Being a Catholic, I am used to being constantly criticized and judged. I'm not trying to be a martyr here, but it's the truth. Just watch the news, and you'll for sure see SOMETHING on there that negatively depicts the Church that I love so much. It's very rare that you'll consistently see a big uproar about something that a Evangelical preacher, a Buddhist scholar, or a Hindu teacher might say. Why is that? Because the Church angers and confuses people. Because what we believe is not convenient, easy, or in any way "with the times." Why don't we just change and conform to modern society? Maybe then everyone would just leave us alone and let us practice our faith in peace.
Let's face it. Catholicism is confusing and hard to understand. In a religion that has lasted over 2,000 years, it's bound to be. I don't claim to know and understand every single aspect of it. But, I 100% guarantee you that the people who are "against" the Church are not actually against it. They are against what they THINK is the Church. They just don't understand why we do what we do. And I totally get that. It's complex, sure. But if you are willing to put in the time and energy to REALLY TRY to...in the words of Shaun T..."dig deeper" (teehee), you might be surprised at what you find.
So what I'm writing about today is our priests. Our men who give their ENTIRE LIVES to serve the Church. Our men who decide, on their own accord, that they want to dedicate their whole self to take care of God's people. That's you and me. Wait, does that sound familiar? Didn't someone else do that? Was it Jesus?
Every time I see a priest, I have an urge to get on my knees and kiss his feet in thanksgiving for what he has done for me and for us. (I don't usually give in to this urge, because I feel that it might freak people out...) I wish there was a universal sign of respect that I could portray to a priest every time I saw one...even if I didn't know him. Something that said, "Father, I love and respect you for making this decision. Thank you for giving your life for me, just as Jesus did."
Every time I see a priest, I want to just stare at him (in the non-creepiest way possible) because I am so IN AWE. I am amazed that there are still people out there who believe in the Church SO MUCH that they sacrifice everything in order to best serve the Church's people.
Every time I see a priest, I want to shout to everyone around me: "STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING! COME TALK TO THIS MAN! HE IS HERE FOR YOU AND FOR ME, AND WE SHOULD ALL THANK HIM!"
Now, am I claiming that priests are perfect? No. They are human just like everyone else, and they have flaws just like you and me. Have some priests done horrible things "in the name of the Church?" Unfortunately, yes. Do some priests preach or act in a way that doesn't reflect what the Church teaches? Yes. Are all priests warm and cuddly and do they all make you feel fuzzy inside? No. The fact is, there are priests out there who have done horrible things or who make us feel exactly the opposite as "being close to Christ." But does this mean that we should judge every priest based on those few? Of course not. Should we say all teachers are bad because some of them sexually assault their students? Should we say all fathers are bad because some of them physically abuse their children? Should we say all movie stars are bad because some of them have drug addictions? No.
So perhaps you can understand perhaps why in infuriates me when all I hear is criticism toward these amazing men. "I saw a priest driving a BMW...how dare he spend that kind of money on a car when he should be giving it to the poor!" "I don't like that priest...his homilies are boring." Or even worse yet, when their criticisms are based off either untruths or misunderstandings of the faith. "Why can't priests get married?" "Why can't there be women priests?" Those are great questions. And there are logical answers as to why the Catholic Church does not allow for women priests or married priests. But to me, constantly complaining about that is the same as going up to a war veteran and saying "You know, that war was so unnecessary and I don't agree with it. Why would you go and fight for something so stupid?"
So instead of the criticisms, let's first try to UNDERSTAND the teachings of the church. Then, even if you don't agree with it, at least show some respect toward these men. Even if a priest isn't the friendliest or the coolest or the greatest person you know, show him some love. Because I can almost certainly guarantee that these men love you. How do I know that? They are, literally, living proof.