Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stay, Just a Little Bit Longer

"Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer
Please, please, please say you will
Say you will

Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer
Oh please, please stay just a little bit more"

~Jackson Browne~Stay~

It's no secret that I have a great admiration for priests; those good and holy men who sacrifice so much to raise their spiritual children in the faith and inspire them to dedicate their souls to the love of God and His church. It takes a very, very special person to give their all, to work tirelessly and endlessly with very little earthly reward, just to answer God's persistent call to the the service of the Church as a priest.

I want to do all I can to support our good and holy priests as well as those who struggle and suffer through their vocation. Last summer, I found out about a wonderful lay apostolate called the "Monthly Prayer Request for Priests." Seeing that there was no such apostolate offered in Milwaukee, I just knew that God was calling me to begin this effort to support the priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with the heartfelt prayers of the laity who rely so heavily on our priests to bring us the sacraments, to support us in our failures and sufferings, to encourage us to remain faithful and to be with us in the most important sacramental moments of our lives, but, most of all to bring Christ to us in the Eucharist and to be Christ for us in the sacrifice of their lives.

So, last August, after much research and prayer, the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests was established in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with the support of the Archdiocesan Vocations Office at the Seminary of St. Francis de Sales. I am so pleased that the Lord has seen fit to use me in this way and am honored and humbled to give my all to this apostolate.

And perhaps it's because I feel so strongly about this work, that the news of priests who leave their vocation seems to hit me like a punch in the stomach. In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we have recently lost two very good and fairly new (less than five years as priests) men who have decided with very little forewarning to the parishes they served, that they needed to take a leave to discern their future. Although it's not the worst thing in the world, especially compared to the horrendous distress caused by abusive priests, something in me just feels so hurt by a priest who decides he can't continue in his vocation. I guess I could best describe it as how a child of divorced parents would feel. This vow to the priesthood was supposed to last forever. What could have happened that would pull a priest away from this life-long commitment to the church? I can't help but wonder what the church or the parish might have done to keep the priest in his vocation for a little while longer. What could we as a church have done differently that might have kept these priests from leaving? And do you suppose that if they had just stayed for just a little bit longer, they might have decided to stay forever?

As the mother of a teen discerning a call to the priesthood, I can't help but worry. Am I wrong to encourage my son to a vocation to the priesthood? Will he also want to leave after a short time? Is it normal for a diocese to lose a few priests each year? Are there any statistics kept on this, I wonder? And why is it that this shakes my faith so much? I suppose that most of these questions don't have any easy answers and maybe they don't have any answers at all. All I can do for my part is to continue to blindly follow the Lord, to obediently live my faith and to continue to pray and to encourage others to pray for those who have left the priesthood, for those who are considering leaving and especially for those who continue to press on regardless of the difficulties they suffer in their priesthood.

Prayer for Priests by Fr William Doyle, SJ

O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

The words they say every day at the altar, "This is my Body, this is my Blood," grant them to apply to themselves: "I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another."

O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.


  1. God bless you for starting that apostolate! And thanks for the reminder to pray for priests that are struggling. It made me realize how much I take them for granted ... how I assume they have no challenges or issues at all.

    Have a great Thanksgiving.

  2. Since I am a former priest from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, perhaps I can help you to understand why some men leave:

    The reasons are many and varied: mental illness, loss of faith, realization that they discerned incorrectly, perhaps to get married, and some were even manipulated into becoming priests by family pressure. I could go on, but I want to at least show that there is not only ONE reason.

    I suffered a nervous breakdown as a priest (even tried to commit suicide), but after getting help discovered that I was boderline bi-polar. Living the life of a priest was not good for me and by extension not good for the Church. So staying a little longer was not good for me! The same can be said for those who leave...if their very heart and soul is not in it...the Church DOES NOT NEED them, even if there are less celebrations of the sacraments, and parishes must be closed or consolidated. So staying a little longer would not be good for the Church!

    My question is, what is the sense of staying if you are conflicted or ill and cannot give yourself over fully to service? I think the faithful can tell readily when someone is conflicted and even insincere, I think that does damage to the Church as well.

    Lastly you should realize that Diocesan Priests, whom I think you are speaking about only make promises (to obey the bishop live simply and live celibately), they do not take the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obediance that Religious Order Priests make when ordained.

    That the Church itself offers a way out (laicization) means that She realizes that sometimes mistakes and or problems do come up which renders someone unusable for ministry.

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    thank you so very much for your heartfelt and honest response to my post. There really are two sides to every story, aren't there? And for my part, I blindly looked at my side alone, as a parishioner, and how the loss of priests affects me.

    You are very right, in that some men are not meant for the priesthood. It's very unfortunate that it can't be determined before Holy Orders, although I suppose in some cases, the detrimental effects of the priesthood on a man's life can't be foreseen until he has lived the vocation for a while. And in that case, you are right, it's good that the Church in her wisdom has left a way out when needed, just as she allows annulments when a marriage proves to be invalid and not in the best interests of the couple.

    I am so sorry for the suffering that you endure from your mental illness. I, too, have been struggling with depression for the past few years and have come to the point of wanting to end it all as well. I have been blessed with good medical care and a wonderful support system in my family and friends and so I carry on to blog another day.

    I will be praying for you, my dear friend, so that God will continue to hold you close to His heart and provide you with all of the love and healing that you need to carry on His will in this world.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and your viewpoint; it is very helpful to me, and I hope to many others. God bless you always and abundantly!