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Colleen Roy – Home Front

Dear Pastor: Keep your sword in hand

Voices March 5, 2019

Faithful praying before a relic of St. Jean Vianney in Washington, D.C. St. John Vianney warned priests to keep their sword in hand at all times, writes Colleen Roy.  (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

“Is this McCarrick?!” I asked Scott, in confusion.

The cardinal’s face was on my screen, but I didn’t recognize it. I assumed wrongly that I had seen it a hundred times in the past few months, but the face surprised me. It wasn’t what I expected.

Maybe it was just a particularly flattering photo, but he looked like a kind, old man. It wasn’t what I wanted him to look like: evil, cold, ugly.

It immediately brought to mind a column by Father Raymond J. de Souza that I had just read, where he shares a memory of accidentally discovering McCarrick in the sanctuary praying before the Lord at 5:30 a.m., before anyone else had thought of rising. It made me so heartbroken and confused.

Since Pope Benedict retired there has been a lot of heartbreak and confusion. So many of the (childish?) ideals I held about all priests in general have been tested. I have grown up with a place in my heart for men of God. I look upon their hands as the hands of Christ, and so they are. And that is where the pain comes from I guess, and why a nice picture or a memory of McCarrick at prayer causes heartbreak. Who was he called to be, as a father to his children? How did he fall to such corruption?

The first time I was disillusioned by a priest was in another province. Scott and I were still dating, and we flew to his friend’s wedding. Scott was still a Protestant at this point, but he was reading some good books and was on his way.

Scott came to Mass with me as he often did, and afterwards the priest greeted us and was friendly enough to stand and talk for a while. He told us that he was on his way to concelebrate a Unitarian service. I was confused, and we politely asked about it and what he meant by concelebrate. He started to get annoyed with our inquisitive natures, and acted like it was obvious what it meant. “Things have changed. We’re basically all the same,” he said. Having a priest say that to me was like being slapped in the face.

Scott was astonished that the priest would readily share with us his absolute disobeying of Church law and say outright that the Catholic Church was essentially the same as any New Age gathering.

To me at that innocent time it was an absolute scandal. But scandal was added to scandal when I was told back home not to talk about it. He was a priest after all. If I did, I risked causing upset and division among people.

“What?” I thought. “There’s an anti-Catholic priest out there and you want me to pretend I never met him? He’s leading people away from the truth and you’re worried about some imaginary panic?!” Where was the outrage, the fervency, the action?

I couldn’t understand how anyone could be tolerant in the face of the devil’s work.

I sometimes wonder at how many young men became priests with fire in their hearts and a deep passion for Christ and his Church. How many grew up with the lives of the saints in their souls, believing they would bring their flocks to salvation through their own personal martyrdom?

Then how many of them were told to tone it down a bit, to avoid upsetting people with truth? How many lost their passion before they ever had the chance to pound their fist on the pulpit with a little brimstone and fire?

These are just the late-night thoughts of a tired, 41-year-old homeschooling wife and mother of six. I thank God for the priests of our diocese, whom I love and pray for. I cannot imagine what they might have suffered over the past few years, how much confusion and heartbreak they have gone through. I can only wonder at all the things they want to say to us but fear the cost if they dare bring up the scandals of our time, let alone the actual root cause of it, and our own personal vices that contribute to the spreading of this vile evil.

I think what I want to say is that the heartbreak and confusion of our time came from a failure to call sin sin. It came from a movement of likeability before truth, business and compromise over holiness. I want to take my chance to let the beloved priests of our diocese know that they need not be afraid to be holy and disruptive, that we are longing for their fire and passion. In their hands and in their martyrdom we come to see the face of Christ.

“If a priest is determined not to lose his soul, so soon as any disorder arises in the parish he must trample under foot all human considerations as well as the fear of the contempt and hatred of his people. He must not allow anything to bar his way in the discharge of duty, even where he is certain of being murdered on coming down from the pulpit. A pastor who wants to do his duty must keep his sword in hand at all times.” — St. Jean Vianney