I am really excited about this week’s In Focus.
It’s been in the works for several months now, since a column I wrote back in January sparked so much feedback that the Newsweekly staff and I knew we were onto something.
You might remember me mentioning Father Clem, the African priest who had such a profound impact on my life. In response to that column, as I mention in the introduction to this week’s In Focus (Pages 9-12), I received — without even asking — many of your own stories about the priests who have inspired you throughout your lifetimes. But perhaps more significantly, along with those stories, I received your thanks — thanks for highlighting the good work of a man who had dedicated his life to God and who had lived out that call nobly and with humility.
And that’s when this week’s In Focus began to take shape.
If there’s one thing that anyone, without even knowing anything about the Church, could tell you, it would be that for the last decade and a half priests have captured some less than pleasant headlines. Sometimes, as Russell Shaw wrote earlier this spring, it seems like the allegations of abuse and the release of painful documents will never end. We all know the pain clergy sexual abuse has brought to the Church and to those men and women and boys and girls who still struggle to make sense of it. We grieve with them, and we pray for them.
But not all priests are bad. Far from it. The Church has been blessed with holy men who have answered God’s call and found their vocations. And these men aren’t celebrated enough.
So that’s what we did this week. Several weeks ago, I put out a call in this column for you to send in short profiles of priests who had made a difference in your lives. And did you ever answer! We received some amazing stories of lives of virtue and holiness. In almost all of them — significant in this cult of personality world — the priests were revered as men who directed attention not toward themselves, but toward Jesus and toward his Church. It was evident by your words the effect these men had had on your lives and on the lives of your families.
One of the reasons we chose June 1 as a publication date for these priest profiles is because spring typically is “ordination season” — the time when the Church rejoices as she welcomes more ordained members into her ranks. Many priests, too, are celebrating their ordination anniversaries. In short, it is a perfect time to honor our clergy.
Being a priest isn’t easy, and ordination doesn’t come with a “holiness stamp.” As with anything, it takes hard work, a healthy dose of humility and enormous amounts of prayer.
Let’s help them out, then, and pray for these men as they embark upon their lives of service. And let’s pray, too, for all of our priests, that they may continue to serve God with all their mind, soul and heart.