At Catholic World Report, Fr. Peter Stravinskas offers a reflection on the way Francis seems constantly to denigrate and insult priests affects both morale and vocations.
His observations coincide with my own. One of things he said struck a strong note with me. He reminisces about how, years ago, as a seminarians and priests we would look forward to papal document, in particular the Holy Thursday letter that John Paul would issue for priests, the Holy Thursday sermons of Benedict. Now, not so much. As a matter of fact, there was a time that I, myself, would very much look forward to every document. I’d drill into them looking for the good stuff. That changed. It got so that – and I am sad as I write this – I started looking for the bad stuff. Now I dread each document and don’t even want to look at most of them. That’s terrible, really.
Parallel: The less I watch of “the news” on TV, etc., about the ongoing political scene, the machinations of the Party of Death, and any number of other things vastly beyond my control, the calmer and happier I am.
Morale has been affected since Benedict resigned (and thanks a lot for that, by the way!).
Stravinskas captures the prevailing sense.
Some excerpts. My emphases:
That recollection [nostalgia about happily reading documents] made all the sadder the constant negativity directed to us priests by the present Pope. This “feeling” is not something unique to me. It came out clearly in a research project being done for the University of Notre Dame by Francis X. Maier.
On to the study.2 [2He reports on the first phase of the study, dealing with bishops’ attitudes, in “Somebody Needs to Be Dad,” First Things, February 22, 2021.] We are allowed to eavesdrop on bishops’ observations about Pope Francis, among many other topics. “In the words of one baffled west-of-the-Mississippi bishop, ‘It’s as if he enjoys poking us in the eye.’” “Poking us in the eye” – a rather down-home way of crystallizing a common sentiment among clergy.
What about seminarians? Maier shares the following: “When pressed, none of the bishops I queried could report a single diocesan seminarian inspired to pursue priestly life by the current Pope. None took any pleasure in acknowledging this.” Again, this parallels my own experience from lectures and retreats I have given to numerous seminarians. In fact, in my spiritual direction of seminarians, I have also had the unenviable task of trying to convince them (and young priests as well) not to give up on the priesthood, so dispirited are many by Francis.
Perhaps most surprising to many is that seminarians of my acquaintance, many of whom had barely made their First Holy Communion in the waning years of the John Paul papacy, name him as their model for priestly life and ministry; Benedict is likewise highly valued by our seminarians – most of whom maintain a respectful silence about the current Pontiff, lest they show disrespect or even disdain. That is quite telling. It also explains why seminary numbers are so far down, precisely over the past eight years. Frankly, why would a young man find inspiration in a man who had even called seminarians “little monsters”?
He goes on to talk about several more recent “pokes in the eye”.
If you stone a rock on a person’s head from just a few inches, it might sting a bit, but it isn’t going to be too bad. If you drop that stone from atop the Empire State Building, it’s going to do a heck of a lot more than sting a bit, even considering issues of terminal velocity.
I’ll add some points I’ve made before many times on this blog. They bear repetition.
I. Of all the universes God could have created, He created this one, into which He called us into existence at exactly the right point in time and with exactly the right set of tools to carry out our little piece of His overarching, divine Plan. If we dedicate ourselves to our state in life, as it is hic et nunc, here and now, God will give us all the actual graces we need to fulfill our part in His economy of salvation. It is an honor to have been called by God to live in these difficult times. WE are the team He has assembled for His purposes hic et nunc. Fidelity and the pursuit of His will bring greater graces than if our paths were smooth.
II. Popes come and go. There have been good Popes and bad Popes, important Popes and forgettable Popes. Men pick them, not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s role in their election is to make sure that the Pope isn’t a total disaster for the Church. Some disaster, maybe. Total disaster, never. Moreover, generations of faithful Catholics lived and died without even knowing the Pope’s name. In a lot of ways, in daily life, they just aren’t that important. Modern communication our perception, and the media changed the role. That said, the RUACH hasn’t stopped either in the Church or in your soul. The day to day is what you need to work on.
III. For priests, especially…. learn the Traditional Latin Mass. Time and again, priests have told me that learning the TLM changed them profoundly. They began to grasp aspects of their priesthood which they hadn’t gleaned before. In turn, that produces a knock on effect in other aspects of their work, in particular how they celebrate the Novus Ordo. Congregations note the differences. The knock on effect continues to knock. This will be for you a suit of armor.
IV. For priests, seminarians, lay people alike… consider your CONFIRMATION. Confirmation strengthens us to make the hard call and then stand firm when we are challenged in our Christian living. We can call upon the power of this sacrament, which has imparted an indelible character, like the potter’s mark of ownership, into our souls. Confirmation is an ongoing reality in our lives just as the Pentecost event is an ongoing reality in the Church. In these troubled and troubling times, make a conscious choice to call upon that mighty sacrament you received. Activate it. The sacrament will be mighty in you when you are in the state of grace. A daily prayer HERE.
V. Therefore… GO TO CONFESSION!