Friday, March 31, 2017

Gratitude for Good Priests

Why do we spend so little time thanking God for the good priests? Indeed, most of the priests I have encountered have been good priests.

When I started regularly attending Mass in Ballymun (after a few trial attendances in Glasnevin, just to familiarize myself with the liturgy), the parish priest was called Fr. Gerard. Soon he knew me by name (I've often wondered how) and I remember him saying to me: "It's great to see you coming along."

He's a good priest. He came to the priesthood relatively late in life. He often said, before Mass, how thankful we should be that we could celebrate the Mass that day, since so many people around the world wanted to but couldn't. One expression of his I particularly liked, which he would usually say during the opening prayer, was: "We put all the bits and pieces of our lives on the table before the Lord."

The priest who heard my first adult confession, which was a massive hurdle for me, was one of the current chaplains in UCD-- Father Leon. (I don't expect any of these priests to read this post, so I don't fear flattering or embarrassing them.) He was so very gentle on me that I left his office in some distress, thinking that he couldn't believe in God because he wasn't taking my sins seriously enough. In the years since then, I've learned he is a very serious priest with a thoroughly supernatural outlook. Every time there is a memorial Mass in UCD, or some Mass where people who might rarely attend Mass will be present, he makes sure to preach a solidly supernatural and evangelistic homily. I've seen him at pro-life rallies and he often urges us to be courageous in defending the Faith. He is an Irish language enthusiast who once heard my confession in (broken) Irish and who taught me a post-communion prayer in Irish, which I now use all the time.

The other priest in UCD at the time, Fr. Eamonn, is also an excellent priest. His homilies, again, are thoroughly supernatural and Christological, and he celebrates the Mass very reverently, with long silences. (A mixed blessing for me, as it can make me late back to work.) He also makes himself very available for confession, as does Fr. Leon. He's quite a young man, as far as I can tell.

One of the priests in Ballymun right now, a Nigerian priest named Fr. Anthony, is an excellent homilist-- his homilies are full of Scriptural knowledge and background, so that I actually learn something new about the gospel when I listen to him. One St. Patrick's Day, he described himself as "a son of St. Patrick" because Irish missionaries had evangelized his area. He also spoke against gay marriage from the ambo at the time of the referendum, saying we had brought about a generation who could not tell good from evil.

I have a friend who is an Opus Dei priest, who I met when I gave a talk in Maynooth. (One of only two talks I've ever given.) I won't give his name because he is such a modest soul. He always wears his clerical garb. I asked him if he'd ever got grief for this. Only once, he said-- but far more often, people come up to thank him for doing so.

The priest who most regularly celebrates the Irish language Mass in Glasnevin, as well as having beautiful Irish and a beautiful voice, always preaches undiluted Christianity. Once, he asked rhetorically whether being evangelists meant we should be knocking on doors and telling people about Jesus. To my surprise, he answered his own question in the affirmative. (Although he didn't hold us to quite that standard, to the relief of this introverted listener; his point was that we shouldn't be afraid to be so evangelistic. I can't imagine knocking on someone's door and telling them about my faith, though I admire those who do.)

I have encountered many more excellent priests. Yes, I have also encountered bad priests, and sometimes the good priests disappoint me by lapses into political correctness, messing with the words of the liturgy, leading applause during Mass, etc. But the good experiences by far outweigh the bad.

Thank you, God, for all the wonderful priests you send us! Watch over them, encourage them, and send us more!


  1. Séamus(Australia)April 1, 2017 at 4:34 AM

    I don't know if it's an original idea or something widespread, but our diocese(vocations office or whatever they have) have asked all parishes to do a rosary for vocations drive during Lent this year, concentrating on The Last Supper in particular. I hope this doesn't sound distasteful: I was talking about missionary history or something once with a priest and I just happened to ask whether the so-called White Fathers still existed. He very quickly replied in the affirmative, but that they were now all black!
    I do get annoyed however at some persons who seem to think that celibacy and the priesthood are not options in the developed world, especially persons pushing for change. I can remember a young priest,a native of Madrid, born and bread, introducing himself as a priest from Spain. A man(not young) who,without going into details, is part of 'ministries' there plodded up to the outside sacristy door after Mass, telling his wife that he should welcome Father, who MUST COME FROM SOMEWHERE IN LATIN AMERICA. After being there a few minutes he plodded down again and told his wife that Father said he was Spanish,"BUT HE PROBABLY MEANS HE'S FROM SOUTH AMERICA"[!]) Despite the incredulity of some circles it's still very much an option in any country

  2. Why would that be distasteful?

    I don't know about a Lenten rosary drive, but I know we frequently have prayers for vocations over here. I pray for vocations every day, and I have for a while.

    I firmly agree with you that the priesthood and celibacy are still an option if only we would hold them up as ideals worth pursuing. I think we are in danger of losing the priesthood as we know it through a loss of nerve.

  3. I've never really liked calling people'black' for the simple reason that they aren't...really. Occasionally I do come out with it usually in an American context because 'afro-American' is such a mouthful. Same with ' Latin Mass '. I like to call it the Traditional Mass because it's about so much more than just the language, but calling it Latin Mass is so much easier.
    One thing declining everywhere is teaching orders but, as an addendum,I read something several years ago about the Brothers of St Patrick or Patricians in the Australian Provence receiving vocations mostly in PapuaNewGuinea, so St Patrick's Brothers might be soon "all black"also.

  4. I never know what to call the Latin Mass, Extraordinary Form, Traditionalist Mass, etc.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with calling people with brown skin black-- we call people with pink skin white. It's a bit like saying the sun rises and sets even though we know it does no such thing. As you probably know, black people are blue people in Irish-- "daoine gorma".