A Brooklyn priest killed himself inside a church rectory less than two weeks before Christmas, police sources told The Post on Sunday.
The body of the Rev.` Patrick Burns, 57, was found a little after 5 p.m. Dec. 14 in the living room of the rectory at Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Windsor Terrace, according to sources.
He had slash marks on his left wrist, and an empty bottle of the antipsychotic drug Risperidone was discovered in the room, sources said. Police also found a 16-page suicide note.
“I’m shocked and amazed,” the church’s music director, Ivonne Rojas, told The Post on Sunday. “I would never think he did this.”
Burns’ death is a “tragedy,” a Diocese of Brooklyn spokeswoman said.
Police discovered the dead priest after the church’s pastor, the Rev. Larry Ryan, requested a wellness check on him, sources said.
Burns struggled with health issues in the past. He spent an unspecified amount of time away from the pulpit on medical leave at one point, according to an obituary in The Tablet magazine.
Many friends and parishioners who knew and loved him are in shock this Christmas. Pray for them and pray for the soul of Father Burns.
And pray for our priests. All of them. Satan is “prowling the world seeking the ruin of souls.” And during this troubled time, our priests are more vulnerable now than ever. They need our support, our encouragement, our love—and our prayers.
I’m reminded of these words from a homily on another suicide that I posted a few days ago:
It was not his time. And this wasn’t the way that the Lord wanted him to go. I think we have to say that.
So our faith does not try to answer for us the question of “why?”. The answer that our Christian faith does give to us, the only answer, is the answer that is a Person.
It’s the Person of Jesus Christ, God who became man for our salvation. God who suffered and died to free every single one of us from death. It’s Jesus, the answer, who when he was on the cross, cried out “My God, My God, why? Why have you forsaken me?”. See, in Jesus, God has said to each and every one of us, “I understand what that ‘why?’ feels like. I know it because I felt it too.”…Wherever you are in your own journey of faith, in your relationship with God and relationship with the Church, God loves you today, now. More than you think He does. Much, much more.
Finally, I recall this beautiful quote from Pope Benedict, his Christmas message to the curia from a few years back. Many need to hear these words — including many clergy:
Where does [joy] come from? How is it to be explained? Certainly, there are many factors at work here. But in my view, the crucial one is this certainty, based on faith: I am wanted; I have a task in history; I am accepted, I am loved. Josef Pieper, in his book on love, has shown that man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the other’s presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist. Only from the You can the I come into itself. Only if it is accepted, can it accept itself. Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. If ever man’s sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. Doubt concerning human existence becomes more and more insurmountable. Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness, that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within.
This Christmas, a friend sent me a lovely card with that very message inscribed on the front: “It is good that you exist.” Share that humble, reassuring message this season with someone you know. You may never realize how important those words can be.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…