Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mar. 11, 2014 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Week 3, Pray for priests who face loneliness

There is an essential felt loneliness in the priesthood because there is an essential loneliness in the Cross, the Cross that stands at the very center of the priesthood. We priests feel the sting especially in celibacy, and understandably we struggle to come to terms with it. Nothing happens to us at the time of entering the seminary that eliminates normal human needs, feelings, or desires. Like all people, priests integrate these feelings and express our love for others in a wide range of means other than those physical expressions restricted to marriage. As celibates, our love is focused on the church community, and to be available to all who are in need. We know the terrifying loneliness that comes crashing in, the coldness of walking back into the rectory – certainly exhausted and tired of people – but lonely because there does not seem to be anyone to share it with or who understands our hearts. A pious thought would be to pray, but prayer in those moments may well seem dry and distasteful.

Some try to numb this longing through careerism in the Church, food, drugs, alcohol, illicit relationships, pornography; probably the most common forms of numbing are through the television or Internet. This feeling of loneliness is an invitation for the celibate priest to enter more deeply into precisely this mystery of caring for the Church at the foot of the Cross and becoming united to her. The priest must struggle in accepting being co-crucified with Jesus and entering the compassion of Our Lady. She for her part comes to the aid of the priest by engaging his masculinity as a husband and father to help bring about his union with the Church—not in sexual union but through crucifixion, by dying for her. The priest, in his loneliness, becomes attuned to the Church's loneliness in this world.

A priest busily filling his social calendar is not a solution to his loneliness. It is a different kind of loneliness, and it is difficult for his congregation to understand. A priest can find joy in being united to the Cross through the help of the Mother of God. Joy is not found in the lack of suffering or on the other side of suffering but in self-giving love. Thus joy can flow clearly and directly from suffering. This is joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and thus something indestructible, something the world cannot give. (As we continue to pray for the priests in our Diocese, please pick up the sheet in the entrances of the church and pray for the priests for the week).