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  • Sarah Raad

Priests

If we could emulate the example of the disciples in following Christ, how glorious it would be!

Denial of Peter (Carl Henrich Bloch)

Today, while I was praying for my children and loved ones (and you and yours too), a myriad of words and wishes came to mind. I prayed for the sick and the dying. I prayed for the Lost Souls of Purgatory. I prayed for the special intentions that people have asked me to pray for. I prayed for the families who have lost loved ones and I prayed for the mother who grieves.


And finally, during these terrible and challenging times, when Church doors are being locked and parishioners are sometimes being shut out rather than welcomed in, I also prayed for our priests.


Though I am a woman and it could never be anyway, I would not wish to be a priest or a bishop, a cardinal or the Pope at a time like this! How awful is their dilemma! Civic restrictions for the physical health of their communities directly oppose their spiritual requirements to minister to the spiritual health of their community.


They can turn neither left nor right without confronting a conundrum! And they are merely men too! They make mistakes.


Like Saint Simon Peter – who Christ chose to lead His Church on Earth – these men who lead our spiritual community are as flawed as we are!


And yet, there is something of the sublime in their purpose!


Saint John Vianney so eloquently explained, “Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love.” Saint John Vianney saw the matter clearly. Neither Our Blessed Mother nor all the angels of Heaven have Christ’s authority to absolve sins or perform the sacraments. That authority is afforded only God’s priests.


There is something of the Divine in that… And yet, priests are men. Mere men.


Christ chose Simon Peter to lead His Church – warts and all. Saint Simon Peter was so often wrong. He was rash and impulsive, and often misunderstood the word of God, despite basically living with (and observing) God Himself. And yet, Simon Peter, unlike Judas the betrayer, loved God. He LOVED CHRIST so very much. And unlike Judas the betrayer – as one of my very dear school teachers from my days back at school reminded me – Simon Peter was a truly humble man! Christ chose him to lead because of his humility!


Simon Peter denied Christ three times, and we remember that in the Gospels. For almost two thousand years we have heard the story of the betrayal of Saint Peter. We repeat it annually. We remember it.


Simon Peter himself never forgot this failure on his behalf. He went to his death lamenting his lack of faith.

His own weakness broke his own heart. Simon Peter died on an upside-down cross because he wished to communicate his unworthiness!

In the past, Simon Peter was one of those saints who has always irritated me a little bit. I mean, in all the Gospels he is depicted as a sort of loose cannon – well meaning but a little too brash – and quite frankly useless at the really crucial time when he was needed.


During Christ’s passion, it was not His oldest or wises disciples who stayed with Him and His Blessed Mother – it was His YOUNGEST – Saint John. Simon Peter was too busy lying to save his own skin.


And yet, upon reflection in recent months, it has occurred to me – probably through the intercession of the Holy Spirit – that though Simon Peter denied Christ THREE TIMES, I have denied him A BILLION!


And Simon Peter’s humility was such, that despite the abject failure of his duty to his friend, teacher, master, saviour – GOD HIMSELF – he returned to Christ and humbly begged forgiveness for the unforgivable. He once again prostrated himself at the feet of God because he simply loved God so very much!


I wish I were as brash and as much a loose cannon as Saint Peter. Maybe then, I would be able to humbly boast that I only denied Christ – my beloved God – three times!


For with vision, everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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