Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Call to Prayer: For Priests and All Catholics

It is an interesting time to be a Catholic. The Church is on the news everyday.

As in all things heartbreaking, however, I had been unable to write about the spate of sexual abuse scandals, until now. Up until recently, the allegations of pedophilia had mostly surfaced in other parts of the world. I had the luxury of not knowing the accused. To my chagrin, I saw a familiar name in the news a few days ago.

I will not elaborate on that particular news item, as the Church authorities are taking steps to address the problem already, but I have been moved to express my thoughts on the recent scandals that are rocking the Roman Catholic church.

I won't be one to point an accusing finger. I know that I'm a sinner and that I belong to a Church which is run by men, not angels, and thus sinners like me. But I will not use this as an excuse for the transgressors' behavior. Despite the pain it has caused me and millions of faithful around the world, I have to thank the media for relentlessly exposing these issues because in doing so, they have forced the Vatican to review how they accept men into the priesthood, what kind of support they give to the priests, and what changes they must institute in order to insure that the abhorrent acts committed to children will not happen again. This includes the radical moving away from the silence and secrecy policy, when such is unnecessary.

Everyone's suddenly become an armchair critic, naturally. Some Atheists even want Pope Benedict arrested. Journalists, bishops, and priests have applied pop psychology and given their own opinions as to the source of the problem, whether it be homosexuality, or celibacy, or pornography. Non-practicing Catholics and people of other faiths and religions have blogged and commented lambasting the Church, the Vatican, the Pope, and the priests. For the past several weeks, I have tried to absorb as much as I can through Google Reader.

The faithful have defended the Holy Father, saying that contrary to accusations, he had taken concrete steps to address the problem of pedophilia. Many Catholics have defended why they have chosen to remain, and I laud all these efforts at finding solutions, and accepting the criticisms.

The timing is perfect, really. Last year, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of the Priests from June 2009 - June 2010, and at our parish, we pray for the sanctification of priests. Everyday. What we lay people must do is to continue to pray for them, for we should not forget the power of prayer. It cannot be a coincidence that just when we are stepping up our intercession for the priesthood, the enemy decides to go to the next level in attacking the church. In this fight, we know Jesus is on our side and that we belong to the victor.

Let us also pray that no more children be victimized, and no more women abused, by the very shepherds that are supposed to guard their flock. For all the victims, may they find justice, peace, provision, and healing.

This is what we recite everyday at the Parish of St. Benedict

Daily Prayer for Priests

O Almighty, Eternal God, look upon the Face of Your
Son and for love of Him, who is the Eternal High Priest,
have pity on Your priests. Remember, O most compassionate
God, that they are but weak and frail human beings.
Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which
is in them by the imposition of the bishop’s hands. Keep
them close to You, lest the enemy prevail against them,
so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree
unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests;
for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for Your priests laboring
at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for
Your tempted priests; for the lonely and desolate priests;
for Your young priests; for Your dying priests; for the
souls of Your priests in purgatory.

But above all, I commend to you the
priests dearest to me, the priest who baptized me, the
priests who have absolved me from my sins, the priests
at whose Masses I have assisted and who have offered
me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion, the
priests who have taught and instructed me or helped
and encouraged me, and the priests to whom I am
indebted in any other way.

O Jesus, keep them all close to Your Heart, and bless
them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

I have asked the priests in our parish what they think about this. I know them to be faithful and prayerful priests, who struggle to remain faithful to their vocation. The priests in the news may give the priesthood a bad name, but let us not forget the thousands who minister to us and serve God sincerely and honestly. The priests I have talked to said that it is time for the Church to heal and grow, and we should weather this storm using prayer as a weapon, and we must put our trust in the Lord.

I think it is pointless to find someone to blame, for We, the people, are the Church. It is not just the Pope, or the Vatican, or the bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians. We are as much a part of the solution. I join you in prayer, my brothers and sisters - for the grace to overcome these scandals with God's truth, justice, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and love.

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