On the Catholic Priesthood
The Catholic Priest
IT is quite generally believed that of all the mortals who journey through life’s weary pilgrimage, the Catholic priest is the most fortunate. For the priest, who is true to his exalted vocation, lives of the life of grace, has God as his portion in time and eternity, may well be envied. It is not, however, to the spiritual blessings enjoyed by the true priest men refer when calling him fortunate. “What a fine time the priest has,” says one, “plenty to eat and nothing to do.” Such is the popular view of priestly life. The real priest is a very different sort of man. The guide and ruler of his flock, his every word and act is closely observed. His most heroic acts of self-sacrifice and virtue pass unnoticed, his slightest imperfection is magnified and trumpeted abroad. Though he labors for years with the most disinterested zeal for the good of religion, depriving himself of the pittance to which he is entitled for his own support that the poor may be provided for and the faith preserved among the youth; though for long years he makes of himself a very martyr for the benefit of his people, if but one error of judgment be found in his life’s work, all the good effected is forgotten and his one mistake alone held in lasting remembrance. The approbation of men not being the object of the priest’s life, the world’s verdict matters little to him so long as he is conscious of having done his duty; nevertheless, men should endeavor to be just to one another, even in trivial matters.
The ideal priest has a pleasant life of it. He says his daily Mass, recites his office, amuses himself with the little children, visits his people, and lives to a ripe old age. No trouble, no labor of any kind. The real priest finds souls going to perdition for want of religious instruction. He must found and support Catholic schools. He finds the intemperate habits of the people undermining faith and proving a stumbling-block in the way of searchers after the truth. He must wage war against a powerful element among his flock. He finds family feuds of long standing to be overcome. There are perhaps several opposing factions in the congrega-tion. The church, through some cause or other, is burdened with debt, or stands in need of repairs. The poor of the parish must be attended to. Here is work enough to do, and done it must be. Money is needed to support the schools. The expenses of the church must be met and money is required wherewith to meet them. The poor must live, and money is necessary for their support. The orphans require aid. Again money is needed. As Catholic charity knows no limit, the real priest makes known to his people these various needs of religion, confident that many will heed his words and correspond with his wishes. But how many there are who seem to think that the priest is begging for himself when he appeals for money on these different occasions! Listen to some members of the congregation leaving the church on a Sunday after a “money-sermon” has been preached. We recently heard a young man, the recipient of many favors from his pastor, pouring forth his pent-up indignation because his good pastor had asked him to contribute a few dollars toward a charitable object. The ungrateful wretch could not understand what the priest did with all the money he received, though he understood very well that the priest had never received any money from him. This young man’s parents died when he was six years old, and the writer of this article knows for a positive fact that the priest’s money was once used for paying for food and clothing for this same young man. He was educated by his pastor, and it was owing to his influence that this young ingrate now holds a splendid position.
Busy days and often sleepless nights, financial difficulties, disappointments, misrepresentation, exposure to heat and cold and contagion—these are a few of the temporal blessings enjoyed by the priest here below. Add to these the fact that after a long life of usefulness one mistake may suffice to cast him adrift upon the world without means and without friends, and the life of the average priest appears in its true colors—a life of weary anxiety and suffering; a life awaiting no human reward, but expecting the reward of the life to come.
Source: Truth, (A Monthly Magazine for the Disseminatation of the Truth concerning the Doctrines, History, and Practices of the Catholic Church.) Published by The International Catholic Truth Society. Rev. Fr. Wm. F. McGinnins, D.D. Editor-in-Chief NY Vol. XIX. April, 1915 NO.4
Special thanks to Robert Olson