Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1, 2014 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Week 6, Pray for Kindness in Priests

In preparation for the topic of today’s homily which is praying for kindness in priests, I asked around to get personal experiences of parishioners. To one parishioner I asked, “Can you think of a priest in your life who was kind?” There was a long pause. “I’m sorry, I can’t think of one.” Perhaps this is the reason why we are praying -- so that our priests will have the virtue of kindness. (When I was looking for a photo of a priest of recent memory who was kind, Pope Francis came to mind).

Kindness is a difficult attribute to define, but not to illustrate. Each of us, if asked, could tell personal stories about when we have been treated kindly and when we have been treated unkindly. We know it when we experience it, and we recognize when it isn’t there.

Kindness is the quality of understanding sympathy and concern for those in trouble or need. It is shown in graciousness of speech, generosity of conduct, and forgiveness of injuries sustained. A kind person acts in benevolent, gentle, and loving ways. You can see kindness in a person when you see generous acts, considerate behavior, and comforting words. Kindness is one of the seven virtues, and is considered antidote to envy. Envy is sadness at another’s good, and joy at another’s evil. What rust is to iron, what moths are to wool, what termites are to wood, that envy is to the soul — the assassination of brotherly or sisterly love. Kindness celebrates another’s good fortune and success.

You can see why we would love to see kindness in priests. In fact, married couples also desire that virtue in each other. A recent study conducted in various cultures around the world asked people to name the trait they desired most in a spouse. For both sexes, people overwhelmingly wanted their spouses to be kind. We priests also have a bride or spouse--the Church--which is all of you. Kindness comes from the same root as the word “kin,” someone who is a part of your family. Thus, when a priest shows kindness to you, the priest is treating you as a part of his family, as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23).

Kindness is a way of showing love to another. Everything that St. Paul wrote about love in 1 Corinthians 13 (Love is patient; not jealous, pompous, inflated, or rude; does not seek its own interests, is not quick-tempered, does not brood over injury or rejoice over wrongdoing) also defines how a kind person acts.

Kindness is an essential virtue in a healthy and happy priesthood.
Priesthood is strengthened when both priest and parishioners treat each other kindly: with love and understanding and with dignity and respect. Kindness is evident when a priest puts the needs of his parishioners first, acting on what will please or help the other most, and not on self-interest. By never being rude or abusive to his parishioner in any way, you build a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Priesthood, like a marriage, is based upon compassionate and caring thoughts, words, and actions.

Let us remember to pray for all of our priests, especially for those listed on the sheet you picked up today, that they continue to grow in kindness.