Once upon a time, in a parish not to far away, I knew a Parish Priest – I wont use his name. we will simply call him Father Padre, to tell the story (think of this as a miranda approach). When I first Moved back to Hazelwood around 2002, I decided to try to start living a good life, and going to mass. Later in 2003, I would go to Homecoming (the parish Picnic) and volunteer. I was all of about 24, and very headstrong. Father Padre came out at the Parish Picnic, Wearing a Yellow shirt, and indistinguishable as our Pastor, unless you knew he was our pastor.
It was at the time, unnerving. “How Dare the Priest.. not look like one!”, (I said to myself). He also seemed overly political, as he was talking to ALL the important people. At the time, I felt he should have been doing more for the people who DIDNT go to the church, but I digress.
Within a year, our School had to close. Once again, to me, Father Padre had failed! Father Padre should have been able to keep the school open! Father Padre was week in letting the Parish Council just have their way, with everything, I said to myself.
Within Two years, We Merged with another parish (which.. this happened alot in North County, but was VERY devistating to everyone to say the least). Father Padre Failed at properly courting the poor souls being displaced! Father Padre wasnt Pastoral! How DARE HE! What a Jerk! Everyone coming over didnt like him. There was talk about how he bullied his way around them, and kicked them when they were down!
Couple Years go by. Father Padre informs us that he is being Transferred to St Way Down South (also changing the names to protect ..well whoever). We all had a festival for Father Padre.. At this point I was luke warm to him.
Who replaced him.. was Father Personality (which he had none of). Suddenly Father Padre Didnt seem so bad. Where as Father Padre atleast talked to the right people.. Father Personality Talked to no one.. Nor Did he keep the Council at bay (we purchased a ridiculous Ambo that frankly.. the 4000 dollars could have been put to better use)… We also started letting people have more of a “Say”.. in various committees (my favorite to this day are liturgy committees… because.. The Ordo Is a suggestion). Father Personality constantly told us he literally…. was just waiting on retirement. Father Personality, was a former state chaplain… wouldnt even entertain the idea of being our local KOFC Chaplain… much less come to a meeting and wave his little cap. The Saving grace at the time was Father Old Assistant.. But he was not in the best of health… and was just the associate. People started going to other Parishes… and we went from the 5 Masses a weekend Father Padre had built.. Back to 3.
Then we Started hearing the rumors. Father Padre had gotten into trouble. Father Padre had done something he shouldnt have, and was on retreat. I happened to meet Father Replacement, before he went to the parish.
Then it was Illuminate. St Way Down South.. was a trouble parish. Father Padre had been sent there to fix it. They had a council that was out of its mind, that had literally sent 2 other pastors into the Hospital. Because Father Padre had resolve.. and couldnt be broken, they fabricated a story (and several Father Colleagues.. men I trust, validated this)… So Father Padre was banned from his parish on a fabrication. Father Replacement… refused to go there until the Bishop grew a back bone.
I also Learned Father Padre, previously went to my parish.. to do the same thing. His gift to this day is being able to help a parish get back in the Black. A lot… Run in the red, especially older parishes, where names and people are established, and you better scratch their backs or else. Father Padre did EVERYTHING to not close the school, but the parish had spent recklessly. Father Padre did everything he could to try to unify the various factions in the parish, because years later (to this day) they would begin to quarrel, and rip things apart. Father Finisher is there now.. and honestly, he will probably close that parish in another year..alas I digress.
A Couple years later.. I would run into Father padre – He Looked Older.. Older beyond his age.. Tired. He was a priest in residency, a fall from being a Pastor.. and being up for Vicar of the Dean. I talked to him before mass.. exchanged pleasantries.
Mass occurred. I paid attention to how he celebrated.. What I saw up there was Christ. Here was a man I could tell had finally united with the Cross… because he sure as hell knew his Calvary. He knew.. by virtue of how a bunch of self important jackwagons treated him…what Christ felt like on that hill. I saw an earned Holiness.. and a wonderful Pastor.. who in the end.. truly cared about his work, and was deeply in love still, with his God, and his church. I was humbled.. I was ashamed.. I almost cried. I had like so many other people, unjustly accused this priest, but where they had simply retaliated to hide their own deviance.. My sin was greater. I had Judged him before I even knew him. However, my joy came knowing that God had taken the care to teach me that day, and I am better for it.
I tell this story, because often people leave the church over the “bad Priests” .. or they leave the Church over the “Uppity Priests”.. or they leave the church because Father (insert name here)was a meanie.. and was just trying to be a bully.
We need to know for every Father Ne’er do well.. Father Personality etc, there is a Father Padre.. and we dont know the real battle he is fighting with his Parish.. His boss the Bishop, or even with his own demons. They are men like us, and have our failings, our doubts.. and our need to Love God. Those men are the real heroes of the church, the ones on the front lines. Often,.. the “real story” is never told, because we have become a people governed by a populous narrative. Often we forget that the Parish Priest.. is literally one of the hardest working people in the Church.. Probably second to the Holy Spirit in effort.
They Need our Support, They need our Encouragement, and MORE than anything, they need our Prayers.
So the next time you doubt your Pastor, prayerfully discern it, and while you are doing that, Pray for him as well. You never know the living hell he might be going through.
St John Vianney, Intercede for our Parish Priests!