We’ve only lived here about four months and let me tell you, I am SPOILED. Father is on vacation.
Having lived in three states in the past few years and visited many more parishes than our local ones as part of the job interview process in each prospective community, we had one really good parish. The others were mediocre at best and some of them were down right scary. I am not talking a lack of aesthetics, I’m talking teaching and homilies and treatment of the Blessed Sacrament that would wipe Papa Ben’s smile right off his face. In these parishes, we reminded ourselves that the Eucharist was still there and did what we could to continue growing in our faith even when the priest etc was letting the parishioners down, staying and praying for that parish and its priests…. but we grumbled.
Our parish here has been fabulous. Talk about an on fire, dedicated, passionate, priest not only faithful to the magisterium but seriously dedicated to the souls in his care. The seminarian is an excellent complement to him and between the two of them it has been an incredible summer. Our seminarian returned to school a few weeks ago and we are already feeling the loss keenly, particularly with Father gone. As I said, we have gotten spoiled… not complacent by any means, but spoiled none the less.
Yesterday, I was going over the Mass readings between Benediction and Mass. The first reading was Numbers 21:4b-9. I got stuck at the end of verse 5.
4b But with their patience worn out by the journey, 5 the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”
It suddenly hit me, totally out of the blue, that I am guilty of griping about the ‘wretched food.’ I have been worn out in the past by the moves journey and complained to God saying, “Why have you brought us out from where we had it so good to this place with a spiritually anemic parish, a horrible priest, and unfriendly people wretched food?” Ouch. That was all BEFORE Mass. Did I mention that Father is on vacation?
We had a visiting priest. If I had thought the lesson was over once Mass began, I had another think comin’. It was case in point, or point in case rather, illustrated by the opening prayer.
God our Father, in obedience to you your only Son accepted death on the cross for the salvation of (hu)mankind. We acknowledge the mystery of the cross on earth. May we receive the gift of redemption in heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
That red bit above was added courtesy of the visiting priest and it didn’t get better. Sigh. It was like our wonderful new parish had been invaded by the ghosts of parishes past… and I had just been told I was a whiner. Did I say ouch? Yeah. I hear ya Lord, no more complaining about the ‘wretched food’.*
Father gets back on Wednesday and we are incredibly grateful. He has been sorely missed. Still, I will not forget this lesson and will continue to pray daily as a result for an increase in vocations, both to the priesthood and religious life, of those who will be like my priest. Men and women faithful to the magisterium with a passion for both the people and the details which make up our Liturgy and the Deposit of Faith we have been given, people who encourage others to greater holiness by their example and their presence. Praying not with an attitude of complaint but of gratitude… for the GOOD priests out there and that God would give us MORE of them.
If you are like me and have been in the past, or still are, stuck in a parish that seems to hurt more than it helps, I ask you to join me in prayer. I encourage you to offer up the suffering you experience on behalf of vocations, begging God for a priest after His own heart – not only for your parish, but for all parishes like it in the world. Instead of complaining about the “wretched food,” let us turn to God in thanksgiving for what we have and pray that He will raise up holy, godly young men and women who will ‘feed’ the generations to come well.
*Just noting that ‘no more complaining about wretched food’ doesn’t mean no more speaking out about abuses and failings generally which need to be corrected. That we are required to do as an spiritual work of mercy.