Yesterday, Patrick Madrid posted a link to a short audio clip from his excellent radio program (each Thursday). Here’s the link to his post:
I listened with some interest at the audio clip, especially to see what the laicized priest had to say. Good stuff all around, from the callers and the host.
I can't imagine the pain and loss that Dwayne (the laicized priest) feels. I just heard a lot of hurt, and loss, and regret in his voice. But one thing he said did grate a bit. He said that parishioners should invite a priest out to dinner and provide a place for him to let his hair down (or something like that).
I personally think that's a way to danger too.
More and more I think that calling priests "Father" is a sign of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not just some ancient Irish custom or other nonsense they teach in seminaries.
Think of the role as Father in a family. You have little ones, and you have grown up ones. Do you want the grown and married children to provide a place for you to go and let your hair down? Do you want the relationship to be as friend to friend (just call us Pat and Nancy, not Dad and Mom)? Being a father changes as the children grow, but it never goes away. It is healthy for the families that the patriarch and matriarch exist. I don't think your children want just another “Pat and Nancy” in their lives, but Dad and Mom.
I think part of our problem is calling the priests to that role. I'm the first one to admit that being just another pal or friend is infinitely easier than being a father. Fathers guide, teach, and hold THEMSELVES accountable. None of those are a barrel of laughs. Do we want jovial dinner companions and social friends or fathers/pastors/shepherds? A bon-vivant or a pray-er?
All Catholics have a hand in continuing to form the priest. What we ask for from the parish determines what the priest has to do. If we want the kinds of prayer and spirituality that only the priest can provide, it requires the priest to live a certain kind of life, always being around prayer, spirituality, and the traditions of the Church. If we want a jolly joker and a bon homme, then that's where the priest spends his time.
Yes, a priest has to do much of this himself, but it really, really helps to have parishioners who gently and lovingly call him to this kind of life too. Do we want what the priest can provide, especially the "persona Christi?" Sometime we all shy away from that because we think it won't be any fun. St. Augustine felt that too when he would pray for the Lord to make him chaste "but not yet."
Just my weak and feeble two cents worth. I also realize I follow none of this advice myself.