Of Parish Priests, Past and Present

Today’s feast of St John Mary Vianney is a reminder to pray for all parish priests. I sometimes think we forget that, so busy are we enumerating their shortcomings or indulging in various kinds of ‘if onlys’. Yet without their fidelity and sacrifice, where would we be? And how can any priest be truly faithful in what is often a difficult and lonely task if we do not support them with our prayer?

I tend to go through a private list of those I remember with particular affection, beginning with those of my childhood and youth. There were the Jesuits who ran the parish of Corpus Christi and preached interesting homilies which made one think as well as pray; then there was Fr Fisher of Holy Redeemer, a new parish, where he lived a life of great austerity such as St John Vianney would have approved, and was a gentle encourager in the confessional, all the while raising money to build a church. Then there was Fr Jacob, a truly patriarchal figure, whose rather uncertain artistic taste was equalled only by his warm heart and delightful tendency to start announcements with the phrase ‘On behalf of Our Lord I’d like to say . . .’ I think, too, of one outstanding confessor, Fr Ignatius, who brought to the confessional immense insight and compassion, though not without challenge, too.

Among the living I pray especially for my priest friends, few of whom are actually parish priests but whose priesthood has been an enrichment of my own life and the lives of others, who are an alter Christus for us all. I also pray for those priests I’ve known who did not live up to their calling — those who were guilty of child abuse; those who struggled with addictions to alcohol or gambling; those who upped and left, feeling a failure and burdened, often, with a terrible sense of guilt and sin.

If you happen to be a priest reading these lines, please know that you are prayed for daily and that I am grateful, indeed, very grateful, for all you are and do. If you are not a parish priest, please make time to pray for those who are, including those who have retired from active ministry.

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5 thoughts on “Of Parish Priests, Past and Present”

  1. I often wonder what the priests themselves really feel. Do they know how many people are tremendously grateful for their lives of dedication? I had cause to write to a priest (Thanking him for particular kindness to my family) and his response was so marked that I concluded very few must ever actually express thanks. I know some curry favour, many make exessive demands and quite a few complain but to actually be grateful and acknowledge the contribution? I have encountered several long serving PPs and pray for them all. I am honoured and touched that one (now many years retired) still visits me when he is in the area. All who follow a religious vocation are gifts to the world from God. Whatever their role they should be supported and treasured as a valuable (and sadly dwindling) resource. I will pray especially for those brothers, sisters and priests who have enriched my life ad spare a moment or two to reflect on the difficult sacrifices they made in order to be the example/support/teacher that they were. None perfect but who could expect that – many are the very best examples of people getting closer to God in the difficult world we all live in.

    Thank you, sister, once again for all that you do. it is appreciated and many of your readers/followers gain a great deal from your work.

  2. It is a lonely hard life, I find because of my rather unusual position those many priests I have known have opened up to me as a safe third party. I pray for them all as you do every day. A word of encouragement and thankfulness goes a long long long way

  3. It’s so easy to criticise the imperfections, forgetting that these are people just like us, so cannot be perfect. I agree that appreciation is vital – for all, but especially priests who don’t have a spouse to encourage them or say ‘well done’ at the end of the day. You are all being prayed for today, in thanks for the many sacrifices you selflessly offer for our salvation. May God reward you richly.

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