Ben Myers offers a lovely prayer for “grieving Priests” on his blog. In a world where “priests” are often seen as anachronisms’, I think it’s important to honor the gifts brought by those called to serve as priests. I think it’s especially important to recognise the humanity of those who are called to this role, often to lonely, undervalued and thankless tasks in lives, communities and cultural contexts where few of us would willingly tread. And, all the more so as I reflect on this role against the tragic backdrop of profoundly damaging abuse by a minority of priests, ministers and religious around the world. I’m grateful for the priests, ministers, pastors and clergy that have been a part of my life’s journey.
I quote Ben in full:
“Lord Christ, today I saw a priest of your church weeping because of your people. What was this strange, silent grief? Was it because of some failure in your people? Or some inadequacy in the priest himself? Is there something he needs, but still lacks, for his ministry? Was there something I could give him? A book to read, a bit of theology? Or some encouragement and a friendly word? Or was it your own grief, the grief of your priesthood, that had entered his heart and broken it from the inside? When you wept over the lost sheep of Israel, was it because your priesthood was lacking, or because it was so full?
Christ our shepherd, Christ our pastor, Christ our priest, have mercy on all priests of your church. Have mercy on all who have responded to your call, even when their task is beyond all human ability. Have mercy on all who have to announce your forgiveness, even when sin's burden weighs heavy in their hearts. Have mercy on all who have to bring your healing, though they can command no miracles and work no wonders. Have mercy on all who have to speak in your name, though your Name is an unsearchable mystery. Have mercy on all who have to approach your table, taking your body in their hands, breaking it, giving it away to whoever wants it, a feast for the life of the world – even when they, your priests, are still so hungry and so poor.
Have mercy, Lord Christ, on all who feed others while they themselves go hungry; who pray for others even though for them the heavens are silent; who go on speaking your Word their whole lives long when they themselves have heard only the faintest whisper; who proclaim good news and pour out the oil of joy while their own hearts grieve – have mercy, and sustain them by the eternal Word of your joy and by the grace of your heavenly priesthood. Amen.”
I think too of the wonderful novel Diary of a Country Priest.