Over the past two weeks, I’ve had a privilege that very few lay people ever get a chance to share. I’ve spent time with about a thousand of our priests.
The occasions were our biannual clergy continuing education days, which are part of the Safe Environment program. In past years, we’ve used these days to offer information about the Theology of the Body, the dangers of internet pornography, and other important subjects. This year, we covered the key issue of maintaining good healthy boundaries in ministerial relationships.
The education component of the day is important, but I suspect that the main benefit to the priests is the fellowship they experience — an opportunity to get together with their brothers and to renew the bonds of fellowship. The chance to see and hear the Cardinal speak about priestly life is also a real plus.
For an outside observer like myself, these days were an affirmation of how important and special our priests are. Their camaraderie and good humor was uplifting, and it was truly inspiring to hear them pray and sing Midday Prayer together.
I had the chance to address them briefly on each of the days. As part of my talk, I took the opportunity to express my personal and professional gratitude to them, for their leadership and example, and their commitment to serving us.
I’m a realist. I know that nobody is perfect, and that our priests are just as human as I am — flawed, but striving to be good. But the reality is that our “Men in Black” are indispensable and a treasure to our Church. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without the priests I have known.
At the end of my remarks at the clergy days, I told our priests that I was in awe of them. May I suggest that every Catholic should take the opportunity to thank a priest? They deserve it.