I’ve known a lot of priests in my lifetime. It happens when you’ve been born and raised Catholic.
I remember Fr. Coughlin, in the stuffy darkness of the confessional on Saturday afternoon, always giving Three Hail Marys –never more, never less--as penance.
I remember Monsignor Meade with his rich Irish brogue who found me crying more over the rip in my brand-new stretch pants than the scrape on my knee and told me that it was okay to go home and change, even if I did miss the start of Sunday Mass.
I remember the missionary priest whose name I’ve forgotten who came each year to St. Anthony’s grade school, played jazz piano and told us about children on the other side of the world.
I remember Fr. David, with the watery blue eyes who smelled of tobacco and who tried to explain the Incarnation to a bunch of freshman in an all girls’ boarding school who were more intrigued with the idea of a male teacher than a Virgin’s birth.
I remember Fr. Patrick who baptized my son and then, in one of life’s ironies, was the chaplain at the college he attended.
I remember Fr. Richard who was the first “bi-ritual” priest I knew, having faculties in both the Roman and Ukrainian rites.
Most recently, I remember David and his ordination this past June, and I remember watching him grow from a little boy to a man and now a minister of the Gospel. I remember diocesan priests and Order priests and theologians and pastors. I remember men who left the priesthood to marry. And those who left for “other” reasons. I even remember some who left and then returned, the call of the Order of Melchizedek too strong to resist.
Most of all, I remember that all the priests I’ve known have, as far as I can tell, tried to do their best to serve the Lord and his people. Sure, I’ve read about “bad priests” and I’ve been as upset by some of the revelations as anyone else, but over the years, I have been either protected or blessed because the priests I’ve known have all been decent men. They’ve had their faults, but then who among us doesn’t? But despite those faults, they have been there to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, to hear confession, to baptize, anoint, marry and bury.
I remember and I give thanks for each and every one of them.