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Friday, February 19, 2010

Priestly Penitence

During the past week my thoughts turned to Lent, which began yesterday. The first thing that came to mind, even before preparing my Sunday homily, was that perhaps we missed an opportunity for healing. We are in the Year for Priests in the Catholic Church. Much good stuff has been said about the priesthood and people have sent me and other priests letters of support and affirmation. For this I am very grateful. Nonetheless with all the news of sex abuse still continuing, this time in Ireland and the covering up of this abuse as well, and the anger that has come from the way that Church closings and mergers have taken place it would have been wonderful to have priests and bishops dedicate the first Sunday of Lent and the week that follows it as a world time of penance by priests and bishops, penance not only for the big stuff mentioned above, but penance for the arrogance, rudeness, lack of availability that we often show to God's people. First of all we could go to the middle of the sanctuary, kneel down, and ask people's forgiveness for our failures, then we could offer acts of repentance such as giving up some free time during Lent to better serve, visiting shut-ins that have been left to the sole care of lay ministers (This is not a devaluing of lay ministers but an acknowledgment that these good people want to see a priest occasionally),having listening sessions with parishioners to really hear their concerns, and many other possibilities according to each situation.

For my part as much as I try to be kind and available there are some moments of abruptness with folks and I could be much more available to people. I am also guilty of some laziness in preparation of homilies, talks, etc. I ask forgiveness for that and for any way that I fail to reflect Christ who came to serve and not to be served and to give His life as a ransom for the many. Maybe next year there can be such a time during Lent. We priests need to do it and the good Catholic people deserve it.

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