By Father Dennis Meinen
View from the Scooter
I never expected to see a bronzed, legal, lawyer scale of justice on my bedroom ceiling, as my alarm clock awoke me with a quartet of loud trombones. A shattering wood gavel pounding sound alerted me that a pronouncement was coming: “Behold, I judge the priesthood!”
On each scale stood a priest. One had a truly healthy sense of self-worth and a deep personal happiness because he recognizes that God made him for himself, and that he loves this priest not only infinitely but also personally.
The other scale showed a man with head bowed. When he was in seminary, training to become a priest, he read a lot of St. Augustine. He even learned a little Latin. One phrase of his has always stayed with the sad cleric. It had been his favorite, too: Quia amasti me, fecisti me amabilem. It is addressed to God: “Because you loved me, you made me lovable.”
But now he didn’t feel lovable, and the scale under him lightened considerably. What could have happened? Did he pray? Did he love the people assigned to him? Did he tell them? Was the brotherhood of priests in his locality inviting, caring and realizing he was vulnerable? Or was the distance between parishes too great and the gas prices too high to make the trip for a visit?
“A priest was once preaching on hope, and on the mercy of the good God. He reassured others, but he himself despaired. After the sermon, a young man presented himself, saying, ‘Father, I have come to confess to you.’ The priest answered, ‘I am willing to hear your confession.’ The other recounted his sins, after which he added, ‘Father, I have done much evil; I am lost!’ ‘What do you say, my friend! We must never despair.’ The young man rose, saying, ‘Father, you wish me not to despair, and what do you do?’ This was a ray of light; the priest, all astonishment, drove away that thought of despair, became a religious and a great saint. The good God had sent him an angel under the form of a young man, to show him that we must never despair.” – St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Art.
What happened to the priest who had had a truly healthy sense of self-worth? Did he become a Bishop? A Cardinal? A Pope? Pope St. John Paul II prayed for all priests, no matter their weight on God’s scale of justice: “May God sustain in all priests a grateful awareness of the gift they have received; may he also awaken in many young men a ready and generous response to his call to give themselves completely to the cause of the Gospel.”
The men and women of our time, who have such need of meaning and hope, will greatly benefit from their witness. And the Christian community will rejoice, knowing that it can look forward with confidence to the challenges of the approaching Third Millennium.
I found a wonderful prayer for priests by D. Cardinal Dougherty, then Archbishop of Philadelphia:
A Prayer for Priests
Keep them, I pray thee, dearest Lord,
Keep them, for they are thine.
Thy priests whose lives burn out before
Thy consecrated shrine.
Keep them, for they are in the world,
Though from the world apart;
When earthly pleasures tempt, allure,
Shelter them in thy heart.
Keep them, and comfort them in hours
Of loneliness and pain,
When all their life of sacrifice
For souls seems but in vain.
Keep them, and O remember Lord,
They have no one but thee,
Yet they have only human hearts,
With human frailty.
Keep them as spotless as the Host,
That daily they caress;
Their every thought and word and deed,
Deign, dearest Lord, to bless.
Our Father, Hail Mary.
Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for them.
Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.