I’ve said before in an IG post that life did not necessarily get easier when I started to know God more through the ministry. That was pulled from the challenges our family faced recently. While going through the lowest point of that ordeal I understood one point. From then on, I learned not to prefer a priest on the sole merit of whether he delivers powerful homilies or not.
Years ago, when it was transition time for parish priests, the outgoing one said that he requests comparisons to be avoided – between him and the incoming priest. It’s not about the priests, he said, but about the One who sent both of them. It was seconded by Kuya Romy, the vice president of the Lectors and Commentators Ministry. There were times people don’t attend Mass anymore – they attend the priest instead.
Proclaiming God’s words are one of priests’ main missions as I understand from my very little knowledge of all things religion. This mission cannot be more amplified than when they are in the ambo during mass. For most people, and I can say this because for long, I am the usual lay person too, the only encounter they have with the priest is during Mass. That’s why what we perceive priests to be are based on how they deliver homilies. I know people who avoid mass schedules presided by priests they do not fancy – he speaks incoherently, he’s too old, he’s boring, he looks strict, etc. Now everyone likes a lively homilist, no question about that. But when I look at it closely, I can easily turn the table and just do my part in the interaction and that is to listen intently. Never minding how the message was delivered I ask myself instead on how to receive the messages properly. It’s totally up to the listener if a homily is moving one or not. After all, listeners are the ones being called for action.
For me the best priests are those who are there when they are needed. Availability is key. When our family needed counseling, having encountered a tough situation we didn’t knew how to handle; we rushed to a church and a convent at two different instances. Two priests attended to us, not knowing who we are or any of neither our whereabouts nor background. We were there as family members asking for help, searching for answers. I’d be very vague about that situation as it is not only my story to tell. They listened intently, counseled us and prayed with us and for us. We met them without their priestly vestment on, in their “ordinary human” composure, just like an old friend.
Aside from the two of them, I’m also thankful for priests who take time to sincerely ask how I am – that simple. They make you feel like if you have problems you can share with them. If you’re happy then they’re happy for you, too. I appreciate priests who sincerely wanted to know about a person they encounter – they emulate how Christ is personal to each one of us. I know for a fact that priests are busy, especially these days when there are reports of declining number of people who join religious life. So for those who were there for me during those troubled times, during those few seconds when they expressed so much without really saying anything (when you ask for their hands in blessing), I’ll forever be grateful. Oh, and let’s not forget the priests who actually answers facebook chat! They are reachable. Those favors they do in serving the people means a lot more than the title they hold. I mean, I love Pope Francis but chances are he may not be there to officiate my wedding or hear my confession. Those who make themselves available for ordinary lay people are now my new favorites.