Good morning!

Here I am in Soho, if you look closely you can see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament behind me.

As I was praying this morning I once again thought of priests and at times the criticism they come under. In some cases it’s well merited but sadly then the good suffer with the bad as they are all put into the same pot!

So I decided to share an uplifting story that happened to me and that involved a priest.

I had just moved to a new area in Split in Croatia. Split 3 for anyone who knows Split and I went to mass at a different church. Before mass there was confession available and so in I went.

The priest was extremely tall, could have been a model or a bodybuilder and certainly not what you’d expect to find especially in a relatively conservative country like Croatia.

I made my confession and one thing was sure from how this priest replied, he knew the resurrected Jesus.

A few days later we moved into our new apartment which was in a building with 14 or so floors. The area was full of these buildings and so thousands of people must have lived there.

And so can you imagine my surprise when as I was opening the post box the priest walked in?! Not only did he live in the same building but he lived in the apartment directly under ours!!

And so over the course of the next few months we got to know him and we became friends.

Christmas day of that year his parents were visiting and he invited me over for a chat. It was a real blessing and also an eye-opener.

You see sometimes we think that priests come out of holy, pious catholic households and that somehow they have the perfect loving and supportive family.

Nothing could be further from the truth in many cases and this was one of them. His parents were lovely people and as we chatted away in broken Croatian I learnt that they were not regular mass goers and if I recall correctly his dad didn’t believe in God at all.

It suddenly hit me more than ever how the love of this priest had not come from having the perfect family, the love had come from the pain of having a broken and wounded family.

He understood my pain from his pain, he understood my trouble with my family from his and he understood God’s love for both of us!

But the blessings didn’t stop there. He was a very gifted man (and still is) and was gifted in art, poetry, preaching, photography, sport and far more.

It seemed that he brought God and the priesthood into his humanity and his humanity into his priesthood.

The result was a dynamic, fun and fresh approach that was appealing and exciting and was a real testimony to the creative power of God’s grace.

As Pentecost approaches my prayer is for priests, that like my friend Ante that they too will find new and creative ways to bring the love of Jesus and the catholic faith to people using both prayer and the natural gifts that God has given them.

My prayer is also for those priests who do not have the perfect family and who faces invisible trials that none of us know about. I pray that we may be merciful and compassionate as the laity and that their pain and suffering will bring them even closer to the loving hearts of Jesus and Mary who like in the case of my friend Ante, can take and transform the pain and use it to help other souls going through similar.

Have a great day and may all our priests today be blessed with love, perseverance and holy joy!