By Susan Gately - 25 March, 2016
Despite a strong cultural catholicism many in Ireland today don’t get the priesthood, do not understand the call of priesthood “even to the point of seeing it as a waste of a life,” the bishop of Cloyne told his priests at the Chrism Mass yesterday.
“Given this context, it is natural for us to adjust the focus of our service,” said Bishop William Crean.
“To a degree, the bad practice of the past haunts us. Poor theology of ministry led to well-intentioned but controlling service of the people. To shed the shackles of that past is difficult.”
The bishop said that priests tell others that things are different now, but “many do not believe us”.
“It is very difficult emotionally to be constantly at the receiving end of continuous vitriol and denigration. And yet we were never promised a rose garden rather rejection is often the fruit of fidelity.”
Earlier in his homily, the bishop read extracts from the testament of the Abbot of a Trappist Monastery in Algeria, Dom Christian de Chergé, who together with six confreres, was abducted and murdered twenty years ago this Easter Sunday.
In his testament, written over a year before his death but only discovered afterwards, Dom Christian foresaw that he might become a victim of terrorism and die in Algeria.
“I know the contempt in which the Algerians as a whole can be held,” wrote Abbot Christian.
“I know, too, the caricatures of Islam which encourage a certain Islamism. It is too easy to give oneself a good conscience in identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists. For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: they are body and soul.”
My death, obviously, will appear to justify those who hastily judged me naive or idealistic, he wrote.
“For this is what I shall be able to do, if God wills: immerse my gaze in that of the Father to contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, fruit of his Passion, filled with the gift of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and to refashion the likeness in playing with the differences.”
Bishop Crean went on, “Dom Christian, elsewhere uses the phrase ‘the logic of my (own) presence’ here. It is always a pertinent question. What am I doing here and why? What is the logic of my presence as priest at this time?”
Priests did not want to “wallow in the negative and retreat to the safety of our bunkers”, he said.
“We have known too much joy and peace, reconciliation and serenity pour into people’s lives through their experience of God’s providence and mercy in their lives. The ‘logic of our priestly service’ is grounded on the spiritual riches so many people experience unknown to us who serve them,” he said.
Addressing priests in Sligo, Bishop Kevin Doran said that priests exercised their ministry in “a very different world from the world in which many were ordained”.
“We can only offer the Eucharist with integrity if we live the reality of sacrifice and service in our lives.”
“It is not easy to be cheerful or patient when the body is full of aches and pains. Yet, as I go around the diocese, I constantly meet people who are sick or frail due to old age, but who truly are joyful witnesses.”
“Many of them, who are unable to leave their beds or to venture beyond their own hall door, spend hours in prayer, not just for themselves, but for the Church and for the world. In this way, they truly exercise their mission, strengthened by the spirit which they too have received.”