Good morning!

Yesterday was the feast of the cure of Ars, the patron saint of parish priests and as I watched some of the Medjugorje youth festival on the tv last night I was once again drawn to pray for priests.

The last time I wrote about praying for priests I was slightly scolded by a priest who doesn’t like the idea of praying for priests…..

Of course I found this hurtful because I’ve offered so much of my life and sufferings to pray for priests and it was like he was saying “we don’t need your prayers”.

Of course he had reasons for being uncomfortable and the main one to be fair was honourable in that if we put priests on a pedestal and spend night and day praying for them, we could quite easily forget to pray and look after one another!

I see little touches of this all the time. For example, I’m a lay person living on providence and it doesn’t happen for that often for people to cook me a meal and give it to me. However I notice that when a new priest arrives in the parish some people flock to take him out, cook for him etc.

It is true that this type of approach can promote an imbalance where the priest is treated like a king while the poor go hungry and pushing this to the extreme then we are back to clericalism where the priest is a Godlike creature capable of doing no wrong!

“Pope to priests: clericalism takes root when you seek comfort instead of the people”

Now it is a bit ironic that the priest that wrote to me does quite enjoy some of the perks of being a priest such as being fussed over with meals etc. but to be fair he has given a lot of his life to helping the marginalised and has always been very generous with whatever is given to him!

And I think that herein lies the difference! We must pray for priests that they don’t fall into the trap of clericalism and we must encourage them out of clericalism and to living lives of prayer and holiness.

For example, is it really helping a priest who might be struggling to invite him to your house and make him a lavish dinner with wine on tap?

Sure it is a very kind and nice gesture but is it helping?

I think not!

Once I stayed with a community in Australia whom I believed had the right approach.

During the week there was one night where the community members (brothers and priests) would go to different houses for dinner and prayer.

The idea was to go on a week night and simply get to know the family and family life. There was no alcohol or deserts, just good healthy food and fellowship.

This was to train the priests to be humble and to be ordinary and not to allow them to get used to being treated like kings but rather to be like Jesus and to be poor among the poor.

And I guess here is where the balance is! There is no point in praying for priests with one hand while encouraging clericalism with the other!!

Too much damage has been done to the church to both the ordinary people and to the priests through clericalism. In the end it helps nobody.

And so looking to the cure of Ars who lived a life of extreme prayer and poverty I think that it is with this attitude that we must fulfill Our Lady’s desires to pray for Our priests and also to help them to become true men of prayer and simplicity serving the ordinary people of God with generosity, simplicity and unity.

We must do everything we can to discourage clericalism which is a terrible counter testimony and kills the ministry of evangelisation by bad example.

“Jesus, give us priests, Jesus give us holy priests”.

Michael