It is certainly not a very comfortable time right now to be a priest in the Catholic Church. The entire world over, many, including Catholics, seem to be very wary of priests, especially in the light of the scandal that has rocked the church. I suppose the wary ones can’t be blamed for being overly cautious. The Church has let many down, and this Church is paying the price. But the problem is that the young men who have recently become priests are actually paying the price of the sins of the former generation. I was somewhat jolted into this reality on Friday evening, when I con-celebrated at the sacerdotal ordination of three Franciscan Friars.
On most accounts, it was a very moving, artistic, and beautiful liturgy. The hymns were tasteful, the movements were thoughtful and deliberate, and it didn’t take much to see that a lot of thought and prayerfulness went into the event, making it a true celebration in every sense of the word. But what was most poignant about it was that despite all that is happening to the priesthood, despite all the skepticism and negativity surrounding priests and the Church, our wounded clergy received a new energy and a new spirit at that priestly ordination.
Having been a priest for coming close to 9 years now, I am seeing the wisdom and the necessity of participating mindfully and attentively at such celebrations because it gives the enervating and emasculating priesthood a ‘shot in the arm’, to be reminded once more that what we do as priests, who we are as priests do have a positive impact on the people of God. Perhaps some of us have been somewhat jaded by the incessant aspersions cast on the priesthood and as a result, have shrunken back into our shells, and only when officially needed, come out with trepidation to ‘do our priestly duties’ and can’t wait to get back into our safe havens.
Thinking and living this way as priests will see us die a very sad death. But at ordinations, where young (and perhaps not-so-young) men remind us of our vigour, our dreams, our somewhat lost youth, before the hairline receded and the bellies grew large, if we are really present to the words of the Prayer of Consecration, where we priests together with the Bishop raise our hands in a co-consecratory body, something like dying embers within our hearts can become re-ignited and inflamed once again.
It is for this reason that I believe that married couples need to participate at wedding masses and services often, in the same way that priests need to con-celebrate at Ordination Masses. This is because I believe that we (priests as well as laity) have a certain dementia in us. We forget our dreams and perhaps we have displaced or misplaced our generous desires of loving others. Through the years, due to disappointments, pains and struggles, we are loath to being enchanted by life.
The sex abuse scandal that has shaken many of us is not as pernicious as something that can already be infecting both priests and laity. What I am talking about is cynicism, skepticism and pessimism.
My little readings about St Francis of Assisi revealed to me that this little man in stature was a giant in faith, and one thing about him was that he was always enchanted by the world. My hopes for the three young men who were ordained on Friday is that they never cease to dream, never become daunted by tensions, and to dare to be men who never flag in their zeal for enchantment.