As I mentioned in an earlier post, Pope Benedict XVI has declared this the "Year for Priests", note: not the year of the priest. Now one might ask, why do priests need a special year set aside for them? Believe me they do! I get a lot of questions about priests and the priesthood, the most common of course being why can't priest get married?, and why can't girls be priests? Questions that will be addressed at another time when I've got more time to devote the space to a proper answer worthy of the Sacrament.
One of the things impressed on me as I studied the sacraments was the commitment it takes to one's calling in life. This is especially evident in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and Matrimony. The children will ask me if a man who is a priest decides he doesn't want to do it anymore can he quit? They ask if the Pope decides he doesn't want to be Pope anymore can he quit? It is difficult to find the words to explain to them the commitment these men have made to the Church and that this is a lifelong commitment. So many of the children come from "broken" homes and don't see commitment in their lives, they have difficulty grasping this concept. I try to impress on the children I teach that these men pray a long time about this "calling" from God and is this the right thing for them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that to be a priest is a vocation, a calling, not a "right" (CCC 1578). A man doesn't wake up one day and decide "I think I'll go apply for a job as a priest, I might like to do that". A man commits himself to service for the Lord and the Church.
Now once this decision by a man has been made to follow the Lord's call to the priesthood, Heaven help him! He is pegged. At a time when he should be supported and prayed for, lauded and celebrated, he is attacked. Much of this attack comes from the devil and well-meaning friends and family who have no earthly idea why he would want to do such a thing. So yes there needs to be set aside a year for priests because once a man does become ordained into the priesthood the attacks just keep on coming. Some attacks can be very violent and malicious, but some a quite subtle but stinging just the same.
Priests need prayers to stay committed to the sacrifice they have made. I was reminded this past weekend with the gospel story of the calming of the storm, how priests have their own storms that need calming, they are human and experience anxiety and fears just like everyone else. We need to be mindful of the commitment the priest has made to set aside time in prayer, amd his dedication to the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. We als0 must remember he is praying for our salvation, he is committed to seeing us into heaven and he is our father and we must be obedient to him and to listen to him as we listen to our own fathers. It is difficult at times to hear the truth but our priests want only that for us, to know the truth about God and to learn the truth about what our Church has to teach us.
Please stop frequently and offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for our priests. We are blessed for the priests who have served us and for those who will come after us.