I just got back from a committee meeting for my parish, and our opening prayer and reflection turned into a vent-session by one of our members. This isn't the first time she's redirected conversation towards venting, but it's the first time I noted this tendency spill over into prayer and reflection.
I was so appalled by what and who she was venting about that I was compelled to step in. She was upset with our visiting priest's homily regarding homosexual marriage, comparing those who attempted to push it through our court systems as "weeds" (courtesy of the Parable of the Tares). She took personal offense to this due to the homosexuality of her daughter. She then attempted to vilify poor Father citing examples "from the past" that had no bearing on the current issue at hand. Her aim was to divulge a group mentality... that "most people within the parish didn't like him."
Oh, my poor heart! I poorly attempted to defend Father. He was doing his job as the representative of Christ. He was not, in any way, condemning homosexuals. Much like my previous entry on this topic, he was condemning the act of homosexual SEX, and lamenting the wayward thinking of Catholics who truly believed homosexual marriage should be legal and valid by the Church.
We tend to become very impassioned by this particular argument because it hits so close to home for many of us. I, for one, have relatives and friends who are homosexual. For many years, I subscribed to the fallacy that the Church was wrong on this issue. The homosexuals I knew and loved are wonderful, decent, loving individuals. How could God fault them for showing love, especially when they were powerless to choose who that special love was bestowed upon?
After much reflection, I learned this mindset comes down to pride. We somehow see ourselves as smarter... more loving... wiser than the Church. In our affliction, we misunderstand the message and repackage it as on of intolerance, conservatism, stupidity, or even hate. We forget that the job of the Church is to direct souls to the Salvation ransomed through Christ. She does this by teaching the faithful right from wrong. In our love, we overlook the sin of our friends and families. We don't like to think them capable of any offense to God when they are so wonderful and good-natured otherwise. True, we like to think ourselves incapable of this displeasure as well. Yet the Church's very difficult task is to cut through the confusion and set our hearts aflame with the Truth.
Our visiting priest was kind, courageous and wise to so firmly point out this growing confusion within our world-wide congregation, especially in light of the acceptance of this particular sin. He does not deserve to be attacked for amplifying the voice of the Church which only echoes that of God.
Ugh, it really makes me so upset to hear anyone speak ill of a priest, even under such tense circumstances as these! Priests are called by Jesus, Himself, to fulfill His promises to us through the Eucharist. Where would we be without our priests? Where would we be without their blessings, their absolutions, their direction? Where would we be without their prayers, their offerings of Mass, their comfort???
We simply do not understand that when we speak out against a priest, we speak out against Jesus, Himself! After all, Our Lord revealed to Mutter Vogl (sometimes spelled Vogel) the following:
"One should NEVER attack a priest, even when he's in error, rather one should pray and do penance that I'll grant him My grace again. He alone fully represents Me, even when he doesn't live after my example!
Whoever voices judgment over a priest has voiced it over me... Every Priest is My Vicar and My Heart will be sickened and insulted because of it! If you hear a judgment (against a Priest) pray a Hail Mary."
Ever since coming across these words, I've felt a strong aversion to criticism of our clergy. I do not find our clergy to be without fault, mind you, but as Jesus requested, I lay these grievances at His Feet and offer a prayer for wisdom, charity and patience on the part of whoever was less fortunate to realize this command from Christ, Himself. Oh, if only we understood the blessings our priests provide for us... even those not always in the full graces of Jesus. Even in their miserable state, they are more worthy than we who judge. Only THEY have been called by Christ to deliver Him unto the world. Only THEY have been endowed with the Spirit so that through them, the Mass can exist.
We could have a million devout Catholics all praying over bread and wine with the most fervent supplications to ever grace the ears of angels and that bread and wine would still be bread and wine. ONE PRIEST, however, even in a lackluster spiritual state, has the power to call Jesus from Heaven to manifest His Glory through the Eucharist. ONE. Who, then, are we to utter any word against these men? Who are we to dare question the choice of God, Himself, in the selection and ordination of these priests?
*Sigh* My heart breaks for those who do not understand the error of this mindset. Please, dearest Holy Spirit, open our minds to nothing but love and gratitude for our priests. For those members of the clergy that need our dire assistance through prayer and penance, give us patience, understanding, and charity so that we may never offend Christ through criticism. Instead, open our hearts so that we may help atone for their misdeeds and grant our requests that they once more take upon themselves the expectations You've set forth for them.