Friday was a day, ya’ll.
One of those days where you’re like, “Wait, wait, is this really happening to me?”
And not exactly in the good way, either…rather, the kind of way that promises to seep into your weekend and puke sewer water into your otherwise happy-weekend thoughts.
Suddenly: I was laughing in the face of all else.
For, when one has friends who send them funny pictures of eating escargot in France, one can face life so much easier.
Today I want to write about priests who are my friends. Maybe they are friends who are priests. Either way, I’m writing.
Here’s a reality. The past few years have been tainted with the tragic experience of the priest scandals. My heart aches over this. I am deeply sorry to anyone who has been wounded in that way. I offer you my prayers and support for your healing.
I feel that the wounds from the priest scandals stretch far beyond the victims, too. (Isn’t that how pain works?) And do you know who has been effected? Other priests. I can see how that would happen, don’t get me wrong. One hears appalling stories, and suddenly suspicion arises about the entire category. I empathize.
But, I must tell about my other friends who are priests…because they have loved my heart and touched my life.
I share not to discount the pain of the priest scandals, but rather to offer healing and love to those who have given their lives to sharing Christ as priests and have been injured as well.
My fathers, this is for you.
Because I love you back.
(First names only. But: pictures. It’s for the NEW EVANGELIZATION! <– That’s a catholic joke).
I knew Jesus before I met Father Joe. I met Fr. Joe right before I started high school (ohmijosh so young!). But, Fr. Joe was the one who loved with his whole heart and hugged like you were the most important person in the world (even if you weren’t one of the active, popular upperclassmen!) and lived like Jesus was the best thing that could happen to a person.
One time I went to an evening mass where he was celebrating. The mass was full, and he had just returned from a retreat. During the consecration he started the ancient prayers, prayed by priests over and over again, every day, for years.
Father Joe started singing the prayers, the ancient story of Jesus at the Last Supper. Then, he stopped. He was crying…crying, in front of God and everybody, as he recounted the story of Jesus offering Himself to His people. He paused, breathing the deep breaths of someone who is weeping.
He started again, broke down again.
The church was silent.
Finally, he started one last time and the congregation joined in to pray with him. Yes, I know, only the priest is supposed to pray those words. But, it was an act of the faithful…to bolster in a time of need.
This time, he finished.
Those words, “We remember, we celebrate, we believe,” were so fitting.
Sometimes still, years later, I think about the priest who was moved to tears when I kneel and watch the consecration.
I also think that Jesus probably hugs like Fr. Joe…like he loves you because you are.
I’m allowed to jump all over the map, right? These are not chronologically listed…they’re listed on a piece of graph paper in front of me, as I saw fit to add them to my list-of-priests.
This is Father Anthony. He is a baby priest. He’s also my prayer-partner for the year from my blessed New Year’s Retreat (want to go on retreat with me??).
Anyway, home-boy is Filipino. I’ll let you in on a secret, OK? “Filipino” is code for “awesome.” Keep that in mind next time someone mentions their Filipino ancestry. Don’t think I haven’t unlocked that riddle. Ha.
Anyway, Father Anthony speaks English…until he talks about baby Jesus. And then it’s all about the “Bambino Gesu,” with the most endearing tone imaginable.
The Bambino Gesu. The one who brings us joy and communicates to us the love of the Heavenly Father…this is what Father Anthony explained to me as he talked about his Bambino Gesu.
Confession: I speak English. It’s basically my only language. But, now, when talking about baby Jesus, I too call him the Bambino Gesu in my heart. 🙂
I look at these pictures and think to myself, “Dear God, is it fair that I have people in my life who I love this much?”
This is Father Pio. I love him.
But, it’s not fair because he loved me first. I also met this one on retreat. This one who stows candy in the folds of his habit and tosses it at me as I walk down the hall. This one who bear-hugs with joyful eyes and asks, instead of “How are you?”, “Are you happy?”
He is the one who gave me the BEST TALK EVER about suffering. Shoot, I could write a series on how this impacted my faith life.
This priest is Franciscan (oh hey, St. Francis!) in the hardcore sense of the word. Like, where he wears sandals. In the winter. In the snow.
The vow of poverty is so much.
One time, in spiritual direction, I told him that I was seeing a guy who would criticize me over little, insignificant things that cut deep…like my appearance/ my weight. Father Pio GROWLED in response. And then I stared at him, and he smiled his deeply loving smile that creases the corners of his eyes into joy so that I would be assured that it wasn’t me he was growling about.
And then he remembered what I had just told him and he growled again.
“I don’t like that,” he said.
I realized: I didn’t like it either. I stopped seeing that boy.
Sometimes I think about Father Pio and his growling protective love when I make decisions. If he can love me, I can love me, too.
Can I share one more story? A short one?
Once I confessed to him. Heck, several times I confessed to him!
This time, though, I confessed that I cussed in traffic…angry road rage.
“But why,” he asked, “you are too pretty to say words like that!”
OK, double-check that response. How often does one encounter someone who has that much Jesus that they meet confessions of yucky things with love? How do I get to be the one this lucky??
And, I told him. Once I had a teacher who asked us who had been in car accidents. I hadn’t been in an accident, so my hand stayed down.
The teacher addressed us, “Those of you with your hands down are lucky now. But, the odds are against you. You’ll probably be in an accident one day. That’s just the way the numbers work.”
Said teacher went one with her lesson, but I never forgot that. Now, I was nervous when I drove, and so I cursed other drivers who cut me off and threatened to make me crash. I told Father Pio this.
“Oh,” he said, “but you’ll just cross that bridge when you come to it. OK?”
And, he was right. God will take care of me then as He takes care of me now.
When fears of the future creep into my mind, I think of the Franciscan whose eyes crinkle at the edges and remind myself, “I’ll cross that bridge, those fears, that future when I come to it.”
I pause because I’ve written 1,205 words and I have three more priests. We’ll do a part two…because it’s Thanksgiving week! And I’m so thankful!
If there are people who have inspired you and touched your heart, I think you should share in the comments. 🙂