest today? As I consider what is most important to me during a pandemic that I certainly didn’t see coming, the answer is priests. There is no Eucharist without them. There is no Sacrament of Reconciliation without them.
My heart breaks for the people who had to go to their deaths without the anointing of the sick, without viaticum — a last Communion on this earth to see them on their way. A friend from college told me of the consolation of having a priest available to pray some prayers for her father as he was dying of COVID-19 with the family looking in and joining in.
I remember many years ago, during a blizzard in Washington, D.C., walking to the closest church, only to be greeted by a parish priest who informed me that the church was closed and there would be no Mass. Other times, I would make the same ridiculously ungraceful walk to other churches in intense snow to be welcomed for an intimate celebration of the Mass that seemed to be washing us as white as the accumulation outside. Those days, whichever the circumstances, I knew the crucial importance of the priesthood and the choices a priest makes.
I once jaywalked across a major avenue with a handful of priests and made a joke about final blessings. I only jaywalk with priests, and I expect one of you to survive to send me on my way. But this is no joke.
And the silly memory underscores something else that seems to be missed, like many of us who have the luxury to have been hiding from coronavirus: We know neither the day nor the hour nor how we will die. We only know that we will die. There is no hiding. There is only getting right with God. Yesterday. Now is the time. What are we waiting for?
Over the last two decades, in particular, and especially these most recent two years (since the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released as were the details of abuse by Theodore McCarrick), the priesthood has taken a blow. Evil behavior and crimes, terrible decisions that are the very antithesis of what a spiritual father would do in caring for actual children and the whole Church have made some wary of priests. I know many good daughters and sons of the Church who tell me they are very careful about their children spending time around priests. It’s understandable. It’s also infuriating. This is what evil does. It corrupts and obstructs.
So many priests I know are in it for the right reasons — a true answer to a call. It’s not an easy life, but it’s a joyful one when it is focused on Christ. It’s fruitful when it is lived with the heart of Jesus.
What more can we say? What more can we do? How can we show our love for the priesthood of Jesus Christ? We have lived through a time when the Church and priests were clearly treated in the mainstream as nonessential at best. That is entirely the wrong message.
For any priest who has been feeling useless, we owe reparation. It’s a lie, because every Mass that is said, every prayer that is offered, every word of love in the Body of Christ, is powerful.
Thanks be to God for Elizabeth Dias and Elizabeth Bruenig who have written in The New York Times some beautiful profiles of priests ministering during coronavirus. As we move forward — though not everywhere yet — with Mass and confession, wedding and funeral Masses, and a fuller living of the life of the Church again, let’s make up for lost time. Let’s be contributors — leaders, even — in a culture that prays for priests, adopts them spiritually, invites them into homes with families, encourages true friendship and fellowship in the Body of Christ.
We need the sacraments. And we need holy men who will give their lives for them. Show them. Thank them. Whatever our vocations, let’s help one another in a renewed way, walking boldly and fervently with one another to eternal life with God.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.