Over the last three years, I have been blessed to befriend three Carmelite priests from India who serve our parish. They are witty, joyful and extremely intelligent (all three speak a combined 10+ languages or dialects).
Between morning prayer, daily mass, tending to the sick, serving the homeless, feeding the hungry, hearing confession, sacrament prep, last rites (and so on), I often think of them as super-human given all they must do in a day, every day.
However, the now public atrocities that took place in the Archdiocese in Philadelphia are impossible to erase from the mind.
But these Carmelite priests are my friends and I look up to them. In many ways, they are like family and clearly had no part in such horrific acts. I lament at the thought of what their daily life is like now. Traveling, stopping in at a store, purchasing a cup of coffee – always donning a black dress shirt and the impossible-to-miss short white collar over their top button.
They truly are marked men.
The stares, snide remarks and verbal beatings these men endure must be downright awful. Unlike a married couple, priests don’t have a spouse to turn to and vent their frustrations after a tough day “at the office.”
Regardless, these ironmen trudge on. They continue with their vow and live out Jesus’s mission to go and serve others as He served us.
I’ve come to learn for every tough moment “my Carmelites” endear in the public, there are ten times as many good deeds happening on their behalf. Sensing their troubles, baristas are instead paying for their coffee, RCIA classes are as full as ever, and when I solicit donations for our upcoming Catholic school fundraiser, I’m not met with “no way” or hang-ups on the phone. It appears our Catholic brothers and sister are doubling down.
The Lord and His good works are still happening, and happening more than you realize.
When faced with a moment of doubt, or when put in a tough spot about what you think about Philadelphia or any of the church scandals, remember that our own country isn’t without sin either. Slavery, stolen land, internment, and racism are all stains on our great nation. Horrific events I had no control over, but for which I am greatly apologetic can never be erased. But I’d no sooner leave America because of the sins of our forefathers than I would leave the Church because of the sinful misdeeds of priests.
My challenge to you is – now, more than ever – get to know your priests. Visit with them. Take them to lunch. Have them in your home for dinner. And most importantly, pray with and for them.
“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”
― St. Catherine of Siena