A priest, it is said, marries the Church. Does the Church “settle” for priests that don’t meet her standards? Do you settle for a merely good man, or will you accept nothing less than a good priest? “A good priest is a very good thing,” wrote Victor Hugo in Les Miserables. How is a good priest more than just a good man?
A good man puts you at ease; a good priest puts you at ease, but often challenges you as well. A good man makes you laugh; a good priest makes you laugh, but sometimes makes you cry. A good man helps you reach success in life; a good priest helps you reach success, but he also prepares you for heaven. A Catholic priest must be a good man, certainly, but God calls His priests to a greater personal sanctity. A really good priest never ceases to call others, as well, to sanctity.
How much do we, the Church, settle for good men when we could expect of our priests that they be other Christs: men of prayer, of purity, of sacrifice, of obedience? Christ was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). Is your priest striving for this kind of obedience?
Do not be satisfied with your priest if he preaches dynamic, engaging homilies but does not preach difficult truths. Do not be satisfied if he shows you the world but does not show you Christ. Do not be satisfied if he teaches your children soccer but does not teach them the Gospel. I often hear laypeople saying how wonderful a man Fr. So-and-So is. They don’t seem to mind that he is not very priestly — that he doesn’t wear his collar, or flirts with women, or disrespects his Bishop or hardly ever prays. The erosion of priestly virtue is the real scandal in our Church, the source of all particular clergy scandals.
I don’t want to be just a wonderful man. I want to be a faithful priest. Please help me to be a saint. The Church, the Bride of Christ, should settle for nothing less in her priests.