A priest writes to seminarians: ‘Let’s be the ones who remain’

A priest writes to seminarians: ‘Let’s be the ones who remain’ September 14, 2018

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This is superb—and much-needed right now.

It comes from the blog of Father Michael Niemczak, in the Diocese of Santa Fe. It begins:

Dear Seminarians,

It is not an easy time right now to be a priest or one studying to be a priest.

Praise God.

The Church is being not only humbled but humiliated by the sins of Her own ministers.

Praise God.

Countless innocent priests are looked at with suspicion if not outright hatred because of the sins of their guilty brothers.

Praise God.

I praise God in this not to downplay the depravity of my brothers’ crimes or ignore my own frustration, anger, and sadness at every bit of this awful situation.

I praise God because the truth always sets us free and the Cross always conquers.

The fact is, I am a priest of Jesus Christ. The natural habitat of a priest of Jesus Christ is the Cross – condemned for someone else’s sins; cursed reviled, mocked, and scourged – all willingly and for the sins of others.

I may think to myself, “I never hurt a child in my life. I would never dream of sexually abusing anyone. Why am I looked at with suspicion?”

Why? Because I am a priest of Jesus Christ. Because the priesthood into which I was ordained means that the monsters who committed these crimes or covered up for those who did are my brothers. I benefit every day from the love people have for their priests because of truly saintly ones who have gone before me; I must also willingly suffer the distrust, suspicion, and hatred because of the sinful ones who have gone before me as well.

At a deeper level, though, to borrow a point from Fr. Mike Schmitz: I can say, I never did anything to deserve this, but you know what, those kids didn’t do anything to deserve what happened to them either. The victims – those members of the Church hurt in unspeakable ways by those who were ordained to care for them. They didn’t deserve what happened to them, and the burden they carry and pain they experience are incomparably worse than being judged for the sins of another.

Why am I writing this to you? So that, in the midst of present chaos in the Church and the world, you may not lose hope.

There are snakes in the priesthood you hope to enter. But there are also saints. For every Judas, there are eleven other apostles who strive to be faithful.

On the darkest day the world has ever seen, at the very beginning of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, one betrayed, one denied, and nine fled. Only one remained.

It is now, at this moment of crisis in the Church – uncertainty regarding every level of her leadership – that we are all given the opportunity to choose what kind of man and what kind of priest we want to be.

We’ve seen those who have betrayed, and what they’ve done should make us sick to the stomach and furious to the very depths of our souls.

We’ve all at one point or another been those who deny the Lord or run away from our faith when times get hard and we get scared. I thank God that, in His mercy, He accepts us back and replaces our cowardice with courage, just as He did with His original disciples.

At this crucial moment in the life of the Church, though, let’s be the one who remained.

Let’s be the ones who remain.

What does that mean? Just don’t leave the Church? No. So much more.

There is so much more. Read it all. Share it with priests and seminarians you know. It has a message for all of them—and for all of us.

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