Central to the life and worship of the Catholic Church is the priest. To some a useless middleman between God and His people, to others the very channel of God’s grace and a visible sign of God’s active loving care.
Dedicated to Fr Sean Wales C.Ss.R. who has always been the model of a priest for me.
What manner of man is a priest?
What peculiarity of human nature
Allows someone to build a life on
A Being who could be an imposter?
What did he see in the man Jesus,
Just like those first fishermen who
Dropped their nets and their plans
To follow someone they barely knew?
And if a priest has lost his faith-spark,
Then surely he is the saddest thing,
Acting out a failed pantomine part,
Preaching words that have a hollow ring?
A man apart? Sacred by separation?
Taken from the community, yet returned.
Called forth, anointed and appointed.
Chosen? If so, by whom discerned?
A long time spent in formation, or
Is that deformation, though not any
Reformation, as once ordained,
He’s beyond censure – if he’s canny.
Right or wrong, pedestalled by some,
And pilloried by others: faithful to
Eternal values, or reactionary
Buffoon, antagonistic to the new?
What could he be, in Christ-like vein?
A prayer flag, hoisted high in place,
Fluttering in the wind, torn by sin’s
Squall, yet restored again by grace?
A man apart, yet one of the people,
Celibately available for one and all;
His family, limitless, with intimacy
Sealed by the veil of the confessional.
A woman, even? ‘Never yet’ is no
Obstacle, except to that cliquish crew
Who well know there is no problem
Apart from their balking at the new.
A channel of God’s smile, in and out
The holy place, to break in simple chunks,
The bread of life, regurgitating grace,
To a lay brood never called to be monks.
The gateway to the heavenly fold?
Well oiled, not by alcohol’s percent,
But by chrism’s balm, to gather and
To protect, by ministering sacrament.
Forfeiting another’s warm caress but
Never a loveless consecrated fridge.
A true martyr by surrendering his will:
Faithful, selfless service, his privilege.
Pray for priests! And challenge them! To
Gird themselves with the Master’s towel,
To wash our blistered, bloody pilgrim feet,
And hear ‘beloved’ – their Father’s avowal.