You go to Mass, you see them at Church, ask them how they’re doing, ask them for confessions, or maybe to preside at your wedding day. They teach, they preach, they work diligently and do their priestly work.
And yet, I ask you, how often do you seek the help of your priests for spiritual guidance and support?
When Jesus dwelt among us in the flesh, recall how often and regularly people came to seek his help. Of course, it’s easy to recall the numerous times he healed the paralytic, or cured the blind man, and y’know, raise a person from the dead. But, also recall, people came to Jesus seeking advice on how to live, what steps they should take, where to go next. The rich young man asks, "Teacher, what good deed must i do, to have eternal life?" (Mt. 19: 16), Nicodemus seeks counsel, stating how they "know that you are a teacher come from God" (Jn 3: 2) and proceeds to learn of the mystery of the sacrament of Baptism, Peter says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words to eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." (Jn. 6: 68-69), and all of Matthew 13, Jesus, speaking in parables, is sought to teach and explain the parables. He was there to guide us, in truth and to restore us to what we were first created to be.
And, as we know, the bishops and priests carry on that good work for us. Recall, Jesus tells the apostles,
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt. 28: 19-20)
Also, recall St. Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:
“The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?”
The Church is the priest’s household, and we are the children of the priest. In a home, parents are responsible for nurturing and providing for their families. They provide sustenance, a safe environment, teach their children of morality and right and wrong, how to survive in this world. The same is true for our priests. We are their children, and they are responsible for all the things that our parents are responsible for. How then, do we treat our parents? Are we negligent, or do we honor them? Are we treating our priests the same way?
We know how valuable it is to take preventative measures to teach and gain wisdom for our regular and daily activities, preparing ourselves for our future careers, in managing our busy lives. But, when it come to seeking guidance and support from protecting our souls, are we taking those same precautions? When do we seek the availability of our priests to guide and lead us toward holiness? When you have troubles and spiritual needs, are you actively seeking out your priests, trained and guided by the Spirit, to determine the right path before you turn the wrong way? It is part of the priest’s responsibility to care for their flock, but if the flock is avoiding him, how can he minister to their needs?
It’s especially sad to see today that there are so many articles about priests who are at fault, when they break the bounds of trust and responsibility that they have. Yet, I also have to wonder, is that because we haven’t been challenging our fathers to BE Fathers? It’s so easy to be quick to judge, but perhaps these lapses are because we are not actively seeking that need from our fathers. They need to do the work that they have been called to, and if they find themselves idle and bored, they too will fall to temptation. Why not be pro-active and seek our priests to be strong spiritual guides for us, to challenge them to step it up? (Recall Proverbs 27:17)
I’ve been particularly blessed recently for meeting with one of the recent priests transferred to the parish of St. Elizabeth Seton in Pleasanton, and what he said at Mass this last Sunday really struck me. He said, “We, the priests, are here for you whenever you need.” They’re out there, ready to bring us closer to God. Take advantage of the service they provide, offer them the satisfaction of fulfilling their vocation to the priesthood, sharpen their wits by presenting them your needs as they lead you on the path to Heaven. Give our priests the chance to be the shepherds of the faith that we need.