Saturday, May 20, 2006

“Because there are priests . . . .”

The greatest blessings of my life have come to me through the hands of a priest. At an Easter Vigil Mass in 1974, I was held in the arms of a priest and incorporated into the Body of Christ at my Baptism, beginning my personal relationship with God. Seven years later, when I had my first conscious encounter with the Mercy of God in my first confession and then received the Body and Blood of Jesus for the first time in Holy Communion, it was by the power of the priesthood. In 2004, 30 years after my Baptism, it was a priest who placed the wedding band of espousal to Jesus Christ on my hand at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at which I made my Perpetual Vows.

Because there are still men in this world who have said “yes” to the Father, are willing to lay down their lives, and by His mercy have been incorporated into the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, I am able to know God in the most intimate ways possible on earth. Because there are priests, I can be present at the Last Supper 2000 years later. Because there are priests, I can stand with our Lady at the foot of the cross at every Mass, every day. Because there are priests, I can touch Jesus, taste Jesus as I consume His living, resurrected Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. Because there are priests, I can hear the sound of Jesus’ voice saying to me, “I absolve you from your sins,” every time I go to confession.

— Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR, From the Friars, May 20, 2006

The moments after the noon meal [at Butirka prison in Moscow] were always the best moments of the day. When everyone had finished smoking, a sort of quiet settled on the cell by mutual consent. Many of the prisoners took a nap. I used to sit there by the door, looking around the cell and watching the human scene. There was a row of sick over by the windows, for instance. We put them there hoping the windows would dissipate some of the stench, because the poor fellows were dying of dysentery. There was nothing left of some of them but skin and bones. The odor was so foul the other prisoners compalined to the nurse who used to visit these poor wretches once a day. “I know, I know,” she said, “but I can’t do anything. There is simply no room left in the hospital.”

All she could do was give them some sort of fluid every day, but most of them were too far gone for help. Sometimes, at night, I’d wake to hear a loud cry followed by that peculiar breathing called the death rattle; then the doctors would hurry in and take somebody out in the darkness. In the quiet period after lunch, I talked to the sick from time to time, trying to encourage them as much as I could. But there wasn’t much anyone could do. I could — and did — give many of them absolution, and I’d sit close alongside them sometimes, whispering the prayers for the dying. I only hope it consoled them as much as it did me to be able to act as a priest again. . . .

— Walter J. Ciszek, S.J., With God in Russia: My Twenty-Three Years as a Priest in Soviet Prisons and Siberian Labor Camps, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, pp. 148–149.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
— John 15:13

Here Jesus speaks of love of friends, brotherly love, not self-sacrifice, not heroism, not philanthropy, not high-mindedness, but a love that actually requires one to have friends.

See also in Curmudgeon’s Cave: Why would I be a priest for Bp. Hubbard?


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