(Editor’s note: Youth Minister Patti McTaggart of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City wrote the following reflection on priests for her monthly cover letter to the parish’s youth. She felt it was an appropriate topic since the Feast of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, was Aug. 4 and this is the Year for Priests.)
In June, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, declared this year the Year for Priests. Some individuals in secular society have profited on belittling, mocking and degrading the Catholic priesthood through movies, television shows, comedy acts, etc. Although it is true that there have been a few men who have done the priesthood harm through their actions, I am someone who has ministered with many, many priests and here is what I personally have found them to be:
• Gentle men who cradle newborns at the hospital, read stories to religious education students and create altar pieces in clay with second graders preparing for first holy Communion.
• Generous men who give of their time, talent, and treasure for the sake of the church — and for no recognition of their own.
• Kind men who reach out to the poor, the homeless, the marginalized and those who cannot speak for themselves.
• Obedient men who bypass their own wishes and ideals in order to follow what the church teaches.
• Compassionate men who anoint the hands of hospice and AIDS patients, who get up in the middle of the night to commend the dying into the loving embrace of Jesus, and who offer comfort to families who are grieving.
• Courageous men who put themselves in harm’s way in order to provide ministry to our military.
• Supportive men who attend junior high/high school sporting, musical and theatrical events to “cheer on” the young people of our church.
• Positive men who encourage and promote the priesthood and religious life to young people.
• Forgiving men who “turn the other cheek” to those who utter falsehoods against them.
• Patient men who take time to listen and spiritually care for the mentally ill.
• Resourceful men who make “every penny count” in and for their parish.
• Joyful men who like to sing God’s praises and truly appreciate good music.
• Healthy men who enjoy playing sports, riding bikes, taking walks or runs, and sometimes devouring a piece of pizza…or two pieces…or three…
• Faith-filled men who spend each day praying the Liturgy of the Hours, proclaiming God’s Word, celebrating the Eucharist with reverence, humility and grace and savoring quiet time with the Lord in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
It’s been quite easy for me to see, through these men, the eyes and hands of Christ at work. What a blessing the priesthood is to this world! Never be afraid — but rather welcome and be grateful to God for the call to serve in your own lives. The rewards on earth — and in heaven — will be great.
“It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you…” — John 15:16