Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Priest by Michael S. Rose

My sister recently shared a fantastic book with me, titled Priest, by Michael S. Rose. Published in 2003 in the midst of the huge priestly scandal, this book profiles 10 amazing priests. Each priest has his own special charism or mission.

I couldn't agree more with this review by Karl Maurer:

Never before in the history of the Catholic Church has the role of the priest come under greater scrutiny and critique. Even faithful Catholics have fallen under the spells of the dissenters peddling bogus `solutions' like married clergy, an end to priestly celibacy, and women priests.

Rather than resorting to `chapter and verse', Rose communicates the virtuous institution of the priesthood by telling the stories of ten faithful priests who are living examples of holiness, sacrifice, and love of God. In the process, Rose presents an enormously inspiring book that is easy to read and clearly communicates the fact that the Catholic Church is well outfitted with men of courage and conviction.
In contrast to the cackling of the media and dissenters, Rose believes the problem is not with the institution of the priesthood. Rose writes, "the problem is more often than not a failure of young (priests) to hear and faithfully answer their calling; a failure of seminaries and bishops to form and educate their future priests properly; a failure of the ordained to focus on the duties of their state in life; and a failure of the laity to offer the proper spiritual and moral support for their pastoral leaders."
In `Priest' you will meet Father Albert Lauer, who admits that he "did not receive God's fullest blessing because I stifled the Holy Spirit in my life." Lauer overcomes this with a devotion to Mary, and goes on to observe miraculous cures, conversions and holiness borne of his humble submission to God as a faithful priest.

 Father C. John McCloskey III began his priestly career in the pagan wilderness of Princeton University, and is now based in Washington DC. McCloskey is an intellectual giant who puts Christ's message into such a compelling form that he has converted hundreds to the faith, including the notorious abortionist Bernard Nathanson. Father Myron Effing has literally rebuilt the Catholic faith in Russia. Father Patrick Rohen served as a chaplain in Desert Storm. Father James Gould built a simple formula for achieving extraordinary vocations in Arlington, Virginia.
One of the most incredible profiles is that of Father William Hinds and his ministry in drug and violence infested Cali, Columbia before taking over as pastor in a small Kentucky parish now well-known for its orthodoxy. Ministering to real people with painfully real problems, and doing so with grace and faith, is portrayed in the story of Father Timothy Vaverek. The story of Father James Mary Sullivan reveals the depth and innovation of the Dominican preaching order. Father Sullivan started Generation Christ to confront the secular Generation X mentality and nourish the spirituality of young Catholics.
Father Paul Berschied founded a side walk counseling group called Helpers of God's Precious Infants. His story stresses the importance of obedience to God and the teachings of the Catholic Church. "A priest must remain united with the Church regarding her morals and her doctrines," he explains. "A failure in this area is what can begin to lead a priest into a loss of personal identity in terms of who he is and what he is to do. This, then, begins the rather vicious cycle of a priest turning within himself and oftentimes developing personal problems that are more often today referred to as `inappropriate behaviors.' The life of a priest must be a constant turning outwards, as was the life of Christ in His public ministry. Even when Christ went to pray in private, He was in essence turning out and looking toward the Father. Christ did not go into Himself to find Himself, but rather to His Father, with whom He is one."
The priests in these stories are holy men, to be sure, but the majority of them came from holy families. Catholicism that is taken seriously in the heart is manifest in the routines of a Catholic home. It's more than just Mass on Sunday and Rosary in the evening, but in the minute to minute and hour to hour interactions that build up holiness in the members of the family. God knows it's not easy, especially with children around, but God's grace is there for all those who ask for it.
If the Church suffers for a lack of priests today, it is probably due more to the fact that the average Catholic family has succumbed to a lifestyle defined by our secular pagan culture rather than by the Catholic faith. The fact that most of the priests in Rose's book came from holy families is no coincidence. As Catholic adults, the first step we can all take to resolving the vocations crisis is to make our own homes incubators of vocations.
We also see from Rose's book that the priesthood is not the problem. Lack of faith and dissent from Church teachings are the problem. In diocese after diocese in the United States, orthodoxy to Catholic teaching is emerging as the primary factor for success in vocations. In those parishes and dioceses where orthodoxy is practiced, the fruits are clearly visible in vibrant Catholic communities where vocations are valued and fostered.
What also becomes clear after reading `Priest' is that the job requires fortitude, fitness, and mental toughness. Being a good priest, now and the next day, is extremely challenging. It's not a job for wimps, it's a job for warriors, but as hard as the work may be, it comes with eternal benefits. This is a timely reminder that the majority of priests are good, holy men, dedicated to God, and to serving their fellow man.

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