Long roads

It was famously written of priests that they are, ‘a member of every family yet belong to none.’  What true and honorable words.  There is a great dignity, privilege, grace in being a priest of Jesus Christ.  But also a deep sorrow, a grief that comes with being so aware of the passing nature of this vale of tears.

No place is home.  

Now, don’t get me wrong, my parents house is always open to me and I love it there.  Many friends will welcome me in for food and shelter and hospitality.  Heck, the rectory I live in is warm and dry and I’ve even got my own bathroom.

But none of them are mine – my parents house is theirs, same too my friends, and while the rectory is nice I am merely a long-term guest in a house belonging to no one.  Not to mention the eschatological reality, ‘not one stone will be left upon another.’

Thus it is right and just.  Priests ought not become too bound to one place.  They must be wandering pilgrims of a sort.  After all, ‘the Son of Man has no place to lie His head.’  Ours is a comfortable wandering (at least in America) but it is still a wandering.  So there is a tension.   Human beings strive for community, for belonging, and a priest can never truly belong.  He is always one foot in Heaven and one on earth.  Loves every person but cannot be long, cannot posses any one.  This is a fact of his nature and to transgress it would be to offend who he is.  Thus he remains odd,  not quite like all the others. 

This is not an excuse for weirdness: being rude, inappropriate, negligent,

lazy, late, dirty.  Because he has one foot in Heaven he ought be a model of true normality: kind, modest, refined, clean,  timely, direct.

But he always appear a little odd,  not quite like the rest of us.  He goes place we don’t go, does things we don’t do,  says things we don’t say,  loves people we don’t love.  Because he has no home,  like all the rest of us, he is just a little more aware of it.

So, to whatever Christian soul may read this little post, written from the back of a bus on a long journey from one place to another: be kind to your priest. 

He is a man much like you and yet so different.  He wears the weary world on his heart and, perhaps not always that well.  You might see this tension on his face,  in his eyes,  pushing through his heart.  Meet it with kindness, for on the pilgrim path from this world to the next,  only one thing remains: love.

One comment on “Long roads

  1. dallas says:

    “I need you”

    The Priest : A Prayer On A Sunday Night

    Tonight, Lord, I am alone.
    Little by little the sounds
    died down in the church.
    The people went away,
    And I came home,

    I passed people who were
    returning from a walk.
    I went by the cinema
    that was disgorging its crowd.
    I skirted café terraces where tired strollers
    were trying to prolong
    the pleasure of a Sunday holiday.
    I bumped into youngsters
    playing on the footpath,
    Youngsters, Lord,
    Other people’s youngsters
    who will never be my own.

    Here I am, Lord,
    The silence troubles me,
    The solitude oppresses me.

    Lord, I’m 35 years old,
    A body made like others,
    ready for work,
    A heart meant for love,
    But I’ve given you all.
    It’s true of course, that you needed it.
    I’ve given you all, but it is hard, Lord.
    It’s hard to give one’s body;
    it would like to give itself to others.
    It’s hard to love everyone and to claim no one.
    It’s hard to shake a hand
    and not want to keep it.
    It’s hard to inspire affection,
    only to give it to you.
    It’s hard to be nothing to oneself
    in order to be everything to others.
    It’s hard to be like others, among others,
    and be an other to them.
    It’s hard always to give
    without trying to receive.
    It’s hard to seek out others
    and to be oneself unsought.
    It’s hard to be told secrets,
    and never be able to share them.
    It’s hard to carry others
    and never, even for a moment, be carried.
    It’s hard to sustain the feeble
    and never be able to lean on one
    who is strong.

    It’s hard to be alone,
    Alone before everyone,
    Alone before the world,
    Alone before suffering,

    Son, you are not alone,
    I am with you.
    I am you.
    For I needed another human vehicle
    to continue my Incarnation
    and my Redemption.
    Out of all eternity, I chose you.
    I need you.

    I need your hands to continue to bless,
    I need your lips to continue to speak,
    I need your body to continue to suffer,
    I need your heart to continue to love,
    I need you to continue to save,
    Stay with me.

    Here I am Lord,
    Here is my body,
    my heart,
    my soul,
    Grant that I may be
    big enough to reach the world,
    Strong enough to carry it.
    Pure enough to embrace it
    without wanting to keep it.

    Grant that I may be a meeting-place,
    but a temporary one,
    A road that does not end in itself,
    because everything to be gathered there,
    everything human, must be led to you.

    Lord, tonight, while all is still
    and I feel sharply the sting of solitude,
    While people devour my soul
    and I feel incapable of satisfying their hunger,
    While the world presses on my shoulders
    with all its weight
    of misery and sin,
    I repeat to you my “yes”
    —not in a burst of laughter, but slowly,
    clearly, humbly.

    Alone, Lord,
    before you,
    In the peace of the evening.

    – – – written by Fr. Michel Quoist, 1954, France

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