As standards have plummeted over the last fifty or so years, so there has been a noticeable lowering of respect in society.
The rude shop assistant, the stand up comedian who cracks jokes about having ‘an imaginary friend’ (being a Christian), the blasphemous piece of ‘art’.
And, over the past few years, thanks to the awful way that those in authority in the Church handled paedophilic priests and to those priests themselves, we have a very broad section of society that loves nothing more than to hit out at those good priests who cannot hit back.
I believe that, it is not that unusual for a priest to be spat upon in a public place or to be jeered at or be the subject of a snide remark uttered just loud enough to hear.
Why anyone should wish to be a priest is one of life’s great mysteries.
As a boy I well remember nuns saying to the class:
“Examine your inner self boys and see if any one of you has the vocation of the priesthood”…for me that was the stuff of nightmares.
It was then left to some smart Alec to pipe up and ask:
“But how will we know, Sister?” and the answer would come:
“Because God will call you Aelfric” (or whatever the boys’ name would be).
I prayed fervently every night that God would not call me; in fact I stormed Heaven asking for God to remain silent when the name Collins came before him – and it worked!
St John Vianney - suffered greatly
throughout his priesthood
Because our priests are so very special, there used to be a code of good manners regarding them. Always, of course, use the pre-fix ‘Father’ and always stand whenever a priest enters the room. Not many people do that these days, it is not something that one need do if the room is full of people but, when a small group are gathered together it is a good thing to do. When serving food or drink, the priest should always be served first, even if there are women present.
And also, at the time of speechmaking when a priest is present, all addresses should begin with “Father Brown, Ladies and Gentlemen" or whatever.
Why should we do these things? Because a priest is there in the place of Christ, an alter Christus, and we would do no less for Him.
Now Father Simon Henry of Offerimus Tibi Domine has written a very moving and reflective post on the subject of the priesthood. The post came as I was composing this one, this is not in response to Father's one.
I would like to contribute this extract from The Imitation of Christ for all priests and seminarians – it is sad but it is also uplifting….
THE VOICE OF THE LORD:
“My son, anyone who tries to escape from obedience is really escaping from grace, and anyone who pursues private schemes loses communal blessings.
If a man does not submit to his superior gladly and willingly, it is that his old nature has not yet learned complete obedience, but is kicking and murmuring still.
You must learn to submit to your superior quickly, if you wish to desire to bring your old nature under control. The enemy outside, is defeated sooner, when the man within is not in chaos.
There is no enemy more troublesome and dangerous to your soul than you are to yourself when you and your spirit are not in harmony.
You must learn a real indifference to self if you want to win the victory over flesh and blood.
It is because your self-love is still undisciplined that you are afraid to abandon yourself to the will of others.
Is there anything wonderful in the fact that you who are dust and nothingness submit to men for God’s sake, when I, the Almighty and Most High, who created all things from nothing, humbly submitted to men for your sake?
I became the humblest and lowest of all, so that your pride should be broken by my humility.
Learn obedience, for you are only dust. Learn to humble yourself and to put yourself beneath the feet of all, for you are the clay of the ground. Learn to crush your own desires, and surrender yourself in complete subjection.
Savagely stamp out any sign of pride within you, and show yourself so humbled and insignificant that everyone can walk over you and tread you down like the mud of the streets.
You worthless creature, how can you complain when men find fault with you?
You blackened sinner, what defence can you make?
You have offended God on countless occasions, and have earned the punishment of hell.
Yet your soul was precious to me, and I looked down and spared you, so that you should acknowledge my love, live in continual thankfulness for my benefits, strive towards true subjection and humility, and submit patiently when you are treated with contempt”.
Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow