Thursday, July 7, 2011

Being Reminded to Pray for Priests

I have to admit that I've never really prayed for priests before. I know, as Catholics we are reminded to pray for them often. But when I pray, they are the last people I think to pray for.  I mean, they are already holy, right?? Well yesterday, when I received not one, but three reminders to keep them at the top of my list.  The first one was pure drama.

My sister and I were visiting a place that shall not be named because apparently, they also don't want be associated with this particular priest.  We were invited to go to Mass before touring this place.  You know me, the Catholic mom who wants nothing more than for her kids to grow up living and loving their faith; I try to sit right in front when we go to Mass.  My kids aren't going to get nearly as much out of Mass if they can't see what's going on. Plus, I think it helps them to pay attention- in theory.

So, I sit in the second row with my brood, hoping they will be good- as good as a two year old, four year old, and baby will be-- after they've driven and hour and a half.  For the record, I did let them run around for about 15 minutes before Mass began. 

Mass starts and they still have the jitters. They were a little more bouncy than normal and more distracted. I did not think they were loud.  Nothing above a whisper, except for my baby who was a little winy because he was hungry. No more "running to Jesus" this time, I thought. I'll wait until after communion to feed him. (Here's that little story if you missed that dramatic moment). I figured the priest would enjoy seeing kids there at Mass, anyway.  I couldn't be more wrong.

During Mass, the priest payed extra attention to us and would stare at us- even stopping what he was doing to stare.  At first, I thought he was maybe happy to see us...then things got weird.  Before consecration, he stopped for 30 seconds to stare at me.  Then during the Our Father, when we say "as we forgive those who trespass against us, he looked up and stared at me.  It gave me the chills.  We are supposed to think about people we haven't forgiven, why did he suddenly look at me? I thought.  On the drive home, it all made sense. 

As I walk out of Mass, the priest comes up and kindly asks my name. Then he puts his arm on my shoulder in sort of a confidential way and says, "You know, you really should have brought your kids into the foyer.  It was incredibly distracting to me and the others in Mass."  I tried to counter his nonsense with,  But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me".  His response: when they are at the age of reason and are able to sit quietly and still, then they are welcome into the church. If not, they belong in the cry room or in the foyer. You kids were wiggling, jumping, talking, running...yada, yada" I stop him short to squeeze in: they were not running! He said it didn't matter, they were a distraction.  "You should be going to your own parish for Mass.  This parish is for the students and faculty....You shouldn't be coming here...go to your own parish for Mass. "  I tried to make an argument as to why my kids have every right to be there in front as anyone else, but he wasn't going to listen. He told me to be more docile and obedient.

It came to mind after the conversation who was the real distraction- to Jesus, ultimately.   Not to mention during the Mass, when everyone was watching the priest watch us!  In all respect for the Cloth, he more of a distraction to who Jesus really is than my children- in action, attitude and speech.  My children, bouncy or not, mirror the face of Jesus more than adult.  Jesus himself said we should all be looking toward the children to see how to pray to God!  And talk about who deserves to be at the wedding feast of the Lamb- well, my children in their innocence and purity deserve more than any adult to be right there in front, praising Jesus with the angels.  They may not be doing it the way the priest wants them to do it, but we are working on that too.

Bottom line: if my kids were talking out loud, really crying, or running around, I would have stopped them or taken them out if they couldn't be stopped.  Believe me, I try my hardest to keep my kids away from any attention at Mass.  No matter how hard I try, they will be jiggly, make some noises and whisper.  I know Jesus doesn't care, so I try not to let any frowns around me me bring me down. 

Back to the priest, I told him that I and my children will be praying for him.  My sister, who witnessed this conversation, said it was the first time he didn't know what to say.  I was serious too; we will be adding him to their nightly prayers- not out of spite, but in all love, for our brother in Christ.

This encounter made me realize how much weight is really on a priest's shoulders and how much more they are expected to behave as true models of Christ.  Had this been anyone else, it wouldn't have been so disturbing. When we see priests behave badly, it shakes the very foundation of who we know Jesus to be.  Later that night, I was even hesitant to go to confession because I didn't want to encounter another priest.  In fact, as my husband and I drove to church, I said I didn't want to go to adoration.  The feelings were so fresh.  I know in my mind that priest and church don't mean that priest and church, but subconsciously, it was very slightly carried over.   I could see how devastating this kind of encounter would be for someone who was not a frequent church goer.  It made me more resolute in my decision to pray for that priest and all priests.

When we entered the church, Eric hands me a pamphlet that was sitting by the holy water font, A Rosary for Priests.  I tucked it in my purse. I hope they don't mind, but I won't be giving it back. 

Right as I was leaving the confessional, the priest said, "please pray for me".  I will, I answered. I will from now on.


Lori said...

Keep them; I pray Thee, dearest Lord.
Keep them, for they are Thine
The priests whose lives burn out before
Thy consecrated shrine.
Keep them, for they are in the world,
Though from the world apart.
When earthly pleasures tempt, allure -
Shelter them in Thy heart.
Keep them and comfort them in hours
Of loneliness and pain,
When all their life of sacrifice
For souls seems but in vain.
Keep them and remember, Lord,
they have no one but Thee.
Yet, they have only human hearts,
With human frailty.
Keep them as spotless as the Host,
That daily they caress;
Their every thought and word and deed,
Deign, dearest Lord, to bless.

Lori said...

I had one of my sons jump out of the pew during mass and get down on all fours and start barking!! The kind priest mentioned, as mass ended, how grateful they should all be to have mothers who sacrifice to bring their young children to mass especially during the week. He pointed out what you did- Jesus said, "let the little children come to me". I have to admit I was horribly embarrassed to be singled out at that moment, but that particular priest always had nothing but a smile for me and my children- God bless him!! said...

Oh my, I can't believe that he acted so rudely! When I go to Mass our church is usually packed to the gills and there are so many children. I sing in the choir and one of my favorite things is looking out and seeing all the squirming children, knowing that my parish will continue to grow and be strong.
If children and young families don't feel welcomed in a church, their home parish or any church, where does that priest see the future of his parish coming from. I remember a priest from my childhood saying he never minded hearing a baby or child making noise during mass becuase it meant there would always be more parishoners and it was his job security.

Jamie Jo said...

Wow, so sorry that happened to you.
Funny thing is it makes me even more thankful for our priests that love the little children, some even who make a point to mention them and thank us parents for bringing them to Jesus.

A reminder to pray for him and all priests. They need our prayers and we need theirs. (that's on our bumper sticker)

Anonymous said...

Sarah, sorry you had that bad experience in church. Yes we all need to pray for that priest and all sinners. Clergy are all so human and we must never forget that. Keep bring the kids to church. You never know what good can come from it. You just might bring a wayward shepard back to Christ.
Deacon Dad

tomschulzte said...

Docile and obidient- that's a good one (especially for you!, haha!).
But seriously, I firmly believe that part of the reason for so many wayward priests is that prayers for them are far and few in between. We definitley need to pray for our priests more and more (and I know, considering I see the worst of it)

Joanne said...

My husband (who happens to be a deacon) and I were discussing this over dinner. He was very surprised by this priest's action. But it really is a reminder to pray for our priests who have so much responsibility and sometimes need to vent but don't have anyone to vent to.

I remember attending a retreat in someone's home where a small child started making a lot of noice, and the retreat director, Fr. Mark Gruber said that, "a Church that asks you to have children very well can't tell you to leave them home." I always think of that when my children are acting up in Mass. (Oh and it takes on a whole different dimension when the kids of the deacon are acting up the week that the deacon happens to preach)

We also had a wonderful pastor who said that he liked to hear kids make noise since he was so afraid that he was putting everyone to sleep.

Elizabeth and Ryan said...

Wow, I'm sorry that happened to you, Sarah! A couple years ago Ryan and I were at mass at a small church that we frequently go to. Two pews ahead of us were a young family with a toddler and a baby. They were very well behaved, and I only heard and noticed them a couple times. As the priest was leaving church at the end of mass, he stopped right in the middle of the church, went over to the family, and, in front of everyone, I heard him say something to them about how their children shouldn't be so close to the front (they were three or four pews back) and how they were a distraction. This is a very small church, and there wasn't music at that mass, so almost everyone could hear and see what was going on. The poor mother turned bright red, quickly grabbed her diaper bag and kids, and practically ran out. I couldn't believe what had happened, and I felt so, so sorry for that poor family! How embarrassing! The sad thing is that I had seen that family in church before, but I have never seen them since. I hope that the experience didn't lead them away from the church!

Every so often we'll see this priest again (that isn't his usual parish, but he's there pretty often), and I think that I'm going to be called out next! Josephine is getting louder and louder at church! But, I wouldn't be afraid to respectively speak my mind on the matter, as you had.

Your post is a great reminder that all priests need our prayers!

Sarah Harkins said...

Thank you all for your kind words and stories. It feels good to know I'm not the only one with noisy kids!

Lori, that prayer is perfect and we've been praying it often.

noreen said...

Wow Sarah, that priest was way out of line and he could have done real damage to you if you weren't such a devoted follower of Christ. The demands on our priests are great and they are called to a higher calling and they do need our prayers badly.

I too, had never thought to pray for priests thinking "they've got that covered" but the spiritual battle against the Catholic Church is real and the target many times is the priesthood.

Are you familiar with Fr. John Corpai? He is the first priest I'd ever heard asking people to pray for the priesthood. He compared the priesthood to generals and other higher ranking officers in the military. He said a smart strategic military plan would be to wipe out the officers and that's why he says Satan is attacking the priesthood so ferociously.

What better way to destroy the Catholic Church than to weaken the priesthood and watch the flock scatter. I'm paraphrasing him but that's the gist of it. Makes sense to me.

Fr. Corapi is also going through a spiritual battle and needs pray desperately. His scandal is causing such confusion and division amongst his fans. It's really a tragedy.

Sorry for the length on this one... but it's a need I believe in for the future of Our Faith.