"No words I can use would be too strong to state that the Catholic priesthood…
We all need to pray, ‘Lord, I need you’
A priest tells this story. He was assigned as a pastor. His predecessor had left the job in disgrace. The parish was not large, but it owed $6 million. It had $59 in its bank account. The previous pastor had fallen out with the director of religious education, so no classes had met for months. First holy Communion for the children was “postponed.” Holes dotted the roof of the church. The priest said that he spent the day looking at the records in the parish office, each with worse news than the one preceding it.
He finally rose from his desk, walked over to the church, knelt before the tabernacle and prayed: “Lord, they are your people. I cannot do this job alone. I need you.”
Everyone might better face the realities of life by repeating the priest’s simple, but very profound, prayer, “Lord, I cannot do it alone. I need you.”
No miracles instantly came to remedy the problems at the priest’s parish. No one sent a check for $6 million to repay the debt. Guardian angels did not suddenly repair the roof. Neither St. Thomas Aquinas nor St. Elizabeth Ann Seton came down from heaven to revive the religious education program.
Even so, the besieged pastor said that he learned important lessons. He could not control everything. He needed the Lord. Nothing would change overnight, but he could deal with issues, if only one at a time. He was creative.
Using his own money to pay for postage, he wrote to every parishioner, admitting the wrongs that had angered and frustrated them. He promised to be active in addressing problems, to be available and, most of all, to be holy.
Kneeling before the tabernacle gave him an idea. He organized weekly Eucharistic adoration.
Reminding people that Jesus endured evil, such as the Crucifixion, but never cursed all humanity because of it, he urged that no one condemn the entire Church because of sinners within it.
He developed a plan, all about Jesus. First and foremost, he promoted coming to Mass. He revived religious education and set the date for first holy Communion. Give the young the beautiful gift of Jesus! He took an IOU instead of a salary. People took an interest. Teachers offered to teach. Parents enrolled children. Parishioners successful in business volunteered to review finances. The diocese came forward. A roofer offered terms. Mass attendance increased, and Eucharistic adoration was popular.
The pastor found relief by setting as the priority what is important: the need for the Lord, despite a very undesirable situation.
Bad things affect every single human life. Communion with Jesus brings confidence and peace of mind. It lessens the sting of problems.
The pandemic is overtaking the news media. It is not exaggerated. A woman interviewed recently on a radio news show said that her elderly, frail mother is in a facility that houses 124 residents. Of them, 86 were clinically diagnosed in a period of four days with the virus. So was over half the staff. Several died.
More than 230,000 Americans are gone. The most brilliant scientific minds on earth can do little.
What is the answer? Do the best to deal with the pandemic and its personal consequences. Humans have always lived in a vale of tears, but the Lord promises and gives peace of mind, even when conditions seem to be hopeless. Go to the bottom line: Salvation awaits the good and the just.
Do not expect the unrealistic. Challenges will not vanish. Take each day as it comes. Break walls apart one brick at a time. Always, always stay with the Lord.
Eucharistic adoration may be impossible in many places, so watch Mass on television or online. If nothing else, read a missal! Feel close to the Lord. This closeness is the miracle cure for the anguished.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.