Since my return to Facebook I have "liked" Fr. James Martin, S.J., who offers a different take on this celebration:
"As I see it, this means that priests can show their appreciation today! This priest appreciates all the hard-working, talented, and faithful men and women who keep our church alive!"Well, if that isn't the mark of a good writer/speaker: to help people see things a different way! Yes, the official title is "Priesthood Sunday," which seems pointedly to direct the recognition to the ordained; but then again, as I noted in the above post, all the baptized share in the priesthood. This day, then, recognizes all the baptized, from whom the Lord has chosen a relatively small number of men to be "poured out like a libation" (to quote today's second reading, 2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18) as preachers of the Gospel, ministers of the Sacraments, and providers of Pastoral Care.
The Gospel reading (Lk 18:9-14) also pertains to the current topic, specifically as an admonition to clergy against hypocrisy, to which I think we are particularly prone.
The more I read these diatribes against the Pharisees, the more I must admit that I probably don't surpass many people in terms of prayer, fasting, or charity. People unwittingly remind me that I don't know much, and I know less and less as I get older. And I've barely cleared the age range of "young adults" to whom I'll be speaking tomorrow at "Theology On Tap"!
In bygone days many people placed priests on a pedestal, picking up restaurant checks and opening doors not considered for the laity. Some priests undoubtedly took advantage of that privilege, and some have abused their power for purposes of influence, property, or libido. If the Church is a Mother, are we "Momma's Boys"? Only if we aren't as grateful, considerate, and generous with our resources as our good people are! Only if we don't intend as often as possible to be a good example to everyone in our path! That's a choice that each priest must make, many times daily.
If you insist on showing appreciation to your priests on this or any other day, that is to say, if you want to "keep the Church alive," I simply ask that you strive to observe the precepts of the Church:
- Attend Mass on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation;
- Receive the Eucharist as often and as worthily as possible;
- Confess your sins (definitely the mortal, and why not? the venial) at least once a year, but more often if you want to become a clearer beacon of holiness and virtue;
- Observe the Church's penitential practices regarding abstinence from meat and fasting;
- Dedicate appropriate, even sacrificial, amounts of time, abilities, and finances to the spiritual and temporal services that your parish community provides.
Anything you do outside of striving to follow the Precepts is certainly appreciated; but nothing you do outside of striving to follow the precepts will excuse you from doing so.
Be assured that I hold myself to the same standards as I'd hold you--and just as imperfectly--because I am one of you.