Friday, February 17, 2017
The Catholic Man, the Catholic Priest as Physician
To this end we are given the tools of wisdom, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. It is a divine art to apply these as needed. Wisdom teaches us the difference between condoning behavior and forgiving. Wisdom teaches us the difference between mercy and enabling destructive behavior. Compassion teaches us how to apply the remedy. As in medicine, sometimes one must be super gentle with a horrific wound, sometimes one must be a bit more forceful in setting a broken bone back into place, sometimes one must perform surgery to get at the wound, and sometimes one must be more forceful as in physical therapy. The goal is always to heal, not to do further damage. Mercy teaches us to look with caution upon what needs be helped. Forgiveness is the salve, the bandaging, the cast that helps the person to move forward.
As a physician, we must be truthful. A poor physician withholds the truth in fear of a negative reaction. The abusive physician neglects the ills of others or inflicts such fear as to make him unapproachable. We Catholic men should be so attentive to the flock placed in our care that we notice the new limp or the sickly look. Our compassion should look to address these things immediately. Our compassion should draw those in need to us. This requires a great deal of selflessness and willingness to sacrifice and inconvenience ourselves for the sake of our charges. Inasmuch as we suffer the slings and arrows of or wicked enemy, the devil, so do those in our charge. We don't leave the flock for dead. In fact, we are told when we allow a person to stay in sin without at least calling them back, their death partially becomes our responsibility. A courageous man doesn't shrug his shoulder and pass on by. A catholic man doesn't abandon his role as physician. The Catholic man must be wisely liberal with mercy and bind the wounds, even self inflicted, of his flock.
To my brother priests: Nothing so scatters the flock like a neglectful or abusive priest. Our flocks should find agents of God's rich mercy in each of us. We, too, need to drink deeply of the the well of mercy. A priest, or any man, who deludes himself into ignoring or facilitating his own sins will scarcely attend to the healing of other people's sin. The priest that is keenly aware of his need for God's healing mercy will make that same mercy abundantly available to his flock. So many times I have seen my brother clerics beat down someone who wishes to right their ship because they haven't got it righted just yet. I have seen them turn them away because 'no' is easier than pulling people out of the wreckage. Can we believe for a second we will be spared for such negligence and dereliction of duty?
I have seen brother priests who are extravagant with the times they afford for confession and are attentive to their dying and ill. I have also seen some that treat confession as an undo burden and have a flock that dang well better have the decency to die during business hours or they are out of luck. I pray for the mercy of God for those who die in a state of mortal sin because a priest would not make himself available in time of crisis. Sometimes sharing in the role of the divine physician means you have the duty of the emergency room physician. A physician on call doesn't say to the person rolled in with traumatic wounds, "Aw man, sorry, it's my lunch time...try not to bleed to death before I get back."
Whether it is the Catholic husband and father or the Catholic priest, we are given a part of a flock that is not ours first, the flock (our family or parish) belongs to God first. We will be held responsible for what happens to our flock. My brother priest, we fool ourselves if we think offering confessions once a week on a Saturday afternoon doesn't send a message that we don't think confession is all that important. Some of the deepest hurt I have seen is from a family whose loved one was neglected in the last moments by a slothful priest. To us, by virtue of our priestly ordination, has been given that singular grace of Orders by which to become agents of God's eternal forgiveness. As men ourselves, we must model mercy to the men of our parish, not in mere fancy words, but in deeds as well.